eLearning: An essential part of training and development
In-person instructor-led training (ILT) and virtual instructor-led training (VILT) took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. As organizations have looked for new and different ways to deliver training, eLearning has gained more popularity.
eLearning can take on many different forms. It is generally asynchronous learning, allowing you to learn on your own schedule within a specific timeframe that works for the learner. eLearning can be clicking through a stylized PowerPoint as a narrator talks to you about workplace challenges. It can also be a series of videos on LinkedIn Learning, helping you become the next great leader. It can be pre-recorded lecture content, videos, quizzes, simulations, games, activities, and other interactive elements that are all done from the comfort of your computer chair.
There are several advantages to eLearning. First and foremost, it can be taken anywhere that you have access to the internet. Learners don’t have to travel to a training center hours away to attend classes. eLearning classes can be taken from your desk at work, your couch at home, or your favorite coffee shop.
Next, eLearning can be taken at any time. No more getting up at 5 a.m. to be at a class by 8 a.m. If you want to wait until you have woken up and had your coffee, you can. Maybe you are just not a morning person and want to wait until the afternoon. This is an option, too.
And lastly, eLearning can be delivered to more people in a shorter time period. In Fiscal Year 22, over 27,000 people completed the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) Ethics in State Government eLearning course. DES would have had to deliver over 1,000 classroom sessions to reach the same number of learners.
So, what are the downsides of eLearning? In eLearning, there is a lack of one-to-one interactions. Learning is social, and the lack of interactions with other learners can hinder interpersonal connection and learning. Some eLearning courses have addressed this by setting up chat boards and social media channels that allow learners to communicate and share ideas.
There is also a lack of interaction with the instructor. When an eLearning course is unclear or confusing, there is no one you can immediately turn to for answers. If there have been no subject matter experts identified, you could be left wondering where to find the right answer.
Finally, there are the distractions. In a classroom, you are focused on the instructor, and the distractions are minimal. But when you are in an eLearning class, it is easy to get drawn into email and other tasks. It can be extremely challenging to focus for long periods if you are not in the same room as the instructor, giving your undivided attention.
It’s important to have eLearning, ILT, and VILT training approaches. They cannot replace one another completely. There are benefits to each. As the workplace continues to evolve, the demand for eLearning will grow. Organizations are entering a new period, where going into the office, or into a classroom, is no longer a requirement. In order to be effective and human-centered, organizations have an opportunity to adapt training delivery methods to meet changing learner preferences and requirements.
Joe Waddington is an eLearning developer with Workforce Learning and Performance at the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (DES). Joe has been in the training world for over 20 years. A geek at heart, he has always tried to be on the leading edge of technology in the workplace. Joe has developed eLearning for three different state agencies and leads a community of practice for eLearning developers throughout state government, helping to identify best practices and set development standards.