e-learning for Corporate Skill-building – The Challenges

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In the previous post “e-learning for Corporate Skill-building – The Possibilities”, we discussed the advantages of using e-learning in organizations.

However, the corporate implementation of e-learning presents the management with certain challenges. Let us look at some of these challenges and reflect upon how they might be addressed.

The 5 Challenges that Organizations face in implementing eLearning

Cartoon-image of Trainer - why elearning won't work - disinterested audience

The Challenges manifest themselves in form of the following 5 questions:

  1. e-learning – an Addition or Replacement?
  2. e-learning development – Develop In-house or Outsource?
  3. How to distribute? (The Web of LMSs)
  4. How to motivate the audience?
  5. How to measure the effectiveness of e-learning?

Let us understand them one by one.

1. e-learning – An Addition of a Replacement?

One of the important questions that face the management of any organization is:  Should the existing trainings be converted completely into e-learning, or should we convert them partially? This question can’t be answered in black and white. In fact, the answer would primarily depend on the following 3 factors.
1.    The complexity of the training program.
2.    The nature of the knowledge being transferred.
3.    The audience profile.

Certain other secondary factors such as: the budget, the availability of the Subject Matter Expert etc., may have to be considered too.

2. e-learning Development – Develop In-house or Outsource?

I’ve seen many organizations grapple with this question. I’ve seen a few organizations go the outsourcing way and then changing tracks after experiencing failure.

I am not going to speak about the practical considerations that often mar the selection of the outsource and hence jeopardize the project – I’d rather leave those graver issues in the capable and hands of Anna Hazare and his team.  However, when should you decide to outsource, is a question that any well-meaning organization should carefully consider.

If you are a corporate behemoth, consider setting up an in-house development and maintenance team as your first option. It will enable you better control, and it will come in handy when your implementations get into trouble, which they will at some point in the future.  However, if you are a small organization, and you must consider outsourcing, determine whether your future vendor has the ability to deliver. Hire a consultant to step in and help you with it, if you must, but if your e-learning isn’t designed right, all the future phases will experience the dominoes effect.

3. How to Distribute? (The Web of LMSs.)

LMSs or Learning Management Systems are fashionable, and there are quite a few of them that are available for free. So why not just pick any of the free ones, put a team of confused, freshly hired programmers to the task of understanding the system, and get done with it. To top it all, ensure that the job-descriptions for every job including the instructional designer’s read “should’ve worked on Moodle” – and you are done.

Unfortunately, all this just sets into motion a gear train that would topple the entire project!

The way out it – find an expert. Find someone who has not just designed and developed programs, but who has implemented them. You may be spending a month or two on this quest, but you’ll save a lot of time later on. You need a person who can figure out which LMS would suit your needs the best. Someone who’d ask the right questions – for instance, do we really need all those 112 features that this particular LMS wants us to use, or even, whether it would be better for us to get a software company design a nice little system that’s custom-made for our needs.

4. How to Motivate the Audience?

I think that the biggest challenge of all is to motivate the audience. Note that this audience didn’t signup for lifelong learning at your organization. They think of every extra bit of training as a needless encroachment, unless of course, the training is driven by an unavoidable need (a new machine that they have to learn to operate?)

Classroom trainings are often more appealing to some of the audience, because they at least whisk them away into a dream-room where they can rightfully ignore the daily rut. E-learning doesn’t even promise that. In fact, it threatens to siphon off their free time. To make matters worse, examples of failed elearning implementations abound – making your audience even more averse to elearning.

Obviously then, it’s a feat to motivate such audience.

The only thing that could possibly motivate them is your content. If your content respects their intelligence, provides them relevant entertainment, and makes them learn with considerably low effort; you could win them over.

But then, this could work only when the learner has logged into your course. It can make the proverbial horse dip his snout into the water after you’ve brought him there; but how can you bring this strong yet unwilling horse to the water.

Well – train them to accept e-learning 🙂 but more on this will come later, in another post perhaps.

5. How to measure the effectiveness of e-learning?

Obviously. If an organization decides to spend on elearning development and deployment, it has to figure out whether or not they’d be able to measure its effectiveness. We all know how the ubiquitous Kirkpatrick model has failed to make a big impression on the corporates even for the age-old-gone-gray practice of classroom trainings.

The question that you should ask is – Can we compare the results of eLearning with classroom training? The answer is yes, you can. Use the same model, measure the effectiveness of elearning and compare it with that of classroom trainings. Then compare the costs. If elearning is indeed more cost-effective than classroom training, an organization should be satisfied – right?

I’d love to conclude by saying that correctly identifying these challenges could mean that you’ve won half the battle, but I can’t. All I can say is that being aware of these challenges will help you decide upon a more relevant strategy for implementing elearning in your organization.  It’s important to remember that we are dealing with a collective mindset, which won’t change on its own.  eLearning implementations would require some degree of Change Management too.