Equipping employees with the correct knowledge, tools and skills to do their jobs is on the agenda of any organisation. In the past this training predominantly took place in the classroom, however over the last few years the amount of organisations using e-learning methods to equip their employees has risen dramatically. The 2011 Learning Survey conducted by Pardo Fox for the Institute of IT Training, found that there was a significant average increase of 43% of organisations deploying both generic learning and custom e-learning in 2010 compared to 24% for classroom training. These trends are expected to continue into 2011. Does this mean that e-learning is fast becoming the way in which organisations are delivering training to their staff or does the classroom still have a place in the training plans of organisations today?
Why is e-learning becoming so popular?
The economic situation over the 18 months has seen organisations looking to save costs across the board and training is often an area that is affected. Organisations are looking to find more cost effective ways of training their staff that does not involve time out of the office or travel costs. It is not surprising that the Learning Survey 2011 established that the sharpest decline of classroom training was those larger organisations that had over 5000 staff (41%) and the largest adopters of e-learning in 2011 is the public sector who anticipate a rise of 74% in 2011 compared with 48% in the private sector, due to the very strong budgetary restrictions.
Although economies of scale and cost are key reasons for the rise of e-learning, another significant reason for the high adoption is that e-Learning has moved on dramatically since we first had the training vs e-Learning debate. Long gone are the days of ‘flat’ content; instead we are offering exciting new content involving virtual studios, video-based content, immersive learning and gaming techniques. Content is therefore more appealing, engaging and intuitive for users, thereby increasing its chances of success and improving knowledge retention which the more traditional styles of e-Learning has struggled to achieve in the past. In addition, many subject areas of training do not easily lend themselves to classroom training; one example being organisations who invest heavily in meeting room technology. In this instance, classroom training becomes a less effective method of imparting knowledge as users simply need to be taught at the critical moment of need, i.e. when they are about to use the new technology. 2e2 are therefore supporting such technology deployments with short, innovative video-based content. Since e-Learning design has evolved, we have learnt that users are more likely to engage with short, concise lessons; a theory supported when we deployed content into our own organisation and found that twice as many people engaged with an 8-minute learning module versus a 20-minute module. This concise content can also be re-used and deployed both across a traditional Learning Management System, but also across handheld devices, to suit an organisation’s increasing mobile workforce.
Does this mean that classroom training is dead?
Although organisations have embraced e-learning, not just for training but as a communication tool, such as in the example of the meeting rooms, the use for classroom training is far from diminished. A common concern for Learning and Development personnel for a number of years now is demonstrating value and ROI for training, especially classroom training which is typically more expensive. Although classroom training has not grown at the same rate as e-learning, the demand has remained static from 2010 to 2011 as many organisations recognise the benefits it provides, including:
- Personal interaction. Although e-learning can be productive in the sense that is provides bite sized pieces of information that can be absorbed quickly, it is one way communication. By training in a classroom environment, questions can be asked and individual scenarios can be discussed.
- Content and collateral that is provided as part of training. When training courses are produced, course materials are produced to support the training. Organisations such as 2e2 are creating performance support content in electronic format so they are easily accessible to the user and are friendlier on the environment.
- Types of training that is delivered is often more appropriate in the classroom. The Learning Survey have identified that the top priority for training in 2011 is leadership and management skills followed by business skills. These types of management training are often best conducted in the classroom as much of the informal learning comes from group discussions.
Addressing the “critical moment of need”
In any training programme, there will be “critical moments of need” when the employee needs access to specific information. For example:
– When new technology is introduced or a new process is implemented.
– Post implementation when something goes wrong
– When the employee forgets what they have been taught before they have had an opportunity to implement what they have learnt. An example of this would be an accountant who is taught procedures at the beginning of the month but has to wait until the end of the month before they can implement their new skills.
Having the right intervention to address these critical moments of need cannot be satisfied by one form of training, instead a blended approached is needed, taking into consideration elements of classroom and elearning.
A blended approach to learning
A blended approached to the adoption of new ways of working is not a new concept but up until the last year or so it has been ahead of its time as organisations have struggled to achieve the right mix. As we have discussed, many organisations have been forced to consider new e-learning methodologies due to budgetary constraints, however with the evolution of eLearning design, organisations can now demand innovation in content which can be manipulated in a number of ways to support learning objectives, working practices and user needs.