Should Training Move Online?
Should our training move online? That is the question that many organisations have been faced with over the last decade when it comes to their learning function.
I must admit that I have always been a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to learning and development (L&D) . My career is built around L&D and I am highly passionate about it. I resisted online learning for a long time as I still believed ultimately that the best way for people to learn was from each other. Put them in a room with a great facilitator who is able to empower the learners to share their ideas and knowledge and you can create something wonderful.
Without even realising it over the last 5 years the pendulum has swung for me and I am now a firm advocate for online learning. Don't get me wrong, I still believe that some training is better in person, such as management and leadership training, but I do believe that online courses have their place and can be highly beneficial.
Now I would say that I support the need for there to be a blended approach. Let's explore this a little more.
I recently worked for a large organisation which had over 300 sites nationwide (some of these were quite regional/remote) and over 10,000 employees. Considering this, when it came to learning and development, the main challenges faced by this organisation and, many others out there, included:
The high turnover rate which was associated with the industry;
The cost associated with training all employees constantly;
The travel costs associated with sending people to training at a central location;
The cost of facilitators, training facilities and materials;
The need for an easy way to keep track of training for compliance and legislative reasons;
The desire for everyone to have access to the same training and development opportunities;
The desire for training throughout the country to be consistent; and
The desire for people to be able to complete training when required and not have to wait for scheduled courses.
For me, despite the challenges around cost and geography, the largest issue was the challenge of people being able to have access to equal and consistent learning and development opportunities. I believe that every single employee in your organisation deserves the same opportunities to learn and to develop their knowledge and skills. If this isn't being achieved through current methodology, then it is time to look at something else.
In this case, online learning for a large majority of short courses was the right solution, whilst still maintaining other methods of training. The main benefits of this solution were:
Significant cost savings for the business;
Employees didn't need to travel for training meaning that they were out of the business for a shorter timeframe;
Everyone had access to the same learning opportunities; and
Training was consistent, trackable and reportable.
I don't believe that the choice is one with an either or solution. A good learning strategy will involve a blended approach, where there is some face-to-face training, some online training and other strategies such as on-the-job training, webcast/podcast training and coaching. The most important aspect for me is that no matter what the training medium, that the learning is experiential. People learn by being involved in the learning process. It has to be interactive and engaging.
If your online learning doesn't meet this requirement, then it needs to be updated. If you don't have the skills in-house to create engaging and interactive online learning, then there are plenty of organisations out there that specialise in just this.
I was asked last week by an old colleague of mine as to what aspect of training and development I am most interested in (instructional design, online learning, face-to-face etc) and where I thought L&D was going. My answer was this - my passion lies in tying L&D to organisational strategy. How we can use L&D to engage employees and retain them. I believe that L&D is not about one particular training medium or methodology; it needs to be about achieving the strategic vision of the business. Once this is determined, then you can design your training strategy.
The latest research by McCrindle has shown that within 10 years, Generation Z (those currently aged 5 - 19 years) will make up over 1/5 of the workforce at 27%, Generation Y (those currently aged between 20 - 34 years) will make up 31% and Generation X (those currently aged between 35 - 49 years) will make up 29% of the workforce. This is a total of 87% of the workforce who have grown up in a technology focussed generation.
Moving forward L&D needs to play a pivotal role in assisting to attract, engage and retain employees. Learning needs to take into account these technology based generations in the workforce and be experiential and engaging. I would hazard a guess that we don't even know today what learning will look like in 10 years times. The advances will be so great, but one thing is for sure, it is going to be an exciting ride and moving training online in some form or another will be essential.
PDI Solutions offers a range of learning and development solutions which are totally customised for each client. With over 15 years experience in learning and development and more than 70 courses built in Articulate Storyline, our consultants are able to assist you with all your design, development and facilitation needs.