The not-so-tender traps

Many companies are misallocating their e-learning budgets by falling down on
two counts, says ICUS’ Christiaan Heyning

Last year, European companies spent £224m on e-learning projects, with 50
per cent of that expenditure in the UK, according to figures from Enterprise
Ireland, the Irish Government’s trade and technology body.

Unfortunately, if past performance is anything to go by, much of the time
and money spent on these projects is wasted. Not because e-learning is a
useless hype, but because companies are falling into one, or sometimes two,
traps.

Let’s look at the first trap: spending money on technology without having
proven the e-learning concept, usually by acquiring a Learning Management
System (LMS). Not only does this often lead to companies buying technology that
does not fit their needs, it raises the bar for judging e-learning since implementing
an LMS can be highly disruptive and capital-intensive. Research firm Gartner
has estimated that worldwide, firms waste as much as 20 per cent of the US$2.7
trillion spent annually on technology by buying software that does not fits
their needs.

The second trap is to assume an e-learning implementation project is
finished when the technology works, a consequence of focusing on the technical
side of e-learning while neglecting the change management and communication
aspects.

Both traps can be avoided. Use an LMS hosted by a specialist provider, at
least for the duration of a pilot. This way, the energy – and money – can go
into finding or developing relevant and engaging content, which can be used in
a pilot to gauge user reaction and as a measure of how an organisation will
react to a large-scale e-learning implementation.

The second trap can also be addressed but is trickier as it is largely
culture-dependent. It is safe to say that most employees are already pressed
for time so e-learning will have to compete with other business activities if
it is to succeed. Employees must be convinced that the e-learning courses on
offer are of benefit to them.

To achieve these two goals, companies must undertake a change management and
communication campaign when implementing e-learning. This campaign should be
targeted at the prospective learners as well as their managers. The managers,
after all, will have to give the rewards and provide day-to-day stimulation and
encouragement. Senior management must also be won over since they have to extol
the benefits of e-learning as a strategic initiative.

If companies follow this advice they can focus on the crucial matters in
e-learning projects, such as where to get effective content and how to achieve
organisational support.

Christian Heyning is senior business development manager at ICUS – www.icus.net

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