Training must focus on the future and recognise the challenges ahead to ensure e-learning’s success, says Professor David Birchall
There has been little said about the real issues and challenges organisations face in implementing
e-learning – particularly, issues around the realisation of sustainable business benefits over the longer term.
Our study of early applications of e-learning* has scratched beneath the glossy veneer by reporting the experiences and insights of people involved in making e-learning happen. Compared to initial predictions, the scale and complexity of challenges it presents have been largely miscalculated, and those responsible for training and development are facing a steep learning curve.
A basic restriction to e-learning’s development is in the nature of information and communications technology (ICT), which remains fragmented in many companies.
ICT’s potential is recognised by organisations not only using asynchronous, but also increasingly trialling synchronous technologies. The more successful projects have adopted a design philosophy of ‘fit for purpose’ and made appropriate use of technology recognising the user’s needs.
However, transformation of training and development through ICT depends upon integrated decision-making crossing strategy formulation, operations management, information systems, knowledge management and training and development itself.
Modularisation of information content and personalised learning process will become increasingly important as a means of ensuring cost-effective solutions that motivate the learner. Real economies of scale often depend upon global delivery – but problems of language, culture and differences in local practices have to be tackled.
Related areas such as informal learning, communities of practice and networked learning will all increase to support the growing number of knowledge workers. The role for training and development departments in all of this is unclear as yet.
Making the business case for investment in e-learning will continue to be a central challenge. Many of its benefits are intangible and difficult to quantify, and the situation is not helped by the relatively unsophisticate