Making the case for e-learning

Although e-learning is not a new invention, we often still have to make a case for it in our organizations. And clearly there's reason to do so, as many successful companies worldwide have integrated e-learning solutions into their staff development programs.

Before jumping into some of the reasons why, let me first ask:

  • Is e-learning completely new to your company or department?
  • If you have used e-learning before, what were your experiences and why are you now re-evaluating whether e-learning is the right solution?

In a lot of cases, companies have had traditional training in place for a while, yet budget pressures are driving them to re-assess their options. The question, “What about e-learning?” is common at this juncture.

Let’s be realistic, though: the biggest things you’re going to save on are travel costs to bring everyone to a training location, the facility rental, and the trainer fees. Some people even calculate the cost of lost productivity during this time. That's not a 100% accurate as people will need time to absorb the material and shouldn't be expected to do an e-learning course in their free time.

Production cost of an e-learning course has changed dramatically over the years

Remember those days when you needed a big budget to hire programmers, designers, animators, and video editors to develop a course? Nowadays, there are great e-learning authoring tools that let you create compelling and engaging e-learning courses without the need for a large team of developers. Most of them offer a free trial version (like Articulate Storyline) so you can test which one offers the best features for your course and is the most intuitive for you to use. A lot of them even let you import your training materials from PowerPoint so you can convert them into interactive courses—a good one for starters is Articulate Studio ’13.

After cost, standardization, continuity, and scalability are other considerations. With e-learning you can reach a larger number of learners at once. They can decide for themselves when to take the course, which gives them a lot more flexibility. And they will all see the same course with the same quality of information, examples, exercises, and scenarios, so you don’t have to worry that the quality might vary depending on the trainer or group dynamics.

That brings up another interesting point: learning styles. As we all know, each of us has a preference for how we learn new things. And that can be very different from our co-workers. While some are very visually oriented, others might prefer to dive deeper into facts and figures. There are several theories on learning styles, which I don’t want to go into here, but with e-learning you can let your learners decide how to explore the information. They can learn at their own pace and digest the information the way that is best for them.

Explore previous e-learning experiences

If e-learning is completely new to your company or your department, you can go through all the above arguments with your peers to make your case for why e-learning is a very good solution for the company. However, if your organization has experience with e-learning, you’ll have to dive deeper into the history. Here are some questions that might be helpful to ask:

  • What was the topic and the learner's experience with the subject (e.g., beginner or advanced)?
    Sometimes there’s a need to re-evaluate whether the course was too easy or too difficult for the target group of learners or didn’t address their needs for training.
  • What was the length of the course?
    If the learners can see upfront that the course they’re about to take will require, say, four hours, they'll likely feel deflated from the start. You can let them know that they can take breaks or come back later, but it’ll certainly be a lot easier if you explain to learners that the course is divided into chapters, or build smaller and shorter courses right from the start.
  • How many people finished the course, and how many dropped out?
    That can have various reasons—in addition to the ones above, time management, distractions, technical issues, and job requirements can also be possible issues. It would be ideal to talk with some of the learners who dropped out to find out more about their reasons.
  • Was the management happy with it?
    Sometimes decisions for training are made without a precise idea of what the outcome should look like. Strategies can also change quickly. So, the reason e-learning is being re-evaluated might not be about the course itself.

One last note, this one on tracking: Tracking can be another advantage of e-learning since it allows you to monitor the attendance, scores, and outcomes of knowledge checks of your learners. If you’re developing for an international audience, please consider that in some countries there might be different regulations on privacy and data security. It can be a sensitive issue and needs to be handled very carefully.

Have you had experience making the case for e-learning in your company? What have been your most successful arguments for it? Please leave a comment below and share your experience!

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