E-Learning: Coming to a Computer Near You
by Merrick Rosenberg, MBA
According to workers, the number one factor negatively affecting productivity is poor management (Society for Human Resource Management, 2004). Another study found that 72% of companies predict that they'll have an increasing number of leadership vacancies over the next three to five years. At the same time, 76% are "less than confident" in their abilities to adequately staff these positions (Corporate Leadership Council).
Is leadership important? You better believe it. Is leadership development important? Your company's success depends upon it.
Over the past five years, the methodology to develop leaders has changed significantly. There has been a steady shift toward "one-on-one" training as evident in the increasing use of performance coaching and e-learning. Both of these developmental approaches take people out of the classroom and provide leaders with a personal development experience.
Coaching allows each person to address his or her specific challenges and opportunities. E-learning derives its power from its convenience and training-on-demand flexibility.
If it hasn't happened yet, training may soon be coming to a computer near you. However, before we examine e-learning, let's focus on what makes traditional classroom training effective. We will then apply those insights utilizing e-learning to make a difference.
Here's what we know about training:
- Trainees need to see a reason to develop new skills, therefore, position training from the "What's in it for me?" perspective.
- When the trainee's manager is involved in the process, individuals are more likely to transfer learning from the classroom to the workplace.
- Learning is a process, not an event. Training needs to be reinforced if application is to take place.
- The concepts need to relevant and immediately applicable.
- The training needs to be engaging and utilize a variety of methods to convey insights and practice/experience new skills
E-learning can supplement traditional training by reinforcing the skills taught in the classroom. Alternatively, e-learning can be used to expose leaders to concepts that they have not yet seen in a classroom. In this case, leaders can meet with other leaders who have taken the course and discuss insights and strategies for implementing new skills.
In terms of delivery, truly effective e-learning experiences should not simply include PowerPoint slides placed on a server. E-learning should be engaging and dynamic. Courses should include modeling videos that:
- Bring real-world application into the learning process
- Show participants the right and wrong way to exhibit the skill
- Provide recommended strategies, techniques, and clearly defined skill points
- Simulated practice of real-world practice situations
- Opportunities to reflect on thoughts and applications
- Quizzes with comparison to structured answers
- Pre and post-tests to measure learning
If e-learning is going to be effective, organizations must consider the same items that make classroom training effective. Therefore:
- The trainee's manager should meet with the trainee after taking the course and discuss learning and future application.
- The e-learning course is one component of a larger self-reinforcing process.
- Individuals must see immediate relevance and application of the skills taught in the course
- Trainees must be motivated to develop the skills and rewarded when they do.
- The training needs to be engaging and interactive, not simply watching a passive online presentation.