Effectiveness & Popularity of eLearning

May 28, 2014

I wrote a course on the eLearning Design a couple of years back and the studies i use in the course to evidence the effectiveness and growing popularity of eLearning getting a bit out of date. I also use the studies to help me influence clients

I was wondering what methods & recent studies other members of the community use to influence potential clients on the effectiveness of eLearning?

16 Replies
Joshua Roberts

Bruce Graham said:

Hmm - looks to me like only about half those are actually about eLearning.

#11 is an entire topic in itself.


Some cherry picking required, but it gives a nice base in 2014 - also I really like number 8 but again it eludes to a topic in itself. There are certainly some bits and pieces to start painting an updated picture.

Bruce Graham

Unfortunately - if I quoted #8 to many of my clients they would say "Define best-practice...".

#13 - "...more likely to be". But may not be.

Unfortunately - to me this whole thing, (despite all their sources), seems to be a collection of high-level sound-bytes that are "double-speak".

#6 - "...they can", I am sure they can, if they do about 50 other things that most organisations never bother to do, like have attrition plans, enforce learning failure protocols, coach and so on.

When I used to do a mindreading act along with my close-up magic (I stress act), a lot of the books you can learn from have this sort of wording as things you should say - it's called "...creating an secondary universe", (or something like that, it's been a while and I have forgotten...)

I am sure Aurion are a great UK eLearning company - but this infographic does not cut it for me.

Sorry people.

PS - #4...we occasionally send out motivational emails?

Rachel Barnum

David Holmes said:

Does anyone have a statistic on comparing an elearing course with a traditional well developed paper based training course? I have yet to see evidence that an elearning course is better at keeping the learnings in long term memory for later recall.


I actually never thought that to be an argument in favor of e-learning. Instead, I find the argument is that e-learning can be just as effective but more efficient and at a lesser cost. I don't think you'll find an e-learning developer here who would argue that ALL training should be replaced by e-learning.

Steve Flowers

Richard E. Clark ran some meta analysis back in 1983 that led him to conclude that, if all other factors are equal, "media for delivery doesn't matter." It's been open to some debate in recent years. 

  • In 1983, Richard E. Clark published the results of a meta-analysis that examined the influence of media on learning where he concluded that media do not influence learning under any circumstances. This is quite a strong position and it is one that Clark has stood by for nearly 30 years, in spite of whatever media developments have occurred in the mean time. The medium is not the message according to Clark, but rather it is merely the vehicle whereby instruction is delivered and has no influence on instruction, just like the truck used to deliver goods to a store has no influence on the groceries it carries. He expands the analogy by explaining that the only factors affecting the choice of 'vehicle' are practical ones, such as cost and distribution, and that the only influence on learning comes from the instructional method. Any benefit that comes from the use of media is passed off as essentially wishful thinking. In 1983, Clark recommended that researchers give up on exploring the relationship between media and learning unless new theories are suggested (Clark, 1983).The response that triggered the 'classic debate' did not appear until 1991, when Richard Kozma met Clark's challenge and proposed a new theory outlining the synergy between media, content,and the interaction of the learner with that environment (Kozma, 1991). Kozma reviewed literature on the use of various media forms, including books and television, and concluded that various media have distinct symbol systems and processing capabilities that can compliment those of the learner and produce a unique experience.

My opinion... it depends. Each method has strengths for some TRAINING contexts. Many (maybe most) folks think training is simply an information delivery mechanism. When framed as such it probably doesn't matter how that information is delivered. E-learning might have a slight edge as it offers extended access to media event materials on-demand.

The type of performance and the shape of the objectives should determine methods and media. There is plenty of science and research to support stuff that works better in some contexts than other contexts. And, when properly designed, few programs will be best packaged as an either / or.

howard pearson

David Holmes said:

Does anyone have a statistic on comparing an elearing course with a traditional well developed paper based training course? I have yet to see evidence that an elearning course is better at keeping the learnings in long term memory for later recall.

It's not eLearning example but media learning. The first comparison that i know of this was done way back in 1947 by the US Military (Hall & Cushing) where they compared stand up teaching, reading & learning via video and the results were that they were all equally effective. 

Joshua Roberts

Bruce Graham said:

Unfortunately - if I quoted #8 to many of my clients they would say "Define best-practice...".

#13 - "...more likely to be". But may not be.

Unfortunately - to me this whole thing, (despite all their sources), seems to be a collection of high-level sound-bytes that are "double-speak".

#6 - "...they can", I am sure they can, if they do about 50 other things that most organisations never bother to do, like have attrition plans, enforce learning failure protocols, coach and so on.

When I used to do a mindreading act along with my close-up magic (I stress act), a lot of the books you can learn from have this sort of wording as things you should say - it's called "...creating an secondary universe", (or something like that, it's been a while and I have forgotten...)

I am sure Aurion are a great UK eLearning company - but this infographic does not cut it for me.

Sorry people.

PS - #4...we occasionally send out motivational emails?


The source for #6 dictates this - 

Improvements in employee productivity can provide a measurable return for a  training solution. An IBM training assessment and implementation at an energy company with 1,000 employees found that companies can save significantly on labor costs with minimal investments in employee skills development. The study concluded that training which produced an average productivity improvement of 

only three minutes per day would save the company at least US $240,000 per year. 

A productivity gain of just three minutes per employee per day could save a company with 1,000 employees at least $240,000 USD. 

Assumptions: 

• Annual average employee salary is US $40,000, or US $20/hr 

• Employees worked 50 weeks per year 

• 1,000 workers saved three (3) minutes per day, or one hour per month 

Variable Value 

Average salary per employee $40,000 USD 

Hours worked per year 2,000 

Number of employees 1,000 

Time savings / productivity gains per month Three minutes per employee 

Total Return on Investment $240,000 USD 

* The study did not consider the ROI in categories such as reduced travel, reduced product failure, less-frequent and shorter help desk calls, improved customer service, compliance, increased employee morale/retention and revenue gains. 

Although I was struggling to work the formula back to get to the total they were indicating.

Bruce Graham

Yep me too.

It is also so full of assumptions that if you show a client something like this, in my experience you will end up with egg on your face.

Much better to stick to absolutes, or make certain that you are obviously stating things that are only suggestions.

You could possibly get the same productivity improvements if you bought one metal tray per group of 4 people, and ensure that one person went and got coffee/tea for 4 people at a time, rather than each one going to get their own coffee.

That would gain, perhaps, 9-10 minutes PER EMPLOYEE PER DAY, rather than 3 minutes per day.

So - 3 hours per month vs. 1 gained - so.....

My New Headline!

Coffee/tea trays are 3 times more effective at producing productivity gains than training and you MAY save $750.000 dollars per year!

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