Scaling the learning curve

E-learning has great potential but is no ‘plug and play’ solutionsays Martyn
Sloman of the CIPD

The term e-learning first appeared in
articles and at conferences in 1999 and its use has grown exponentially. Of
course, the use of technology in training has a much longer history, but
opportunities arising from universal internet/intranet access were seen as
something else from the outset. So how is it doing?

It now seems to be accepted that, to date, e-learning has
demonstrated more potential than actual performance. True, some organisations
are achieving real efficiencies, reflected in considerable cost savings.

But simply making e-learning general products available to
unsupported volunteer learners and hoping that something will happen just will
not do.

Here at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development
we have just completed a study of 10 organisations committed to e-learning. We
asked them what is currently on their e-learning agenda? What strategies are
they employing? What are the problems and how are they overcoming them? What
advice would you give them?

The overall message is encouraging. All believe e-learning has
an important role to play. They identified considerable opportunities to use
e-learning to make a significant impact on business objectives.

However, the study showed there is no universal blueprint for
introducing e-learning into organisations. It seems every organisation needs to
progress along its own learning curve in order to make e-learning work. In the
CIPD study, six areas were identified as needing specific attention in the
design and implementation process: strategic intent, introducing the system,
blended learning, content, supporting the learner and measurement and
monitoring. If due attention is not given to all these areas, it seems unlikely
that organisations will be able to implement e-learning effectively.

The bad news then, to use an analogy from consumer technology, is that
e-learning is not ‘plug and play’. E-learning must be reconfigured to meet the
particular circumstances of the organisation. We were, however, able to produce
16 statements (see downloadable report below) as a result of the study, which
together constitute today’s received wisdom on implementing e-learning.

We all want e-learning to achieve its massive potential. Progress, is not
helped, however, by over-hype and over-promotion. Real progress will come from
the considered and determined efforts of training professionals working to
overcome the demanding problems of e-learning implementation.

Martyn Sloman is adviser, learning, training and development of the CIPD.
The conclusions, and analysis of the six areas and the good practice statements
from the CIPD report are available as a Change Agenda entitled The Learning
Curve, downloadable free of charge from www.cipd.co.uk/changeagendas

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