Pros and Cons of E-Learning for Employee Training

The use of computer-based and online technology to deliver employee training content has become commonplace throughout corporate America. The great payoff of e-learning is its flexibility and speed, delivering the real-time immediacy of classroom instruction without the need to actually be present in a classroom.

Providers such as SkillSoft and lynda.com, both of which offer learn-at-your-own-pace online training, are well suited to smaller companies. They allow you to simply provide your employees with a subscription to a library of ready-made tutorials so they can learn on their own, at their own pace.

A growing trend in the learning community is gamification, a subset of e-learning. Gamification involves the use of game mechanics to make learning activities more engaging. Through these types of activities, employees may earn “badges” for completing tasks or reaching certain milestones, track their progress against others on a leaderboard, or collect virtual currency to exchange for rewards.

E-learning has a number of important benefits:

  • It vastly increases the scope and reach of a corporate training effort.

  • It eliminates, or greatly reduces, ancillary, nonlearning expenses of training, such as travel and lodging costs for participants.

  • It enables students to work at their own pace and convenience so they avoid production downtime.

  • It enables participants not only to experience training in real time but also to store and subsequently retrieve information transmitted through the course.

  • It enables students to set up individualized objectives and to establish milestones to mark different levels of achievement.

  • It allows for the use of video at the desktop to illustrate key points visually, which can aid in information retention.

  • It liberates you or your training staff from classroom presentations, enabling more one-on-one consultations.

  • It can be a particularly cost-effective learning tool for small businesses.

The downside of e-learning is the lack of human interaction and direct instructor involvement. These solutions tend to also eliminate the benefit of employees gaining insights from other employees through group discussions.

Here’s a look at some of the ways e-learning is delivered:

  • Internet: By far the primary technology responsible for the growth of e-learning, the Internet is an online training mall, offering a rich and rapidly growing variety of workshops, courses, webinars, videos, blogs, discussion groups, and literature.

    In addition to courses that employees can take at their own pace, some Internet training takes place in real time, where the instructor directs a course via chats and webcasts. Other courses are taught over a period of days, weeks, or months, with students turning in assignments, occasionally communicating in a group format, or intermittently checking in with the instructor.

  • Intranets: The biggest asset of a company’s intranet is security. You often can work with a vendor to customize its courses to your company’s specific needs and integrate them into your intranet.

    Intranets engage learning and development by allowing for personalization. Users can quickly access knowledge sources that give them immediate answers to their questions and challenges, based on their job function and career and development aspirations.

  • Videoconferencing: Videoconferencing can be useful when you want to gather small teams of employees to receive a particular training. For mid-size to large companies, an orientation event may be an ideal time for videoconferencing so that an entire group can hear one message and discuss it at the same time.

  • Mobile devices: Using a portable device can be an easy way for an employee who missed a live session, lecture, or module to keep up.

    Smartphones and tablets can allow employees to conveniently access text, audio, or video files wherever they are. Many companies also provide employees access to mobile instruction manuals, of particular use if a worker is on a customer’s premises.

Don’t forget, you have to monitor and manage e-learning in order for it to succeed. If you simply upload a slew of training courses and tell employees to have at it, then you shouldn’t expect your training to do much good. Encourage employees to complete training. Set aside specific times for training so that employees feel comfortable temporarily stopping their day-to-day tasks to complete an online course.

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