Business Magazine

Employers Just Don’t Get E-Learning

Posted on the 19 January 2012 by Combi31 @combi31

Businesses have fundamentally failed to understand how e-learning technology should work, and as a result are not getting the most benefit from it, an academic has argued.

Howard Noble, learning technologist at Oxford University, speaking to specialist newspaper Computer Weekly, has said most employers see e-learning as technology that enables a single person to learn from a screen.

In fact, if an organisation wanted to maximise its e-learning potential it should be looking at collaboration among a group, he said.

“Learning normally happens when groups of individuals collaborate to complete well-designed learning activities,” he told the newspaper.

“Technology helps us do this in two ways: it helps us form and facilitate new types of collaboration between learners and experts, and it helps us represent knowledge in new ways.”

His criticisms echo concerns raised by employers, including the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, that businesses often invest heavily in e-learning technology without thinking through how it is actually going to be used.

Employees, in turn, have complained that off-the-shelf packages are often irrelevant and too “American” and that they are often expected to do the learning in their free time.

The growth and development of e-learning would only increase if public perceptions of it changed, Noble agreed.

“We need to remove the ‘e’ from e-learning so that use of technology is seen as part of normal learning experience,” he said.

Businesses needed to think about what benefits or outcomes they wanted to achieve, and link the technology to that, not the other way around.

It was also important clearly to communicate both to managers and employees the benefits of using e-learning technology, as its advantages were always immediately tangible, Noble said.

“The goal of an e-learning strategy should be seen as developing the technological environment and business processes that help employees share and generate knowledge that contributes to the success of the business strategy,” he explained.

*Author: Nic Paton

E Learning is often rolled-out in companies that are very used to technology – so Web2 technologies found in most modern E-learning is not a challenge for most users – what is a challenge is the fact that they are bombared by content that is structured either, much like a book on-line or in the guise of a simulation that mimics their PS2 or GameBoys.

Talk to I.T. workers. The last thing most of them want to do after 7 or 8 hours staring at a screen is to do the same in their free time by going through a dreary E Learning package – mostly conceived by an I.T. specialist, so it’s all bells and whistles but with very little thought given to pedagogy or the learning process. They are then largely left alone with sometimes a huge bonus of a 24 hour contact by telephone or mail = some part-time student making ends meet to pay their rent, whom they may never speak with again. The same package can be rolled out again and again – and often is! It keeps the price down in the short term… or does it?

Most elearning subscriptions work on a monthly basis – so x months of non-use, which inevitably happens, is quite expensive compared to presential training – but at least the company gets the presence! E Learning integration is largely instituted by a purchasing culture – down to the bones prices that show an excellent cost difference compared to other forms of training – although in investment terms the ration is tilted in the opposite direction.

You might ask, what the role of HR and LD management has in this – well according to the CMS, very little – they end up in a monitoring role of solutions that they have difficulties getting excited about or even believing in. The HR culture is often eroded away to give way to purchasing economics – which is always going to be a backwards step.

ELearning is an excellent tool, but like all tools, it can never replace all that went before – drive an Audi A5 and a 2cv and you’ll see the technology has changed and advanced in leaps and bounds but the essentials are still the same – wheels are still round, with pneumatic tyres.

When implementing and using E Learning – one of the most important aspects is getting the blend right, adjusting the cocktail so that the mix of contact / online / self-directed and active Learning is in total harmony – this is what brings long term investment in people – not throwing the latest shiny object at people and hoping they will run with it as often they won’t, can’t or don’t want to.

What do you think ?

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