Intranets have impact

Stephanie Sparrow finds renewed confidence in online learning as she
analyses this year’s results in the annual research by Training Magazine with
Xebec McGraw-Hill

Training specialists have not harnessed the full potential of online
learning, but are optimistic about its potential to deliver and its impact on
their career prospects.

This is one of the key findings in the Corporate E-learning Survey by
Training Magazine and Xebec McGraw-Hill, the fourth of its kind.

Training departments are taking up new skills and re-thinking how to offer
the best range of training formats to company employees. More than 80 per cent
of organisations using e-learning believe it will add value to the role of
training specialists.

Skills base

Skills in developing online and off-line training activities will be needed
if specialists are to be able to offer the best approach. This concern was
indicated by 42 per cent of respondents to the survey who felt that integration
will be key to maximising the potential of e-learning within an organisation.

Coaching and mentoring are also considered top skills required for training
specialists by 34 per cent of respondents.

In addition, 26 per cent believe facilitation and building online curricula
will be important skills to pick up.

Their greatest worries centre on the decreased importance of the personal
elements of their role, with 39 per cent of all trainers indicating this as a
concern.

Optimism

This year the survey found growth in the implementation of corporate
intranets and related e-learning.

Of all respondents with an intranet, 45 per cent claim that online
technology will be very important to them in delivering training to employees
within the next three years.

The survey showed that 87 per cent of all respondents have an intranet or
technology with similar functionality – almost 10 per cent more than last year.

Of these, 28 per cent indicate that they use the intranet for delivering
training within their organisations, but because the total proportion of
organisations with an intranet has increased significantly, conclusions can be
drawn that there has been growth in the implementation of intranet-based
e-learning.

Only 18 per cent of organisations with an intranet currently have no plans
to use it to deliver training.

Use of the Internet to deliver training is also growing steadily, with 24
per cent of respondents indicating that they use it to deliver training to
their employees, compared with 18 per cent in the 2000 survey.

The Internet looks set to grow in importance as part of the training mix,
with 46 per cent of all respondents stating that they plan to use it for
e-learning within one to three years. The main growth will be seen in
manufacturing and charity organisations.

Many organisations are now turning to learning portals to deliver training
resources. There has been a dramatic shift in plans for these portals with more
than one-fifth planning to use internally or externally developed learning
portals; in 2000, 44 per cent of all respondents indicated that they had no
plans to use a learning portal.

Skills mix

The types of skills delivered over intranets continue to follow a similar
pattern to those seen in the 2000 survey. The most popular type of training
delivered is IT/technical skills with 79 per cent (up from 66 per cent) of organisations
currently using their intranet for delivering training in this area.

In previous surveys, most growth has been seen in the soft skills arena and
there seems to be no change to these plans for the future.

Management skills is the highest growing skills area with 38 per cent of
organisations claiming they will deliver it over their intranets within one to
three years. Other skill growth areas include customer care and personal
effectiveness.

Low spend

However, the enthusiasm for e-learning is not reflected in high budgets.
These are currently quite restricted although some growth is expected. Current
spend on e-learning represents a small proportion of the total training budget,
with more than half of all organisations spending 10 per cent or less of their
entire training budget on this method this year.

So where does this money go? When our respondents are able to spend, money
is allocated to off-the-shelf courseware from external suppliers, with 19 per
cent of you indicating that you will spend between 76 and 100 per cent of the
total e-learning budget on this type of courseware.

Deployment

Training specialists who recognise the need for e-learner support are having
the most success with their e-learning and feel the most comfortable with it.

They are keeping in touch with learners through methods such as virtual
classroom and live chat sessions. Respondents using these methods seem to be
more at ease with the concept than those deploying internal e-tutoring services
(which are used by 33 per cent of organisations) and the online discussion
forums and line manager coaching methods used by just over a quarter of
respondents. Nearly 25 per cent of respondents do not offer learner support,
and in turn a quarter of these feel that their e-learning is not very or not at
all successful.

Integration

Most of those surveyed acknowledge that there is still work to be done to
make e-learning a success.

The major thrust of this has to be to integrate e-learning into the wider
training mix. Currently most organisations use e-learning as a standalone form
of training, with 77 per cent delivering training in this way.

Nearly half, at 46 per cent, use e-learning for self-study before
face-to-face training takes place, but this current picture reflects the selective
trials of e-learning where factors such as cost and technology have driven most
organisations to keep e-learning separate from other activities.

The future

The most popular way of using e-learning in the future will be as self-study
for pre- or post-face-to-face training, with the aim of giving students a base
level of knowledge prior to other training courses and to build on and advance
their own learning afterwards.

Least widely used will be e-learning as a standalone method, with only 6 per
cent of respondents indicating that they will use it this way. This is not
surprising when we consider that organisations achieving the highest levels of
success are those using it in a group e-learning format, allowing students to
benefit from each other’s experience and maximising the benefits derived from
the technology and format.

Evaluation

With a keen eye on the bottom line, most training departments are using
experts to evaluate their training.

Only 6 to 7 per cent of all organisations using online technology to deliver
training do not carry out any evaluation at all.

A variety of methods are being used for the evaluation, the most popular
being usage or uptake by students.

Other methods are:

– Comparing improvements in staff performance and cost

– Evaluation using online surveys

– Paper-based surveys

– One-to-one debriefs

Surprisingly, financial evaluation is the least preferred method of
evaluation, with only a quarter of intranet users and 19 per cent of Internet
users deploying return on investment models.

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