When you think of e-learning, what comes to mind? I think everyone now uses e-learning in some form and most of us do so without realizing it. In the simplest possible terms, just hooking onto the Internet and reading how to use a piece of software you recently purchased is e-learning because you’re using an electronic means to learn something. Get it? Now, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about, but maybe you’re getting the idea of just how much you may be using e-learning unwittingly.
In reality, individuals use e-learning to learn new software or take university or accreditation courses. Imagine how many more people can gain qualifications by using their computer at home! The stay-at-home mother who wants to be able to gain more skills for the day she returns to work, or the high school leaver who needs qualifications to get his first job, or the pensioner who wants to supplement his income with a part-time job need to get familiar with new technology or update their knowledge. The number of individuals who could benefit from e-learning in one way or another is almost limitless.
On the corporate and governmental fronts, e-learning can be the way to standardize training and be able to offer training simultaneously to all personnel, regardless of their geographic location. If a company has a rolling induction schedule (like in the construction industry), carrying it out via e-learning would be a smoother, uninterrupted process, compared to constantly having to schedule trainers and venues that are limited by space. E-learning opens the floodgates as to what can be offered to employees in a more cost-effective manner.
We all need to continually learn and expand our skill sets professionally and this is where I think e-learning is most beneficial for the employer and employee. Employers who offer continuing education tend to have a higher employee retention rates because:
- Employees feel valued by their employer, so they stay
- Let’s face it, the employer doesn’t have to continually train new staff which can be expensive for an organization.
The problem lies in offering the continuing education cost-effectively without compromising productivity. This is where e-learning comes to the fore.
Imagine being able to train employees in a new procedure without having a significant drop in productivity. I can hear some say, “Tell her she’s dreaming!” No, it is possible! E-learning is a means of providing the training to all our employees efficiently manner in this new procedure we’ve just made up. Our employee doesn’t have to sit in a boring, usually too warm, classroom environment, but rather he or she can continue working as normal and, as time allows, can take the course at his or her own pace at the individual’s own workstation. This means the employee will have a much higher retention of the course, the advantage being that he or she can go at his or her own pace, review information when he or she needs and take the time to absorb the material, not to mention sitting in familiar and comfortable surroundings.
It’s a well-known fact that people have an average attention span of about 20 minutes, so if they are sitting in a 60-minute classroom, a minimum of two-thirds of that information is going in through one ear and out the other! Yes, you are usually presented with half a tree’s worth of paper outlining everything that was reviewed during the course, but honestly, who reads that stuff?? E-learning courses have the capacity to engage the employee in a variety of ways (visual, aural and cognitive) which will hold the learner’s attention and can then assess how well the knowledge was absorbed and given in the form of feedback to the employer.
So, an advantage of e-learning in business is that you can actually gauge your Return on Investment (ROI) by a physical means. While e-learning can cost more upfront, it is actually less expensive in the long term because the company maintains a higher retention rate, more productive staff and fewer ongoing training expenses.
In the final analysis, e-learning is a very flexible tool that can be used in a myriad ways. It is only limited by one’s imagination. So, instead of feeling daunted by the notion of jumping into the e-learning waters, we need to embrace it and dip our toes in because, really, what do we have to lose? We may learn more about ourselves as well as gain some new knowledge in the process.
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