elearningLast time we talked about “live” or “in-class learning as a training venue.  This week we continue our discussion with an introduction to ELearning.

Modern ELearning encompasses an almost unlimited variety of programs and program types for an infinite number of topics. It first appeared on the scene in the mid-1990’s to early 2000’s, and was heralded as a perfect solution for companies that needed to reduce travel, lodging, printing, and on-site staff costs, as well as saving time, money and resources by allowing staff to participate on their own time, in their own office, and never have to be away from their desks.

Early ELearning technology was rudimentary, and mostly limited to putting documents on websites, asking learners to download and read them, then discuss them in a chat forum on a monitored website. Its newness and lack of sophistication raised concerns about effectiveness, security, and technical issues, and the high implementation cost made it a “hard sell” for companies that were accustomed to traditional live learning.  How could anything effectively replace a live classroom where students interacted with instructors and each other in real time, participated in lively discussions, role plays, and debates?  Instructors didn’t know how to facilitate online classes, and there was resistance from them as well, because they feared that they either would not be able to effectively manage classes, or that implementing ELearning would eliminate their Trainer jobs.

Fast forward to 2015, in a time when ELearning is thoroughly ingrained into our learning culture and ELearning elements can include audio, video, multimedia presentations, social learning, online coaching and mentoring, storytelling, webinars, podcasts, virtual reality simulations, learning games, mobile apps, and much more.  Instructors have adapted and learned to use new technology and teach in a whole different way.  Student progress is seamlessly tracked through advanced learning management systems that are integrated into a company’s HRIS (human resources information system), and can be set up with individual learning plans for each employee.  The tracking tools can tell you exactly what and when the learner accessed the program, send notifications to managers about whether and when a learner completed a program or task, and remind learners that they need to complete additional activities – and of course, let them know how they scored on tests and what they accomplished.  Learning is becoming more and more sophisticated, and the possibilities are almost endless now.  It seems that every week someone is coming out with a new product that will enhance the learners’ experience, improve training, and/or allow companies to better track what – and how well – their learners are doing. And the field will only grow and become even more complex as we move to the future.

Does ELearning work? Yes! Research has proven that it does, but one size does not fit all, and with so many options it’s hard to keep up  with the options – let alone figure out what kind of ELearning will best serve your needs, resources, and budget! Professional instructional designers can help you sort through the myriad of options and find the best option or combination of options for your learning needs, audience and budget.  Call us for help – we’re here for you!

Signing off till next time,
Your Learning Coach