Remember the learner?

Why has a technology that has the potential to revolutionise the way
employees learn been such a disappointment? Is it because we’ve forgotten the
learner, asks Accenture’s Ian Webster

The reason e-learning has not yet reached its full potential, is, in short,
because too often the drivers for e-learning seem to be the need to lower costs
or the desire for technological wizardry.

Instead, in any e-learning project the real focus should be on
the ultimate customer – the learners themselves. Amid budget and technical
requirements, the learner all too often gets forgotten. As a result, many
e-learning programmes do not provide as enjoyable or useful a learning
experience as they should, and if employees are turned off e-learning, then the
real return on investment from the training will never materialise.

To fight this worrying trend, training and HR departments must
be more forceful in championing the needs of the learner. They must convince
the finance department that it is no good saving on your training budget
through e-learning if the training you provide does not accomplish the job.

Equally, they must remind the IT department that while
impressive graphics and interactive content might look very sexy, it may
alienate remote workers with slow dial-up lines.

Ultimately, a well-designed bespoke e-learning course with
proper offline support might prove more expensive in the initial stages of
development, but is likely to be far more effective than an off-the-shelf
programme, and as such delivers a superior return on the initial investment.

Training managers are being actively encouraged by their
organisations to embrace e-learning, but ultimately, their responsibility is to
provide the right learning experience, regardless of the chosen delivery method.

Not every course is suitable for an ‘e’ environment and not
every employee will get the best out of e-learning. Providing compliance
training for 100,000 employees is an obvious candidate for e-learning;
conversely, high-level executive training for a select group probably is not.

Likewise, not every employee will be comfortable with IT, let
alone e-learning. It is important that companies trying to create a true
learning culture do not disenfranchise employees who get more from other
training methods.

To make a real success of e-learning, we need to slice through
the hype, get back to basic learning concepts and strategies and build from the
learner up. E-learning must provide a positive and refreshing experience,
otherwise it doesn’t stand a chance.

Ian Webster is head of e-learning,
Accenture HR Services

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