Monday, September 22, 2008

When eLearning Doesn’t Work.

Kind of a funny title from the CEO of an eLearning company but I know what I’m talking about. As proof, we delivered our first eLearning product in 1989. It was a CBT for learning Digital Equipment Corporation’s VAX/VMS operating system. It ran under DOS. In 1995, we delivered our first computer-based course builder and tracking system called Design-a-Course. Twelve years later we are still at it with our current offering of the same name, albeit completely rewritten and built for the web. So, I have been in this business as long as anyone and seen just about every type of eLearning customer.

There have been way too many customers who have purchased an eLearning system from our company to train a group of people who either:
A. Never get around to around to creating the courses. Or,
B. Never get their people to take the courses.

I’m not sure which is harder to believe. Why plunk down good money if you are not going to use the system? I’ll tell you why. It’s the same reason you don’t see training in a lot of categories for, “business type” when you fill out a background sheet for a news or magazine subscription. Training and/or eLearning still doesn’t have the importance it should. Training is always a good thought until something else “more important” bubbles to the top. “I got pulled off the new eLearning course rollout for something really important” is something we’ve frequently heard. I guess training and testing your computer operators to make sure they are doing the nightly backups correctly, which holds all your customer data, isn’t all that important.

It is easy to show someone all the research data about how successful companies are the companies that invest in their employees’ education. And they may appreciate it and buy the training product or service. But too often, after the excitement of the new purchase, the priorities shift. .

For the determined, cost conscious, and downright responsible users that actually develop and roll out their eLearning courses but never get anyone to take them, theirs is probably a bigger mistake. They spent the company’s money and used company resources to develop the courses. I have asked customers, “How has the reception been to your new eLearning courses?” I have gotten answers like:
- I don’t know, I haven’t checked.
- Not everyone has gone through them.
- Not everyone finishes them.

This problem of people not using what they paid for and created does not bode well for the eLearning industry. So, whose fault is it? The students will tell you the courses were not good or not stimulating enough so they lost interest. That could be true. Creating a good, engaging course is a skill. And unfortunately not all companies have instructional designers and great graphics people within their organization. Most organizations just have a need to transfer knowledge to the employees on information critical to their company and job function.

Like all other business issues that affect the employee, it comes down to management. Sorry bosses. Learning in your organization, eLearning or any type, is your responsibility. It is part of your job to make sure your staff goes through the courses you took the time to put together. It has to be a job-mandated requirement from the top down. Not completing or not passing the provided courseware should affect the performance review, which should affect the salary. Sounds harsh I know. But your company is only as good as the knowledge you have inside it. Training needs to be mandated and tracked.

So, if you have purchased an eLearning system and never used it, blame yourself.
If you purchased an eLearning system, created the courses, deployed them and your students never used it, blame yourself again. Until learning during the normal course of the business day becomes as fully integrated as checking email in the morning, the growth and, more importantly, the positive and profitable effect eLearning can have on your company will be limited. Worse yet, the potential for a better-equipped, more effective workforce will not be realized.

Louis Bernstein, CEO
MindIQ Corp.

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