While the global pandemic compels us all to embrace the so-called “new normal”, we remain far from any normality as the global situation appears to change on an almost daily basis. Perhaps what we need to get used to is continual change. Many of us have needed and continue to need to learn new skills to cope with all those changes in our day to day routines. Whether we are working from home, commuting to the office, or searching for a new direction to continue our careers, we need to reskill, and to do so quickly and efficiently.
Over the last decade, e-learning has gained an ever-increasing share of the education market. Our hands have now been forced by the pandemic to accept virtual learning as the primary source of acquiring new skills and knowledge. And many of us are loving it. Everyone can work at their own pace and learn according to their ability and style; we can choose where we wish to work; we don’t need to buy expensive textbooks; and it is much easier to remember what we have learned.
Another big break from the past is that learning and development have become a never-ending process. The world is changing at such a pace that there is always something new to learn merely to remain where we are right now. If we are in a sector that has been hit severely by the pandemic and jobs have been lost, we are likely to need new skills to help us move on to new opportunities. If we are moving to a new job, then e-learning is the best way to acquire all the new skills we need to onboard.
Naturally, providing e-learning to employees is not without its challenges and defectors. Not everyone is convinced that e-learning can provide all the necessary skills that would usually be learned in a workshop or similar setting. Neither is everybody naturally motivated to learn, so without face-to-face contact, how do you encourage those who see learning as a chore? Concerns such as these have held back many organisations from adopting a total e-learning policy for their new recruits and longer-term employees. But if we dig more deeply into these challenges and are willing to be creative in the ways we provide e-learning resources, they cease to be a problem. Let’s look at some of the main concerns and how we can resolve them.
Effective e-learning practices
Engagement is crucial, so how do you keep your audience engaged in the learning process? It is easy to lose an online audience, as there are so many distractions. Maintaining the attention of learners is a challenge, so online educators must develop new ways to keep their audience interested. Just presenting the same old material online is not a viable solution. Everything needs to be rethought and represented.
Passive lessons are not the best way to engage online classrooms. There is plenty of technology available to encourage active participation, so why not use it? Keeping everyone actively involved, encouraging questions and three-way conversations are crucial.
Attention span is shorter online than in a classroom or workshop setting. Moving from passive to active learning will increase engagement to a point, but rarely will it keep audiences engaged for a full day. It is vital to mix things up and make lessons shorter. Allow ample breaks and encourage people to interact and share their experiences on how things are going.
New technologies are enhancing the effectiveness and experience of e-learning. For instance, augmented and virtual reality is making significant impacts on e-learning. With such technologies, learners can interact directly with real-life situations, and the technologies have proven their worth in health and safety training and other areas and scenarios where learners can gain experience without physical risk.
Corporate application of e-learning
There are many areas where e-learning can make a significant impact. Some vital applications are:
- Training recruits during onboarding. Onboarding has changed considerably from the days when it involved watching an ageing corporate video and a quick run-through of the corporate handbook. Few people took the exercise seriously. Today onboarding is seen as a critical part of the recruitment process, with carefully designed e-learning programmes proven to improve employee loyalty, engagement and retention.
- E-Learning & Development programmes are crucial for both the employees and the business and when carried out effectively create a competitive advantage that drives business performance. Providing employees with opportunities to improve will help retain top talent, improve customer satisfaction, and reduce recruiting costs.
- Training in Health & Safety for those returning to the office from furlough or working from home is a vital step in getting back to work. As well as providing valuable information on social distancing and new ways of workplace management, allaying the fears and anxieties of returning staff should be an essential element of the programme. Rather than providing top-down e-learning, such courses should be interactive with learners being encouraged to communicate their concerns and thoughts.
E-Learning market growth
According to the Technavio report “Global Corporate E-learning Market 2020-2024”, the market is currently larger than $200 billion. It is poised to grow by $38.09 billion over the next four years, at a CAGR of more than 11 per cent. Even before the pandemic, 98% of US corporations had planned using e-learning by 2020. In Europe, which accounts for 35% of the global e-learning market, the UK has the largest market size, followed by France, Germany, Spain and Italy. The extent to which the pandemic is accelerating this growth is yet to be assessed formally, but undoubtedly the effect is considerable.