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Maximising the benefits and ROI of e-learning

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Too many companies are missing the major benefits of e-learning through poor introduction and management, argues Steve Dineen, Chief Executive of fuel Group.


The potential benefits of e-learning are now widely accepted. Training staff online has the potential to help companies create massive savings, gain far better value from their training budgets and even generate revenue.

However, many organisations which have invested significant amounts of time, money and energy in e-learning have had their fingers burnt.

But if the reasons for the unsatisfactory results were analysed, many would find that the problems don’t lie inherently in the e-learning content itself, more in the way that it has been introduced into the organisation. Furthermore, the issues can be overcome and e-learning made to work effectively.


Cost savings

Before looking at how to maximise the benefits and ROI, let’s consider the possible savings. They really can be enormous.

A major international telecoms company whose training course costs would have been £2.7m, saved £2.6m by using an e-learning course for a product launch and with highly successful results. In addition, significant hotel and international travel expenses were also eliminated, as well as lost selling time.

The benefits are not only direct and indirect cost savings. Courses can easily be translated into multiple languages for worldwide simultaneous product launches, for example. This enables the whole sales force to be trained much quicker. As a result, new products can be sold across the market immediately, and so companies can achieve greater and faster ROI on their new launches.

Phil Howe, e-learning development executive of IT solutions provider the NRG Group of Companies, a subsidiary of Ricoh Company said: “The key benefit of e-learning is that it enables us to introduce our technology-based products to the market much faster and sell them immediately worldwide when the period of competitive advantage is greatest.”

There are a number of factors that should be considered when developing and using e-learning in order to maximise the value of the investment and ensure that the solution is cost-effective.


Consulting with the learners

From the start, learners should be involved to create a sense of ownership and to ensure that they really buy in to the concept. For example, sales team training should take into account the competitive nature of sales people and the way they are motivated by challenges.

Thorough research among learners will also enable any potential issues or influencers to be identified and overcome. For instance, there may be apprehension about using technology as a learning tool. The level of support that learners will require should be assessed and re-assurance given that they will not simply be left to their own devices.


Launching the course

Generating interest and excitement in the course is essential. Often organisations choose to launch the course with a punchy email from the Managing Director. This must be followed up closely with additional activity.

Creative campaigns can include components such as teaser e-mails and infomercial trailers. Furthermore, a good Learning Management System will enable line managers to track the progress of all participants and they can then be chased by email if necessary.

By taking this approach, one major company improved uptake from 50% to 90% utilisation in just 6 weeks – with 85% of those completing the course.

If the learners are given initial assistance from trainers and floor walkers to get up and running, overcome the initial start-up ‘barriers’ and become absorbed into the course, e-learning programmes become significantly more effective.


Course content

Content quality is the key differentiator between e-learning solutions that work and those that don’t. In order for it to be truly effective, it needs to be attention grabbing and holding, as well as educationally structured.

E-learning content should be developed by trainers supported by internet specialists, not vice versa, and it must make learners want to progress and become self-motivated to learn.

Pre-course assessment can help in tailoring training to the individual concerned.

To reach maximum effectiveness, e-learning content needs to engage the learner. Many organisations fall victim to ‘death by next’. Interactivity is essential to grab and hold the learners’ involvement.

Serious gaming has been proven to aid the learning experience as it is immersive, fun and enables people to learn while enjoying themselves.

In addition, applying the principles of educational psychology also helps in the creation of e-learning content that really educates and delivers maximum learning effectiveness.

There are many different elements that need to come together to create e-learning that is truly effective and works to its full potential. Organisations which look beyond the initial purchase and commit time and resource to preparation and introduction can reap not only a positive return but potentially significant benefits from their investment.

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