The Effectiveness of E-Learning as a Training Program

Training offers many benefits to the company. It can successfully be used as a reward for a good productivity or “time off” from a tight situation. A number of new employees’ orientations usually aim at infusing people into the organization. Classes are considered as one of the few ways employees can communicate within the organization or network to make some worthy contacts. Sometimes, training can be considered as a rite of passage for a group, when the organization uses a cooperative experience to improve loyalty and shared perspectives within employee groups. For such experiences, companies rely on more common training models to meet the requirements of all disparate goals. Remote learning would be improper as a primary way, but may serve some auxiliary purposes. The problem is to try to balance the study experience to link both primary and secondary purposes. When e-learning is performed and some ways of socialization and cultural experience are lost, the organization is required to cultivate other possibilities outside training to maintain these needs.

Continuous learning has started to become more integrated with a business strategy. Huge investments in e-training solutions have become essential. A trained workforce is required to conduct business results. Sometimes, all investments involving those in building talent are going to become justified. Because of a competitive and developing business environment of the resource shortage, there is an increased interest in linking the value from study initiatives to stakeholders. Despite the fact that electronic learning is more freely used than instructor-led trainings, it is stated that the electronic delivery is the most economical one of all instructional delivery approaches. The most popular methods for this are to consider the costs saved on an instructor’s fee, content hardcopies, travel and mandated prioritization costs for training over a self-paced study. Though the ending in e-learning is a bit lower than traditional approaches, it is a great method to bank on for a better return on investment and for a huge reduction in the time lag from training to improved productivity (Chakkirala, 2012).

The start of electronic learning goes back to the early use of technology to support the study process, generally the use of training films, TV and tapes. In the 1980s, with the arrival of personal computers, we noticed the introduction of multimedia computer-based training (CBT) delivered on laser discs or CD’s. Nevertheless, it was in the early 1990s, with the beginning of the World Wide Web, that distant learning started and the Web was firstly used to make learning globally. At first, the early online learning activity took place in universities where the Internet access was more common. Nevertheless, by the late 1990s, organizations had begun to see the price of online learning as a means of delivering training at a cost efficient price. At the highest point of the dot com implementation around the year 2000, there was a huge interest in everything with “e-”. They had an explosion of “e-commerce” and “e-business”; and “e-learning” terminology was also developed around this time. Predictions were made that e-learning would be a next killer app as it would make email look like a rounding error.

For a long time, organizational developers have tried to align training curricula with the organizational aims and objectives. It is known that corporate training satisfies several needs inside the organization. E-learning is just one aspect of present development possibilities of human resources. It should be viewed as a part of an overarching training plan for the organization. It happens really rarely that training is started in order to enhance some specific competencies to the specific employee. These competencies may be linked to general goals of the organization. They are connected to providing an enhanced capability to the customer. Sometimes, unless the topics are quite technical or best agreed by some cooperative experience, online learning seems to be feasible.

E-learning is considered to be an educational strategy that aims at giving the needed experience, knowledge and skills for organizations. Its efficiency and potential to return real benefits to organizations greatly depends on its design, strategy and evaluation. As e-learning is developing as a new modern education paradigm, which involves online details with the essential face-to-face components, it has evolved as alternative mode of teaching and studying. E-learning has started to become one of the influential supporting tools which has diversified the common context of study and a training process not only at colleges and universities, but also in modern businesses.

E-learning is basically related to the organized use of networked information and Internet technology. It is also called online study, virtual environment learning and network Web-based learning. In addition, it is called anytime training as it may be provided when a person needs it, anytime and at any place. E-learning is generally referred to as the networked information and communications technology use in teaching and a study process. Online learning content is received via the Internet, local network, audio or video tapes, digital TV and CD-ROM. A broadband Internet connection is a basic requirement for widely distributed e-learning.

E-learning has recently grown to become an important part in starting the part of corporate training to bring skills and experience in an independent manner, improving job-readiness and enhancing the employees’ productivity. Organizations make all investments to reap gains; and education is viewed as a basic investment in the light of expenses and employee-hours associated with it.

Various organizations are quite successful in making their e-learning system work. One of those is IBM that understood the essentials of how to make systems work for their study needs. It announced they saved about $166 million in the year, as early as the year 2001. Building learning systems for successful business, instructional professionals and sponsors must exclude the plans where effectiveness can be strongly reduced.

E-learning is considered to be the second most important method of training within organizations. More and more often companies are moving towards this way of learning. The main business driver for it is cost. Traditional learning leads to decreased productivity and higher cost paid for a temporary replacement of staff, training material, the trainer, accommodation, travelling expenses, equipment, catering and others. Moreover, people have to leave their day jobs to go to the training room.

E-learning seems to have more advantages than the traditional training approaches as seen in many books. As stated by Newton and Doonga (2007), e-learning advantages include better content retention by learners, cost effectiveness, enhanced mobility (anyone, anywhere and anytime), the ability to look after progression, support of many training approaches and others. Nevertheless, many organizations are still hesitating about introducing electronic learning due to some failures in other companies or because of their own misunderstandings (Bennink, 2004). One of the numerous benefits of e-learning is the fact that it is not limited geographically. E-learning is able to fundamentally reduce the cost of training programs provided by organizations for their employees. It also saves time. For example, if a traditional training program may take two days to be completed, the e-learning program can be completed in one day as it requires no traveling. Justifying the expenditure on e-learning, most organizations look for forecasting potential returns on the basis of the performance impact. At the same time, they are employing some widely accepted and assumptive rates of conversion that is being a difficult task. E-learning delivery through the system of learning management will ensure the participants’ progress that can be tracked by advisors and learners, including the results used to identify training requirements as well as a proof and performance course completion.

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E-learning was described by Weggen and Urdan (2000, p. 8) as “the content delivery via any electronic media, like Internet, intranets, satellite TV, audio/video tapes and CD-ROM discs”. They had used the term synonymously along with term “Technology Based Learning”. The term used by Bocchi, Weyand, and Watson (2000) is described in similar terms to e-learning when they say that it depends heavily on advanced technology (like Web Based Training, conferencing and courseware) as a main detail by which people access the information, communicate, apply knowledge or enroll in learning activities. However, literature draws attention to many traps around the introduction of e-learning. One essay (Griffiths 2000, p. 26) goes far enough to say that “not many seem to know anyone who has successfully finished a training course on the Web”.

E-learning and its effectiveness has attracted attention of researchers from various fields. They have been trying to evaluate the e-learning effectiveness. It has been found that the effectiveness of e-learning mainly depends on the technology-based components of an e-learning system and a human factor. According to Eklund, Kay, and Lynch (2003), usability should be used to estimate the attitudes of users, their perceived satisfaction, efficiency and effectiveness of the e-learning system. Electronic Learning has been the subject of many reviews in newspapers in the HR development and training and development communes over the past years. A lot of human resource magazines are filled with topics related to the use of e-learning within organizations.

In the constantly developing world, globalization has become the issue of the corporate context interest. Human capital and knowledge are the main drivers of this (Sampson, Karagiannidis, Schenone, & Cardinali, 2002). Organizations have to manage information efficiently because of the dynamic changes that result in a more rapid skill and competence obsolescence (Bagnasco et al., 2003). Hence, e-learning has become the form of an increasingly popular corporate strategy alternative that aims to extract the competitive advantage in global highly competitive markets (Mcrea, Gay, & Bacon, 2000; Figgis et al., 2001). Project-based organizations have proven to be a good response to the modern business environments, including client and technology aspects, large and complex tasks as well as knowledge-intensive activities (Eklund, Kay, & Lynch, 2003; Martinsuo, Hensman, Artto, Kujala, & Jaafari, 2006).

There are many factors that have influenced the organizations’ choice to take e-learning initiatives to train their employees. Training is needed in case there is a gap between one’s expertise and work requirements (Bagnasco et al., 2003). In the 21st century, the economy is usually driven by human capital and knowledge as opposed to physical capital as in the past (Sampson et al., 2002).

Many authors cannot agree that such demands like person training scenarios suited to the person’s needs, in-time training and a low cost approach to training a worldwide workforce encourage the evolution of e-learning as a nice alternative to common training (Sampson, 2001). Urdan and Weggen (2000) have stated that businesses are changing. Since knowledge quickly becomes old, there is a high need for a completely new learning platform that maintains in-time training while being cheap at the same time.

Besides, e-learning has also achieved the strategic importance because of migration to the extended enterprises and value chain integrations (Mcrea, Gay, & Bacon, 2000). It is believed that a main success strategy is a constantly growing need of a reliable e-learning strategy that is linked to the general business strategy. It is clear that e-learning could be an important feature of the corporate strategy. In addition, Figgis et al. (2001) has claimed that both training and learning are mostly viewed like the creation of competitive advantages for organizations. It is believed that the key to achieving a competitive advantage is the possibility to quickly disseminate education, information and training. It looks logical that in order to survive, companies and organizations should prepare to keep in pace with the dynamic changes and knowledge, which should be updated from time to time. Bagnasco et al. (2003) has stated that the challenge is to survive against the fast paced obsolescence of technical skills and to allow employees receive expertise in new topics as well as meet new changes in the working environment.

Many organizations have concentrated their attention on the packaging of a manual content, so the term e-learning has become (and still is for many) synonymous to online courses. However, despite a number of advantages of e-learning implemented as a training program, it makes people doubtful. A literature analysis has shown that some managers find e-learning unacceptable on its promises as people were quitting online training without completing it. In addition, developing content might take too much time and be too expensive. At the same time, employees claimed that electronic learning was seldom viewed as inferior to common classroom-based learning. Many required a teacher, as well as other students, added value to the process in general. It was explained by the fact that e-learning training was not what they needed and expected even though well designed or developed. Moreover, employees felt they were not getting enough. There was no enthusiasm about sitting at the computers plowing their way through hours of online classes. As a result, they started and got bored soon. Consequently, various new training methods have evolved to address these problems, in general, the need for communication.

Various reasons have been suggested in the literature for transferring to the system of e-learning. They include cost factors (Urdan, & Weddon, 2000; Griffiths, 2000), training materials which are available anywhere and anytime (Griffiths, 2000), the changing nature of work and the move to a knowledge economy (Hodgins 2000, Urdan & Weddon, 2000), the move from “just-in-case” to “just-in-time” learning (Urdan & Weddon, 2000) as well as the growth in the Internet and technology (Urdan & Weddon, 2000, Hodgins, 2000).

In the settings when e-learning practices are new or have just been presented, it is better to use a productivity-based strategy to measure the level of success. More developed and mature e-learning systems should include some outcome-based measurement systems to clarify success. Productivity-based methods include such metrics like participation rates, after training evaluation scores and a post-course feedback. This is a starting level of measuring performance. This is restricted to understanding if the electronic learning serves the same aim as the instructor-led training. Once this is assured, it is critical to move on to the approach based on outcomes. Outcome-based method considers how the training has influenced productivity behaviors of employees and tries to measure them in the metrics system. A comparison is created of the productivity before and after the training. This approach helps organizations to find out if the investment made in such initiatives is worth something. Perfect scenarios are when the benefits of the enhancement of the person’s productivity are higher than the expenses of the investment in using the learning program.

To avoid pitfalls of e-learning initiatives, businesses are recommended to choose the business objective that serves learning initiatives. It is necessary to state whether the system is being used only to address knowledge reasons and whether the virtual environment can bring about changes in behavior and skills. Organizations should be sure that e-learning is interactive enough to make the content stick in the employees’ minds and that the training simulates work scenarios. The technology should be user-friendly as people have to easily adapt to it. The infrastructure needs to support the initiatives of virtual learning whereas the mechanism has been able to track and measure post-training outcomes. In addition, the learning should be easily gained from the training as well as be transferred and applied on the job.

The most wide-spread issue that organizations face id underestimation of the number of people and things which are influenced when an employer introduces e-learning. Instructors should be trained to work differently; managers are required to manage in new ways, and developers need to work with a variety of tools.

It is worth remembering that e-learning is related to technology. the people who will be using it have feelings and options. Sometimes, organizations do not spend enough time to provide people with the appropriate information about e-learning, its content and aim, the reasons are introduced as well as its role. Too much attention is paid to the technology, rather than people. Organizations should treat the process of implementation as a major change initiative. This presupposes thinking about the way people will be informed about the initiative, how the people will be involved and how the change will be integrated into their daily life. It is not enough only to announce e-learning. It is essential to systematically implement it.

In order to successfully implement e-learning as a training program into business, it is necessary to identify personal business drivers. Nowadays, learning professionals agree that studying in organizations should refer business requirement and not training requirement. It means that if you are presenting e-learning in your company, you need to understand the business requirement that e-learning is going to refer. So, stakeholders have to come to an agreement about main business drivers, which should be addressed through e- learning. The nest step presupposes freezing the technology an organization would like to use. It is the next most important question used for implementing e-learning.

Two options are available including Asynchronous and Synchronous e-learning. Asynchronous e-learning is a personal learning process in the form of online classes, usually created using tools like Adobe Flash, HTML and Authoring Tools, and Captivate, Articulate etc. Synchronous study is used when all people are cooperating with the instructor all at once using video conference, messaging, online webinars or chat. Adobe Connect or Dim Dim can be used for synchronous study. Actually, it is necessary to choose the type of the electronic based on the requirements of the organization and the learner. Mostly, a moderate blend is the best an organization can choose. It may wish to use a technological platform, to maintain your study process through the so called Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS can include all types of classes –asynchronous and synchronous, sit-n-go, custom courseware, and recorded online lectures etc. It can help to give an integrated study experience, by mixing online and instructor led trainings. The customers, can access these courses with their unique username and password.

The content type decision should match the needs of the organization. Hence, the next point of view to consider is the content. Depending on a deployment decision, you can choose if the organization wants the content in-house development, or outsource it to the content development personnel. Alternatively, while exploring the existing materials, a company can see which classes suit it best for a blended learning method and proceed accordingly. It is essential to bring up an e-learning champion to support the initiative. Hence, organizations should educate an e-learning champion at the level of senior management who will penetrate the cause and propel key solutions. This champion will not just show the management possibility about short term and long term achievements of the company, but will provide employees with an opportunity to advocate their problems to management.

The e-learning program has to be tested before its implementation across the company. Instead of starting across the organization, testing the project in one single department where there is an extreme learning need is strongly advices. It is necessary to involve e-learning to be focused on addressing the learning needs and noting the results. Things made successfully in one department are closely related to the positive reactions elsewhere in the company. The ultimate achievement of any kind of e-learning initiative is to enhance organizational productivity by enhancing the knowledge and skills of personnel. Hence, to assure its success, the organization should tailor the program to meet business goals with the use of appropriate technology and content format. The support and buy-in of all key stakeholders is of great importance.

The learning process requires techniques and instruments to give the knowledge, cooperate with it and share. It means that e-learning is becoming a significant tool to support the learning approach to reach business goals. The biggest advantages of e-learning promoted during that time were that employees do not need to spend much time travelling to a place to take part in a training workshop or class. They can have access to learning when they need, any time of the day or night, being at home or at work. It means that people can take the classes how they want and there is nobody to control them when or how much they spend doing it.

Nowadays, e-learning has eliminated libraries and traditional learning as well as training environments. Organizations are more and more often enhancing the development of multimedia online training programs for their employees. In general, e-learning may be characterized as education, training, communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing that positively influences both employers and employees.

E-learning should not be considered just as multimedia based training but can be determined as a technology usage (which can contain but is not restricted to internet technologies, satellite technologies, videoconferencing , cooperation tools, CD-ROM discs and video/audio Tapes) to help with delivering study experiences of learners. These study experiences can be synchronous (real time) or asynchronous (delayed).