Are you ready for e-learning?

Whether you have already invested in online training or are still
considering dipping a corporate toe in the water, assess your readiness with
this self-test.

US e-learning guru Darin E Hartley has taken the UK by storm with his recent
conference appearances, writes Stephanie Sparrow. One of his strengths is
helping organisations assess whether they are prepared to make the financial
and cultural commitments to e-learning. Texas-based Hartley has agreed to share
with Training Magazine readers his readiness assessment tool with the following
extracts.

Many organisations are being driven by their leadership and sometimes public
sentiment to make greater use of technology to enable learning, writes Darin E
Hartley. Granted, there were some technology-enabled flops and there will
continue to be e-learning snake-oil salesmen, but using e-learning is a natural
evolution of training as organisations get smaller but produce more products
and services.

Often, the issue is not that the e-learning isn’t any good. It is that the
organisation is seeking out e-learning before it is ready to implement it. This
is like climbing Mount Everest without the proper equipment, guides, and
preparation – the trek up the mountain in such conditions could be fatal.

The same can be said for e-learning implementations that are not done with
appropriate readiness. If your organisation is not ready for e-learning,
something will go wrong when you implement it.

Readiness is a very fundamental issue that every organisation should address
before undertaking an e-learning initiative. If your organisation is not ready
for e-learning, and you attempt to implement it, you could have problems with
initial delivery, maintenance, or subsequent engagement of your learning
population with the new methodology. Additionally, your company might be
spending thousands of pounds on its e-learning offering, so it behooves the
training organisation to make sure the company is ready to learn this way.

Why are some organisations not ready for e-learning? There are a variety of
reasons. There might be organisational culture, instructor readiness,
business/fiscal readiness, or other resistance to this new initiative. Any one
of these or a combination of these attributes that do not support e-learning
readiness must be heeded.

Specific areas organisations should investigate, which are a part of the
eOA-Assessor (E-Learning Organisational Aptitude Assessor) from Learn2now.com,
include:

– Organisational culture

– Technological infrastructure

– Instructor developer readiness

– Support/maintenance structure

– Business/fiscal readiness

– Delivery methodologies.

These are broken down in more detail with some of the sample questions that
should be asked.

1 Organisational culture

Why is organisational culture important in readiness? If an organisation has
an organisational culture that is still primarily communicating face-to-face or
by telephone, has an older work force, has limited access to the internet, and
still offers most of its training in the classroom, there is a great chance
that the organisation’s culture will not support the use of e-learning. For
example, since much of the e-learning offered today is on the internet, limited
access to the Internet affects an organisation’s readiness to learn.

Here are some sample questions from this portion of the survey:

All employees have equal access to the internet?

– Yes

– No

What percentage of the current training is instructor-led or
classroom-based?

– 81 per cent to 100 per cent

– 41 per cent to 80 per cent

– 11 per cent to 40 per cent

– Less than or equal to 10 per cent

– 0 per cent

The company is primarily made up of knowledge workers?

– Yes

– No

2 Technological infrastructure

Do you have a corporate intranet?

– Yes

– No

Who has access to PCs? Managers/executives only

Select individual contributors and all managers

– Most employees

– All employees

3 Instructor/developer readiness

If you are going to implement e-learning in your organisation, and all that
your instructors and developers know is the classroom and lectures, there will
be problems when you try to implement e-learning.

What experience do the current training/learning staff have in e-learning
solutions?

– None

– Limited

– Average

– Expert

Trainers and developers prefer developing and delivering content themselves?

– Prefer in-house development

– Prefer external development

4 Support/maintenance structure

There is a common fallacy in the training world that says once e-learning is
in place, the work is done. Since instructors don’t teach e-learning classes,
when e-learning is implemented the work is done. This is false. Just as a
classroom course that never gets updated once developed, e-learning courses
that are not maintained and improved become stagnant and lose their
effectiveness. Here are some sample questions from this section of the survey.

How will courseware and other e-learning solutions be kept fresh after they
are implemented?

– Scheduled maintenance

– Technology-enabled reminders

– Outsourced support

What kind of IT resources are available?

– There is no IT support

– There is limited IT support

– There is contract support available

– There is a large IT support group

5 Business/fiscal readiness

If there is no financial or business leadership support of a new e-learning
initiative, then it will surely not survive. It is difficult to have e-learning
initiatives be truly successful without sound financial backing and the support
of a leader in the business organisation. Here are some sample questions from
this part of the survey.

What is the primary business reason for migrating to e-learning?

– Efficiency

– Cost effectiveness

– Ease of distribution

– Competitive response

Does senior level management support use of the internet for daily business
activities?

– No

– Yes

6 Delivery methodologies

How is most training delivered in your organisation?

– Classroom

– Informal on-the-job training

– Self-study or correspondence

– CBT or other alternative methods

– Web-based

Conclusions

We are trying to determine how an organisation meshes with the use of
e-learning. From the questions you can see how responding to such questions can
provide input to an organisation’s readiness.

How is the eOA Assesor survey administered? It is given to a cross-section
of the organisation and ideally, thousands of employees will respond. The
results are collated to give the organization an idea of when it would be ready
for e-learning. It is important to get a good cross section of the organisation
surveyed to increase the accuracy of the data. The survey is normally opened
for a one- to two-week period to allow for maximum participation in the group
and to account for absences.

Once the survey is completed, the results are used to create a Readiness
Quotient (RQ). There are three ranges:

37-59: in this range the organisation has the most work to get ready
for e-learning. There could be cultural, instructor, business/fiscal, delivery
methodology, or other issues that make implementation of e-learning risky at
this time without interventions into specific areas.

60-82: here the organisation is nearly ready to implement e-learning.
There may be some area of readiness, for example instructor readiness, that if
improved could move the organisation into the ready to implement e-learning
range. There might be one area that can be remedied quickly and make e-learning
implementation smoother.

83-106: here, the organisation is most likely ready to implement
e-learning.

In addition to a score, a full report is given. Even if an organisation
scores in the lowest range, it does not mean that it will never be able to use
e-learning. The eOA Assessor is designed to point out the areas an organisation
should concentrate on as it moves towards e-learning. The survey points out the
areas of weakness so the necessary developments can be made. For example, if an
organisation scores extremely low on instructor/developer readiness, then it
can offer training and development opportunities on e-learning to its staff,
outsource necessary support, or hire e-learning specialists to help overcome
these deficiencies.

The survey is, hopefully, quick to complete and the results can be readily
compiled and offer a strategic direction for an organisation to pursue. Without
such an assessment, many organisations will take a hit-and-miss approach to
e-learning implementation, which will ultimately result in disillusionment and
failure of the e-learning programme. The key here is that even negative results
can be used to improve an organisation’s readiness for e-learning.

E-learning is sweeping the world. It is imperative that organisations ensure
they are ready to implement it before trying to use it in-house.

About the author

Daren.E.Hartley, M.E.d, (dhartley@learn2now.com),
is the author of three books including Selling E-Learning (ASTD Press, 2001)
and On-Demand Learning: Training in the New Millennium (HRD Press, 2000).

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