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Ever since the dot-com boom in the late 90s, eLearning has become the cool kid on the block. It is estimated that since 2000 there’s been 870% increase in the global use of Internet and this trend is still growing. Students and businesses have become fascinated with the new possibilities eLearning brings to the educational context and for obvious reasons: eLearning is flexible, cost-effective and widely accessible.
It comes as no surprise then that Global Industry Analysts, Inc estimates that the global eLearning market will reach $107 billion (or £68 billion) by the end of 2015. The scale, diversity, and widespread use make eLearning a pertinent topic for anyone working in the training industry.
Here we’ll explore the common beliefs about eLearning and see whether and when they hold true. If you are already delivering eLearning this could be a good time to reflect on how to improve or make most out of your eLearning courses. If you are new to the topic, this might be a great time to consider whether your business is ready to give eLearning a go.
Access to Global Audience
Arguably, the number 1 benefit from eLearning is its widespread accessibility. This is appealing to a business as, theoretically, it can tap into a global market. A company, on the other hand, that looks to train its staff can easily make sure that every employee has access to the same quality of education. Trainingzone.com, for instance, estimates that companies who offer eLearning and on-the-job training generate 26% more revenue per employee.
However, providing eLearning without a defined go-to-market strategy can easily backfire by trapping resources without bringing additional value. In other words, access to online content alone is not enough to attract audience.
A few things to consider in this context are the following questions:
- Who’s your audience? What is their lifestyle? How are you going to market your online courses to them? If you haven’t considered this yet, our eBook on Online Marketing Guide for Training Providers could be a good starting point.
- What steps are you going to take to make sure that your services meet the needs of your audience beyond its content? What are the different learning styles of your students? This awareness would and should influence the content you create, and thus, how successful you are as an eLearning content provider.
Another great benefit from eLearning is its cost-effectiveness. eLearning has removed space, travel, print, and teacher costs from the picture and has put the learner into the driving seat. Studies have shown that eLearning cuts instruction time up to 60%.
The Wall Street Journal published a story about Golden Harvest Seeds Inc., a company who in as early as 2007 cut down its employee training cost from $175 - 200 to just under $100 by using eLearning. This can be of great benefit not only for companies who train their staff, but also for small businesses that can’t afford staff or space to deliver courses.
However, this could be a double-edged sword. Marc J. Rosenberg, a leading expert in eLearning and organisational development, in his book Beyond E-Learning, talks about the three stages in which an organisation thinks about eLearning:
- Quantity – We need to get into the eLearning game.
- Quality – We need to see what type of eLearning we provide.
- Performance – We need to shift from training performance to business performance.
These different levels of maturity will influence the resources you are capable and willing to invest in eLearning. The first level would be least financially demanding, as a simple PowerPoint presentation will suffice as content.
The second level requires greater commitment and selectiveness as to what “makes it” on the website. Here you might consider various authoring tools and educational techniques that can help you create more engaging content.
The third level, however, implies a very different framework of thinking about learning altogether. Here eLearning is not an end in itself; rather it’s part of a comprehensive solution where the metrics are productivity, organisational agility, and marketplace performance. To operate at this level, you’ll need in-depth understanding of your client’s needs, challenges, and goals. This, as you can imagine, requires a substantial amount of resources and can be cost-effective only if you have the economies of scales.
The Office for National Statistics in the UK reveals that 55% of people nowadays access newspapers online. In the same report, 61% of people use mobiles or portable computers to access the Internet “on the go.” The numbers are even higher among people aged 25-34. These numbers reveal a deeper truth about the changing nature of modern life. Socialising, shopping, and reading have all gone online. It’s no surprise then that learning follows the same trend.
It’s estimated that 75% of companies in Europe and 77% of those in the USA provide their staff with some form of online training (UK being the exception with 20%). It’s also estimated that by 2019 half of all college classes will be offered online. The question, therefore, is no longer if eLearning will benefit your business, but rather it’s more about if you can afford not to join the eLearning trend.
Still, staying competitive in the eLearning industry depends on many more variables than just providing online content. A good grasp of your student’s objectives, learning styles, and behavior are necessary to make sure that your courses are adequate and relevant. This can be achieved by adopting a comprehensive LMS that can help you extract meaningful analytics about your students.
In the end, eLearning is perfectly positioned to cater for the increasingly technology-hungry audience, but it’s your responsibility to join the dialogue in a way that will resonate with your specific audience.
How to Join the eLearning Game
Let’s assume you’ve considered the costs, benefits, and the strategic goals of your business and are now ready to join the eLearning game. If you are just starting, you might want to test the water and start small. Most LMSs will require a SCORM-compliant content (an industry standard for e-learning interoperability). If you still don’t have this, Easygenerator.com is an excellent tool that can help you get started by converting your PowerPoint presentations into SCORM files.
The next step is to consider the wide range of authoring tools that will help you design more interactive and engaging content. Some options to explore are Articulate Storyline, Captivate, and Elucidat, though there are many more options to choose from.
Finally, you will need an LMS to host your content. There are hundreds of LMSs out there, so choose carefully as this will significantly impact your success as eLearning provider. Craig Weiss, a recognised eLearning analyst, offers great insights about the industry and the different LMS products on his blog, E-Learning 24/7.
eLearning has definitely changed the way we think about education. It has made it possible and easy for people to learn “on the go” and at their own pace.
However, eLearning can be a double-edged sword for a business if you haven’t done your homework. While it can be a great booster of revenue, visibility, and competitiveness, without a good grasp of your audience and the different tools available it can harm your business’ profitability and brand.
It’s therefore crucial that you give yourself time to consider all these things before investing in eLearning. Only then can you be sure that both you and your students will be truly successful.