The wealth of e-learning options available seems overwhelming. But it need not be daunting, as Sally O’Reilly found
The Internet and intranets have been rapidly adopted as channels for delivering IT and technical training, yet soft skills development has proved more problematic. Few systems have the bandwidth necessary to stream audio and video material, and without these - most experts believe - it is difficult to get over the subtle messages about working with people.
The huge costs involved in creating bespoke leaning management systems means these are still mainly the preserve of large organisations. The market for these bespoke systems is dominated by companies such as Epic Group and Vega Skillchange.
“We supply tailored learning solutions that are delivered via company intranet, over the Internet or other digital channels,” explains Lars Hyland, key accounts director with Epic Group. “So our clients tend to be large, bluechip organisations such as British Airways, The Royal Bank of Scotland, WorldCom and PricewaterhouseCoopers. We also serve public sector customers such as the Inland Revenue, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a number of local government bodies.”
But Hyland believes the accessibility of e-learning is expanding as companies struggle to keep a lid on costs and maintain co-learning as a way to both to develop and deploy the expertise of staff.
“Too few training divisions within organisations use this powerful tool to justify the creation of learning solutions that will genuinely lead to improved business performance,” he says. “The Royal Bank of Scotland is an admirable exception. It has proved that e-learning makes a significant difference, having already created a 7:1 return on its investment. With its takeover of NatWest, this learning content will be applicable to a much wider audience and yield even higher returns.”
There are other signs that the market is broadening. Publishers such as Video Arts and Maxim Training have recently branched into generic e-learning materials which can be run on a corporate intranet, and newcomers like the web-based BlueU.com. are specialising solely in e-learning.
It seems that these days much smaller c