The hype around e-learning might lead you to believe it is a cure for the world’s ills. What difference is it really making to organisations? Sue Clark asks people at the forefront of the intranet revolution
What does e give you?
Director of training and development
Prudential Portfolio Managers
We have 3,000 employees worldwide and it is impossible for us to get the right training to the right person at the right time using conventional methods.
Using e-learning allows us to provide development with more value and more focus. We use the analogy of the restaurant. Instead of giving our employees a menu of courses we think are good for them and when it is convenient for us, we stock the larder and allow them to take what they require when they need it.
There are 760 on-line courses and 90 knowledge sharing networks, which people can reach on our intranet or the Internet. They are divided into 90 learning areas under 11 faculties; together we call this "The I".
E-learning can preclude the shared experience, but The I is a part of a larger focus on performance support which includes traditional courses (details of 3,200 are listed on The I) and coaching. We follow up these conventional methods with short bites of e-mail development to reinforce the learning.
We went live in March 1999 and the 500 of our 3,000 employees who can access the intranet (the rest use the Internet) have visited the site 4,124 times, and looked at 113,356 pages. While not a core driver, the success of e-learning contributed to our coming in 30 per cent under budget last year.
Head of learning distribution
Our networked training PCs were set up primarily to enable access of technical training to our branch-based staff at a time of great activity – the merger between Commercial Union and General Accident.
The key drivers, therefore, were instant and flexible availability of a wide range of modules coupled with the advantages of local delivery of training which reduced time wasted on travel and minimised absence from the workplace.
Staff who were used to classroom events had to adapt to greater use of technology coupled with self management of their learning programmes. While the long term cost of this delivery medium is less than traditional means, many staff still hanker for the residential course at the staff college.
Our experience shows that delivery to the desktop is most effective for technical training of short duration. Our staff prefer to engage in prolonged learning events on separate PCs set in quieter sections of the office. For the future we see mixed delivery solutions with e-learning focusing on just-in-time training.
Senior manager, e-learning
Lloyds TSB launched its corporate university last year and with it the launch of e-learning. We want to provide just-in-time learning at the desk, through our web site, accessed through both the Internet and our intranet.
Recent developments have included an e-learning familiarisation programme for trainers. This was conducted on-line and trainers learned how to coach delegates and facilitate discussion groups using this medium.
It is encouraging that we have more requests from trainers to develop skills in on-line course design and that many see e-learning as an opportunity, not a threat.
Two of our residential training sites have cyber-cafés, used by delegates and trainers. These facilities supplement residential programmes and provide the opportunity to experiment and become familiar with e-learning.
We are about to launch the first phase of our web-enabled career development tools to an audience of 20,000. This was developed in-house in a short time scale. The web technology provided us with cost effective methods to distribute and keep material up to date.
Opportunities for the future include the development of on-line training transactions, testing, and the sharing of knowledge/information that will enable us to improve our efficiency.
In using web technology, we have embarked upon a journey, although with the web environment changing at such a pace who knows where this will lead? This is part of the challenge for the function.
Royal Bank of Scotland
The sheer pace of change in the financial and retail banking sectors is immense, and to meet these demands, we realised our whole approach to training also had to change dramatically. This paradigm shift means that we require a learning platform that is more flexible, more consistent and accommodates the differing learning styles of our staff.
Web-based learning delivers these, particularly self-paced learning, and is a welcome addition to our learning platform.
Our on-line learning programme is part of an HR web delivery programme to deliver self-service HR to 20,000 staff through our HR intranet site. A key part of this programme has been a significant investment in a bespoke learning network stretching into 650 branches. This network has allowed the bank to deliver training via the intranet to approximately 7,000 employees.
In addition it has streamlined the administration process with functionality such as on-line course booking and ordering of distance learning. This has already delivered a return on capital of over 700 per cent.
Another key element in the bank’s on-line learning strategy enables staff to access broadcast events without leaving their branch. The broadcasts, sent via satellite, are viewed using PCs within each branch.
Senior HR manager
London Borough of Newham
Online learning enables staff to address their development needs quickly and accurately. Contrast this to a longish wait for an appropriate course which, by its nature, cannot possibly be individually tailored. Time and money spent on training is thus used more effectively in many cases. People enjoy the privacy of the approach, and welcome the freedom to repeat things until they really understand. It also avoids things like role play which can inhibit participation and learning for some.
Alternatively, some have found it a lonely experience and miss group interaction which, in turn, detracts from their learning. Obviously, one key message is that individuals can legitimately choose the method to suit their particular learning style.
However, it is also important to encourage experimentation with new things.