eLearning isn’t training, or is it?
Posted by Tracy Seward
The need for directed and self-learning continues to grow across all organisations but increasingly so in compliance-based training, such as health and safety. Yet there remain some health and safety practitioners who insist that true training has to be face to face. So, are we in danger of replacing actual learning with mere publishing of information or is eLearning the training panacea it is often hailed to be in today’s global market place?
Here, Mike Stevens, eLearning Director at Praxis42 and a Chartered Safety Practitioner who is responsible for training and development at Praxis42, takes a look at how widespread is the acceptance of eLearning and asks – is it really training?
I recently attended a health and safety seminar and was astounded to hear one of the presenters announce that computer-based training (CBT) or as it is called now a day’s eLearning isn’t training. At the time I thought that this was a rather sweeping statement to make about a training medium that a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) showed that over 50 per cent of respondents currently use and a further 39 per cent had plans to use.
With experience, myself, in both face to face and eLearning delivery, this statement made me wonder if this perception of eLearning is a common one and whether it does have its merits in health and safety compliance and awareness?
Perceptions of eLearning
A few years ago the presenter’s statement about eLearning would not have seemed as out of place as it is today as some of the content, media and delivery methods were rather primitive back then. In terms of technology even as recently as five years ago many workers, especially older employees, were not as technology savvy as they are today; few people used computers as part of their job and fewer still had even heard of broadband. People were trained in classrooms and PowerPoint was still considered amazing.
Then, eLearning or CBT was the next big thing; everyone was talking about it: few were doing it. Today it is today’s big thing. Today’s workforce consists more and more of people brought up on computers or mobile devices that have used the internet extensively as a knowledge resource. We are increasingly a digital generation, which expects to engage in interactive learning and which can use it to its maximum potential. Yesterday’s eLearning courses were perhaps a little bland and one dimensional whereas online training today is a media-rich experience that engages, challenges and supports the awareness and learning process.
And eLearning content can only get better of course. As today’s digitally adventurous youngsters enter the workforce, tomorrow’s computer programmers will be making eLearning programmes that will literally blow our minds away.
The benefits of eLearning
The benefits of eLearning are well documented. Cost savings can be significant, even enormous. Tracey Connage, Deputy Director of HR at Brent Council reported a cost-saving of £116,000 when providing health and safety training for 2,500 using eLearning. * People Management magazine.
According to Training Magazine, organisations typically save between 50 and 70 per cent when replacing instructor-led training with eLearning. Because eLearning can be taken anytime, anywhere, it doesn’t interfere with the critical operations of the employee. They can access training wherever they can interface with a computer or device, whether a desk PC, Laptop, PDA or other mobile devices. Education is available 24 hours a day when and where they need it.
There is good evidence to suggest that learners gaining knowledge online retain more than those subjected to death by PowerPoint. When training is relevant to the job, as, in health and safety, there is no such thing as boring content, only boring ways of presenting it.
The immediate nature of eLearning means that users who need to “brush up” on a particular business process can access the training module instantly, practice via simulation, test themselves on the module, and resume their work.
Health and Safety and eLearning
In organisations where mandatory or compliance-based training is essential such as the financial services industry and in health and safety eLearning offers clear advantages: the messages are consistent and high volumes of people can be trained across diverse geographies as the needs of the organisation require. The progress and results of the training can also be centrally managed through a learning management system (LMS) with the record and reporting management functionality.
The Health and Safety Executive itself, the statutory enforcing authority, deploy eLearning solutions to train their own employees and ensure they comply with their own legal obligations.
Instantaneous updates, hyperlink to other areas of background and research, online help desks, mobile learning referred to as mLearning technology….are just a few of the many other benefits of eLearning. Couple all this with delivery flexibility and cost reduction, and it is no wonder that eLearning has become a core strategy in improving health and safety performance and changing behaviours through acquired knowledge and awareness.
Is it really training?
Well, how can eLearning not be training as it has all the elements that make up any training experience? Good eLearning either ‘off the shelf’, tailored or bespoke will typically set out its purpose or aim, the learning objectives, technically accurate content to meet the objectives, opportunities to interact and become involved in understanding the content and feature formative and summative assessments that check the aims and objectives have been met.