E-Learning’s Benefits and Drawbacks

By Elaine Biech

Before you or your organization venture into the virtual world of delivering learning solutions, you will want to explore both the advantages and disadvantages of e-learning.

Benefits of e-learning

Some of the obvious benefits of e-learning include worldwide access to the materials and trainers without the need to put learners on planes or even leave their desks in some cases. It is beneficial when just-in-time information must be distributed.

It is valuable to be able to share current information and ensure that learners have the ability to ask questions immediately. These benefits add up to real money savings. Shorter perceived contact time may also be seen as a benefit, but take care that all valuable content is available.

Drawbacks of e-learning

Although it might seem like a simple jump, from a well-prepared face-to-face training program to an equal online presentation, usually the success lies in the preparation and adaptation of your materials, delivery style, and expected outcomes. You’ve probably heard, “Let’s convert our eight-hour onsite training program into online training.” The concept of thoughtful ­program development using an ADDIE-like model is still critical to training success — no matter what the delivery vehicle.

Ultimately, you are better off using the existing programs as a resource from which to develop a new e-learning program. However, don’t just convert it. Test your e-learning on your platform, preferably by representatives of the target audience. As with other forms of training, multiple rounds of reviews and revisions are required. However, with e-learning, updates can be a bit more complex, because they can require the creation of new audio, animations, or other features.

The beauty of e-learning is in the pre-supposed shortened content length. Whether your content time is actually shorter than face-to-face training varies with training developers. But just threatening an eight-hour online training program is an incentive to keep materials simple, relevant, and to the point. E-learning, regardless of the delivery system, can bring fear to the heart of many learners, because there is a wide range of computer expertise.

Sadly, the worst drawback to e-learning is, well, that it’s e-learning. It has a bad reputation. Too many people just jumped in early without thinking, and as a result, many of us have experienced the equivalent of death by PowerPoint on the phone. If you have seen bad e-learning, this is your chance to leap into the techno world and prove that you can do better.

The wide variations in software, operating systems, web platforms, and screen resolutions still create challenges in the wonderful world of virtual learning.

Overcome drawbacks for your success

Your success will be born from using other skills and then making them fit your e-learning initiative. Also, consider your learners’ prior exposure to e-learning. Their experience will influence the design and level of detail of your project. If your learners have very little exposure to an e-learning platform, or even the content material, you will need to go into more detail with basic information, like navigation instructions at the beginning of your session.