Online learning/eLearning/mobile learning continues to grow, fueled by workers often not based at a central office, increased interest in learning (especially for early career employees) and growing access to learning materials. In 2014, online learning with no live instructor increased by 2.6%, and an estimated 44% of companies were shopping for online learning in 2015.
Perhaps your company has shopped for online learning, or you have individually. There are certainly advantages to online training over classroom training. Assuming that it’s asynchronous (i.e., learners can access content at their leisure rather than have to convene at a specific time), it is highly flexible with regard to when and where learning sessions happen, and the pace.
Over the past several years as I authored an online learning course, and now have online learning programs in my portfolio (authored by others), I have become more aware what is found in quality online learning, and have scrutinized what I see available. Simply put,I can’t believe how much junk is out there. Just because it’s available online, doesn’t mean that it should be classified as “online learning.” If that were the case, then we could consider reading the online New York Times as “online learning.” (Note: there is an emerging classification of “informal learning,” and in that category, reading an article online about a topic related to work would count, but that still isn’t what can be fairly considered as “online learning.”)
Finding a standard definition of “online learning” is hard. Within the business environment, let’s say that online learning builds discreet knowledge or skills through online content. Now, take that definition and think about the popular Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability, or another great Ted Talk. Does it build knowledge or skills? No. It raises awareness and promotes an idea, which is informal learning in the broadest sense.
So how do you buy online learning with the potential to make an impact? Here are 5 questions to ask about an online learning offering you are considering purchasing.
All of this being said, even if the content itself is fantastic, just as with classroom-based and other forms of learning, it’s “use it or loose it.” After the dust settles from the training, reminders and application of the knowledge and ideas is critical. Ideas for that can be found in this piece on 5 Keys for Learning Initiatives.
If you want to find out more about learning options, and strategies for successful training and development, let’s get together. I also encourage you to check out the Association of Training & Development (ATD), which is a great resource at the national and local levels, and for industry gurus as well as general business and talent leaders.
Remember: Learning is a process, not an event. Here’s to finding value and enjoyment in the process, and to outcomes that build leaders, employees and companies!