Marketing and Promoting eLearning: Why and How

Classroom Training vs. ELearning

Marketing and Promoting eLearning: Why and How

Nick van Dam, the Chief Learning Officer of Deloitte Learning poses a critical question in The e-Learning Fieldbook – “If we build it, will they come?” For me, that question raises two more related questions: “How will they come if they don’t hear about it?” And “How can they hear about it in a way that truly gets their attention?”

So how do you ensure that everybody hears your message on eLearning? One of the most effective ways to attract people to eLearning is to undertake communication, promotional and marketing campaigns within your organization. A blanket one-size-fits all approach to internal marketing will fail because it will not be able to factor for learners across all the disciplines and business units spread around various geographies and cultures in your organization.

Ideally, your marketing and promotion activities should contain a mix of activities. By delivering your message in a variety of carefully targeted ways you can ensure that everybody hears it. You need to use different sources at different levels – so use as many different means as possible. Here are a few ways in which you can market and promote your eLearning:


Launching eLearning is a newsworthy item. Make sure you tap the potential of your existing means of internal communication and introduce it through new means as well. A few ways to make announcements:

  • Send email announcements.
  • Include information about the upcoming launch in regular newsletters.
  • Use screensavers with announcements on employee machines.
  • Have learners view a static announcement page on login.
  • Use the ‘What’s new’ corner on your company intranet.
  • Announce the launch in your company magazine or on webzines.


We all have experienced the power of advertising in our lives. Tap this means for all it is worth.

  • Use webinars to promote eLearning.
  • Launch advertisements/marketing videos in common access places.
  • Launch poster campaigns – distribute these and other marketing materials company-wide.
  • Introduce some promotional activity in regular newsletters.
  • Make live presentations – this is especially useful with carefully selected target groups.
  • Conduct roadshows and interactive workshops.
  • Publish interviews with key stakeholders or communicate them live – nothing drives home the message as powerfully as making it known that your initiative is supported and driven by leadership.
  • Select highlights of the first course you are planning to roll out and advertise them.
  • Give external publicity where possible – post news about the upcoming launch out there.


Get employees charged up for eLearning by providing extrinsic motivation wherever possible.

  • Conduct personal briefings by managers.
  • Communicate the highlights of the medium.
  • Put eLearning champions to good use and let them be catalysts for change.


Build up excitement around incentives and rewards for those who successfully complete eLearning.

  • Publicize rewards – through various means.
  • Offer Incentive programs – of various kinds.

The above are just a few of the activities you could do to sell eLearning in your organization. Finally, before going all out in trying to create a big bang about our proposed launch, we need to remember that it’s not the glitz and glitter of marketing alone that sells. Our communication, marketing and promotion activities will yield the highest results if they demonstrate the clearly demonstrated benefits eLearning can deliver to our learners.

So, do you think organizations should promote eLearning with a big bang or should they introduce it using a softer strategy? What according to you is the most effective approach to introducing eLearning? An aggressive marketing and promotional campaign or a more subtle, cautious, step-by-step approach? Do share your opinions.

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  • Kevin

    A potential downside with a big bang approach to e-learning is that if the e learning fizzles, it will be a challenge to get another e-learning spark in the organization in the future.

    What I have learned is that people are looking for something that works, is relatively simple, and solves problems.

    My suggestion would be to use e-learning to solve a problem that has measurable results, preferably results within 6 months. I made a mistake by trying to accomplish too much too soon with e-learning and I did not build in short term measurable results.

    So, focused problem solving with simple e-learning paradigms that provides short term measurable results is a good e-learning beginning approach. My since is this approach will position you for a long term e-learning explosion.



  • Have no answer to this one – it probably depends on the organization and the development concept.
    Just wanted to say that this question is a very constructive one. Good approach!

  • Julianne Stauffer

    Speaking from personal experience, implementing and launching an organizational university, while I think it is situational, depending on culture and communication style of the organization, if you mean “big bang” promotion is an upbeat message informing the organization of an exciting opportunity, then yes! I think showing excitement and emphasizing the eLearning resource — that it will be a benefit, allowing folks to access/learn on their own time, etc… is a great introduction (don’t force it on it… take on the “if you build it” , correctly, “they will come!”. Basically, allow the users to try it out, on their own time, and see the benefits… and then, use them.
    Along that line, as for implementation as Janine comments, I agree with her “crawling” approach, as I feel it’s best to get the word out, have folks try it on their own for a bit, make sure it works… and then determine your next stage of moving forward with implementation.

    At my last company, located around the country (and world-wide), we chose “pilot” organizations to test try the online courses and platform – to test it for almost a year. Once we heard their feedback, made sure all was working properly and easily, made sure we had the training to support country and world-wide orientation sessions to the online platform, we had a “big bang” marketing/announcement day and followed that with sessions at our National Conference were we hosted those pilot groups in sessions to talk about how they have benefited from the online platform. Those classes were packed!!! Hearing from their peers, of the benefits, allowed the new users to feel they were in the driver’s seat… not being forced to adopt by the National organization and/or developers of the platform and courses.

    The following year, when we made the courses mandatory for all incoming employees, as most had already hopped on board, it was welcomed, easily adopted and implemented.

  • Thanks for the inputs everyone. Kevin, I think at some point or the other, we’ve all made the mistakes that you shared. Especially on trying to accomplish too much too soon…

    Julianne, your case study is particularly useful. You might want to check out our archived webinar on 1, 2, 3 steps to sell eLearning in your organization:

    Thanks for the compliment Dr. katharina and Tyson, please do go ahead and share this post!

    Looking forward to continuing inputs from all of you…