Over the years, L&D professionals have supported learning initiatives through many diverse training strategies. This includes the use of internet technologies to leverage online electronic training. Through innovation and evolution, the eLearning training industry will experience growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.85% through 2025.
But the industry has come a long way since its humble beginning back in the 1990s—when distance learning wasn’t even a “thing.” Before the phrase “eLearning” became common, education technologist Elliot Masie outlined a definition of what it might entail, in these words:
“Online learning is the use of network technology to design, deliver, select, administer, and extend learning.”
That was back in 1997. Since then, throughout the computer-based training (CBT) evolution years, companies have sent out electronic learning content via floppy disks, CDs, and through emailed messages and attachments. So, what is eLearning today?
Well, we’re still using “…technology to design, deliver……extend learning,” so things haven’t changed much in that context. eLearning (or electronic learning) is still a technology-driven learning modality. However, the technologies, techniques, and learning interventions used today for eLearning training are far different and vastly superior than those available in 1997.
And today, unlike back in the 1990s, tech-supported learning occurs in various formats, including:
- Synchronous learning: This involves people learning at the same time (simultaneously), but not necessarily at the same place.
- Asynchronous learning: This learning modality uses technology to empower learners to consume learning content at their own convenience and at a time, place, and pace of their own preference.
- Instructor-led training (ILT) and virtual instructor-led training (VILT): These forms of eLearning training offer a mix of in-person and online learning activities, moderated and led by instructors.
- Blended learning: This uses technology to deliver a mix of training approaches, partially in-class/in-person, as well as through self-paced online modules.
Over the years, eLearning training has moved out of the realm of computer-based training to other tech-based models that rely on computers and the internet. This later form of electronic learning includes Computer-Managed Learning (CML), and Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) (i.e., Computer-Assisted Learning, CAL), both of which vary in the degree to which humans (L&D professionals, course designers, trainers, and learners) interact with learning technology and the learning environments supported by those technologies.
Corporate eLearning #
So, in the context of corporate training, what is eLearning all about, and does eLearning really work?
Before we address the question about its efficacy, let’s understand what it really is. It is a training strategy that harnesses the power of technology to deliver learning to a broad segment of the workforce.
And it works for corporations that employ a geographically dispersed workforce because it offers a more effective alternative to having the entire workforce report in person for training. Whether they are global, regional, or local businesses, some of the greatest hallmarks of using eLearning include:
- The ability to personalize learning content
- The capacity to empower staff who are looking for flexibility in learning
- The ability to train a workforce when, where, and how employees wish to learn
- The flexibility to standardize corporate learning across geographies and time zones
In effect, eLearning works so well that it has now become a mainstream corporate training strategy. It has moved from being one of many learning interventions to the primary training mode for most companies.
Types of eLearning #
Depending on the individual training needs of their employees, corporations today use various types of eLearning to support enterprise learning strategies. Let’s go over a few of them.
Gamification and game-based learning #
Both gamification and game-based learning are excellent eLearning training approaches. While gamification involves integrating game elements, such as badges, leaderboards, and point systems into learning activities, game-based learning revolves around designing game-playing characteristics and principles into learning activities. Role-playing, or learning while interacting within a simulate world, are great examples of game-based eLearning.
How does this help? It makes learning more fun (than text and voice-only learning) and heightens engagement among corporate learners.
Mobile learning (or mLearning) #
We often think of eLearning as learning “on the go,” with mobile devices as a key component of delivery. This interpretation of mobile learning (i.e., mLearning) is accurate, however, L&D professionals may also leverage mLearning in classroom settings—not just remotely—to deliver personalized, collaborative learning experiences to co-located employees.
How does this help? With significant numbers of workers away from the traditional “workplace” and many spending considerable time on the road, mLearning gives employees the flexibility to learn virtually, wherever they are.
Microlearning focuses on delivering comparatively small units of learning content to learners.
Typically, the bite-sized learning is developed so it can be consumed anywhere, especially in the moment and at the point of need (e.g., accessing “How to…” content to quickly solve a work challenge). This type of training content often stands alone and typically doesn’t require following a sequence of prerequisite learning steps.
How does this help? Employees who undergo training don’t always remember everything they’ve learned. Microlearning is an effective way to stimulate learning recall and a great on-the-job, just-in-time learning support tool.
Another dimension to understanding eLearning is the length of learning content. Evidence-based research confirms that an overwhelming majority of eLearners (90%) surveyed preferred small-footprint learning content. While microlearning has been a staple bite-sized tool in L&D professionals’ toolkit, a new learning modality, nano-learning, is fast growing in popularity.
How does this help? This new approach to eLearning training aims to deliver sound-bite learning in less than 10-minute nibbles, typically in a few sentences or so. It does this through delivery methods such as YouTube and TikTok videos, or text messages. Being small-footprint in nature, nano-content works on devices with minimal tech specs and hardly consumes internet bandwidth—yet another reason to leverage it!
Social media-based learning #
While trainer, coach, and instructor-led learning has been a staple for many virtual, distance, and online training programs, research shows that peer-to-peer learning (e.g., peer learning, peer instruction, collaborative learning, or cooperative learning) also delivers better learning outcomes. L&D professionals can leverage social media platforms (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and other online networking forums to facilitate peer learning—the concept of learners learning from other learners.
How does this help? One statistic indicates that, globally, individuals spend approximately 2 hours and 23 minutes a day on social platforms. The pandemic has significantly enhanced social media use and, therefore, it makes sense for businesses to leverage the popularity of that use as a learning opportunity for employees working remotely or from home.
How to implement eLearning into your corporate training #
When it comes to developing a highly effective and efficient organization, there’s no substitute for the role that its workforce plays. And having a highly trained and skilled workforce is critical to the success of that role. So, what is eLearning able to deliver to an organization in terms of competitive advantage?
Two words: speed and extensibility!
Traditional learning programs limit an L&D team’s ability to roll out training quickly and to scale—especially in a geographically dispersed workforce. Time and distance challenges often hinder the rapid rollout of critical training strategies. Worse yet, it takes significant amounts of resources (skills, funding, infrastructure) to accelerate or expand traditional training. eLearning training addresses those challenges.
The question, however, is how do L&D leaders incorporate eLearning as part of their corporate training strategies? Here are four steps to make that happen:
Define your learning objectives #
The first step in implementing your vision of corporate eLearning is to define the learning objectives you seek to accomplish. These objectives form part of your overall training strategy and will serve as your implementation blueprint. Subsequently, upon implementing eLearning across your organization, you’ll revisit these objectives as a benchmark to determine the success (or lack thereof!) of your strategy.
Why do this? Without clearly defined learning objectives, corporations will never deliver the types of targeted training needed to make learning effective.
Work with an eLearning vendor #
While your in-house L&D team will ultimately determine how your corporate eLearning strategy evolves, they’ll need support from industry specialists and partners. It’s important to discuss your training objectives with prospective vendors. Choose an eLearning vendor with the experience and track record of successfully delivering training solutions across other organizations in your industry.
Why do this? Businesses tap eLearning training subject matter experts (SMEs) because they (SMEs) have the depth and breadth of expertise and can leverage industry networks and contacts that most in-house L&D teams lack.
Choose an authoring tool #
The content authoring tool you choose will determine the type and quality of the courses you build.
The tools you choose must, at minimum, address all the learning objectives you’ve set out to accomplish. The more features and functionality that the tools have, the more engaging content your eLearning training developers will produce. And learner engagement is one of the critical success
factors for any corporate training program.
Why do this? These tools will help you move away from boring text-based, PowerPoint, or static graphic-enabled content and create lively, engaging content that catches on!
Using an LMS #
In consultation with your eLearning vendor, your authoring tools will produce “sticky” learning
content to address specific learning objectives for every segment of learners across your organization.
However, the learning management system (LMS) you implement will help disseminate that content to remote learners, monitor their progress, create knowledge bases and learning portals, communicate with learners, help learners collaborate with L&D teams and learning groups . . . and do much more!
Why do this? Without an LMS, your in-house L&D teams will spend significant manual effort tracking, monitoring, personalizing, and reporting employee learning milestones. An LMS also automates the ongoing branding, standardization, maintenance, and management of learning content across the organization.
On the journey to implementing corporate eLearning, it’s important to include several other milestone activities, such as investing time and effort to publicize corporate learning programs among your staff, running pilot programs prior to a full launch, and opening channels for feedback from/to all stakeholders—including employees, L&D teams, eLearning vendors, and external training service providers. Finally, make learning audits a matter of routine, and ensure you work with your learning services vendor to continually update and refresh your eLearning content and delivery process.
Benefits of eLearning #
In today’s fast-paced workplace, knowledge is a competitive advantage that organizations can leverage to gain and maintain a leadership position in their niche. So, what is eLearning able to deliver to this competitive landscape? A lot, actually! By harnessing the power of virtual and remote learning, L&D teams:
- Make training more accessible across the company
- Help lower training costs, especially for company employees in remote locations
- Increase learner interaction with learning programs using highly engaging and interactive content
- Improve staff retention rates because more employees are looking for accessible learning opportunities as a reason to remain with the company
- Create a continuous learning ecosystem because, compared to traditional courses, eLearning training content is easier to update, refresh, and deliver
- Enable employees to rapidly develop new skills so the workforce can more quickly pivot and respond to an organization’s changing business objectives
- Use technology-powered learning interventions, such as 3D simulations, virtual reality (VR), and augmented virtual reality (AVR) to help learners train in safe environments to hone their skills
In 2019, only 24% of America’s workforce worked from home. That statistic changed to nearly 68% doing some or all of their work at home in 2021. In an environment where more of the workforce is global, mobile, and virtual, sticking with traditional in-class, in-person corporate learning and training strategies make no sense.
A pivot to eLearning training gives you a better return on your training strategy investments while also making learning more effective and engaging for your learners. Contact us to get started on your eLearning project, and learn how we can help you get your training strategies off to a flying start.