Want Return on Virtual Learning? Make it REAL

When it first really came to be noticed, back in the 90’s, e-learning was positioned as a less expensive and time-consuming alternative to traditional classroom based training.

But many businesses that invested heavily in eLearning solutions often did not see the return on investment.  Indeed, recent studies by the ASTD (American Society of Training and Development) show that while there has been an increase in blended solutions that involve e-learning the effectiveness of these solutions on the whole is dropping.e-learningcontributions

So should we just give up on the concept of effective online learning? No.

The challenges the sparked the interest in e-learning in the 90′s such as limited budgets, access to people and time – are just as present today. The growing interest in the Massive Online Open Courses provided by Coursera, EdX and their like, shows that interest in online learning is alive and well. But when it comes to serious development few organisations rely on online one-size fits all programmes for the development of their people.

The key to getting return on investment in online learning is to integrate it as part of the overall learning and development strategy – this means a focus on a blended solution – that incorporates multiple types of learning – rather than just on what is going online. Take the example of driving, yes you can learn the rules of the road, understand the theory of driving, and even get lessons, but at some stage you need to get out on the road and DRIVE! Adults learn best by doing, we learn through experience and reflection. A well-designed tailored blended solution used in the right situations can deliver business results faster, cheaper and better than classroom training alone.

Firstly, make sure you start not with a list of desired “skills” but with the following series of critical questions:

- What are the behaviours we want to achieve?
- What will people be doing differently after the training?
- How will these new behaviours be promoted and rewarded in the workplace?
- How will the organisational culture support these new behaviours?
- How will applying these new behaviours deliver on the department goals and objectives?
- And finally, how will this link to delivering on the organisational strategy?

Once these questions have been explored and answered, the programme content can be chosen and a decision made about about what needs to be delivered in the classroom.

At this point it is key to consider how the learning will be embedded back into the workplace.

Participants need tools and resources that reinforce the knowledge, skills and attitude developed in the classroom workshops and they need to be held accountable for practical actions and tasks that help to embed the behaviours into everyday activities.

In my work designing online blended solutions I find that making it work is about making it REAL.

R– Reinforced. The learning from classroom workshops needs to be reinforced through alternative methods.

E– Embedded. The knowledge, skills, and attitude needs to be embedded into everyday activities in the workplace.

A– Accountability.Participants need to be held accountable for applying the new skills and behaviours.

L – Linked.The development must be linked to the individual’s performance plan and the whole programme built around the organisation strategy.

Learning to think of, not just online learning but all learning & development solutions in terms of the REAL model dramatically changes how organisations engage with management training and education.  The result is the ability to deliver desired results, faster, cheaper, and better … and goes some way to delivering on the true potential of e-learning.

Derek Fox is an expert in management development, innovation and interpersonal communications. Derek has published a number of books including his bestselling titles in both Psychology (DISCovering your style and dealing with difficult people) and Presentation skills (Presenting without fear).  He contributes to journals and business publications such as: T&D Magazine, HR Ireland, People Management, and has published articles with the Sunday Business Post, and the Sunday Times.

If you are interested in investigating what a blended learning solution might deliver for your organisation please contact Derek Fox or speak to our Tailored Solutions team.   

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