One vital area of technological transformation that is altering how we live and work is e-learning, and the rapid growth of virtual training as a viable alternative to the traditional classroom. But e-learning also represents a lot more than just a convenient alternative: it is revolutionising how people learn. As a process, it offers unique opportunities and methods for people to access, absorb and retain important information, in ways that go beyond the classroom.
The E-learning Revolution
E-learning is now proving itself to be by far the most effective means of providing training in the workplace, saving on time and money, but delivering measurable improvements in learning. Is there evidence supporting this? Various studies support the benefits of e-learning. They show that e-learning tends to out-perform classroom instruction. The biggest benefits come from learners having realistic decision-making and other authentic tasks and activities, and getting regular feedback from doing them.
Another vital element is repetition. E-learning is iterative and self-directed, with learners able to proceed at their own, individual pace. Research shows that this form of learning improves critical thinking. E-learning has retention rates ranging from 25% to 60%, compared to the much lower retention rates of face-to-face training of between 8% and 10%.
The Time Factor
A major factor in the increasing uptake of e-learning is its efficiency as an effective delivery method for training and skills development. People taking e-learning courses can learn nearly five times more material, without needing the additional time you would expect to apply in a classroom environment. And, typically, it takes up less time for employees training in the workplace. It can save between 40% and 60% in learning time.
This is a significant benefit to employers who may be stretched for resources, and feel that taking staff out of their normal roles for training would otherwise be too demanding. Also, e-learning is highly adaptable to different, individual timetables. Rather than having to organise people into a classroom to deliver face-to-face training, or to schedule a live-streamed course, e-learning can fit in with people’s own schedules. This allows for a rapid but adaptable accumulation of knowledge.
How Businesses Benefit from E-learning
Over 40% of global Fortune 500 companies are already using some form of technology to train their employees. 72% of organisations believe that e-learning is helping them keep up with change. Employers who offer training through technology such as e-learning can expect to generate revenue that is 26% higher, per employee, than those businesses that don’t. 42% of companies say that e-learning has led to increased revenue.
Effective training is also a way of both attracting and retaining talent. It demonstrates to staff that employers are investing in their future, and they also benefit from training methods that are centred around their specific needs. When recruiting, organisations and businesses can use online courses to test the competence of candidates before offering them contracts, as part of the interview process. This can offer considerable time and cost savings, and help ensure employers select the right people for job roles.
One criticism of e-learning is that it lacks the human contact of a live tutor. With the exponential growth of Zoom as a business app, one alternative to the live classroom is live streaming of courses. But this still has the disadvantages of the traditional model: it depends on scheduled timetables, and it has a set pace, which may not suit every individual. It also requires reliable connectivity to avoid freezing or other technical issues.
E-learning on the other hand is highly versatile, and it centres on the individual learner. In this context, it is very person-focused. The learner can look at material in-depth, reflect on it, revise it, and repeat it until they are happy with what they have taken in. This allows for the absorption of complex material, and for retaining content effectively. They can access this material anywhere, at any time, and some e-learning courses allow them to download content to study it offline as well. There are also downloadable course notes to reinforce this content.
Learning Management Systems
Learning management systems (LMS) provide the software that gives employers clear visibility of the effectiveness of e-learning programmes. LMS provides full tracking and reporting capabilities, so that employers can measure how learners are doing, and ensure that the training they offer meets the needs of each employee. And because the focus is on the individual learner, this ensures that everyone receives training specifically to meet the requirements of their role.
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