Is E-learning Better Than On-The-Job Training?

Is E-learning Better Than On-The-Job Training?

E-learning is a great solution to a number of training problems. Or is it? Recent data suggest that there is still some hesitation within L&D as to whether or not E-learning is the right tool for the job. The benefits to online training may seem obvious to those within the E-learning industry. However, the skepticism from L&D can also be seen as an opportunity for course developers to prove that E-learning delivers much more than simply cost-savings.

Elearning In The Workplace

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) released their 2014 Learning and Development survey which helps to give some insight into how E-learning is being used in the workplace and the attitudes towards it.

One interesting finding was that the respondents who answered the survey, stated that while E-learning was the third most used learning and development practice, it was the seventh most effective.

The disparity between the two figures can tell us a number of things. Firstly, that there are factors that are driving the usage of E-learning besides its effectiveness. One such reason may be the cost-savings benefit from having to use strictly on-the-job training or other in-house development programs. However, information in the survey points to E-learning being used for only certain types of training as a primary driver for its poor perception of being effective.

Generally, E-learning methods are most commonly used for specific types of information-based training (such as health and safety, hygiene, data protection, induction and technology training) rather than for developing ‘soft’ or more complex skills. Organisations may have learned that while E-learning is useful for some purposes, it is not a stand-alone panacea for cost-effective development and is better used as a supplement to, rather than as a replacement for, more traditional L&D methods.

In short, L&D professionals see E-learning as a primary means in which to train more complex skills. Where does this perception come from? Having built scenario-based eLearning courses that teach soft skills, we know how powerful they can be — if they’re built correctly.

The CIPD survey doesn’t provide any quantifiable data with respect to where this dissatisfaction stems from. However, we’ve learned through our conversations with organizations that part of the dissatisfaction stems from their poor experience with badly-designed, non-engaging E-learning courses.

The fact of the matter is that is that it is difficult to develop training that can help improve soft skills. It needs the talents of an instructional designer who can take the material — whether it’s written down or in the mind of a subject matter expert — and translate that into an online format that retains its potency.

Often times, the fallback is to a paradigm that’s already familiar — the presentation format. The presentation format can be powerful if used correctly in an emanual where the focus is on information accessibility. If that format is being used in soft skills training, then it’s deficiencies become apparent and subsequently E-learning as a whole begins to be perceived as an ineffective medium.

What is the solution?

If we are to look to try and answer the question “Is E-learning Better Than On-The-Job Training?”, the answer should be that it doesn’t have to be. The best solution is the one that improves employee performance while still striking a balance with your business needs. As the technology behind eLearning improves; the methodologies that provide its foundation become more refined; and as a generation of workers who have been raised on internet-connected technology enter the workforce, we’ll see the tide begin to change.

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