Education for businesses, just like education in general, has undergone a dramatic transformation in the last year toward e-learning. Obviously, much of this shift was provoked by the urgent need to accommodate social distancing for health and safety bought about by the global pandemic.
Meanwhile, there are more reasons why organizations are turning to online platforms, called learning management systems (LMS), to offer education and training for employees, customers, and partners. The advantages of fast and cost-effective knowledge transfer, to and from anywhere in the world, make good business sense.
TechNewsWorld spoke with several experts in the field of learning management systems to get a sense for what’s happening with e-learning in the business sphere, and where it’ll be trending from here.
E-Learning Now Expected
“The global pandemic accelerated a shift in how we define the workplace,” Tyson Chaplin, chief learning architect for Tovuti LMS, told TechNewsWorld. “More remote employees means more opportunities to move to a blended, or asynchronous, training modality. At this point, it just makes sense for most businesses to offer online learning opportunities to their employees, or at least add them to their training toolbelt.”
“In-person training is not going to go away,” he added, “but there will be a significant increase in online learning, because employees are starting to expect it — and in many cases prefer it to its classroom counterpart.”
Offering online learning is a key stratagem that organizations can implement to enrich their offerings to both internal and external audiences.
“I think the intersection of the knowledge economy with online learning presents a unique opportunity for businesses to add value, especially as we begin to navigate the post-Covid world,” Brendan Ecclesine, senior account executive at Academy Of Mine, explained to TechNewsWorld.
“The pandemic has highlighted the effectiveness of online education, and the fact that remote learning is becoming the new norm would lead us to believe that e-learning is still in its infancy.
“Apart from the financial rewards of offering training for purchase, those businesses that are training their internal employees will also enjoy heightened worker productivity through better-equipped teams,” he reasoned.
How To Engage Online Learners
One of the most important elements to make e-learning initiatives productive for businesses is to make the content engaging and relevant for adult students who have other tasks competing for their attention.
“Effective online training is relevant, concise, and engaging,” said Chaplin. “Relevance is key to adult learning. I could be taking a course that is very interactive and informative, but if that information isn’t useful to me, I’m definitely not going to retain it and I am wasting my time by going through it.”
Chaplin emphasized that learners in these settings also expect the content to be focused on precisely what they need and want to know; the training must be to-the-point and concise.
“Many employees engage with online education on their mobile devices, and the time they have to dedicate to learning may only be a few minutes here and there. E-learning is also in direct competition with myriad of other distractors that assail online learners. Shopping, email, social media, etc.
“If businesses want to reach their learners, their training needs to be concise. The average attention span for a user on the web is about eight seconds. That means your organization’s training has eight seconds to hook the learner and pull them into the content,” he explained.
Because of all the distractions out there, making the learning environment engaging is vital.
“If learners find your training boring, you’ve lost them,” said Chaplin. “They may complete it, but they won’t retain what they have learned, and they definitely won’t be coming back for more anytime soon unless they’re forced to.”
“There are simply too many other things out there vying for employee time and attention,” he added. “But if employees find the training novel and fun, they are going to remember that online course and talk about it with others. This leads to retention of material and wider adoption of your learning platform — all of which are big wins for your organization.”
Part of making course content engaging is effectively using the available technologies to deliver it.
“Most learning programs are broken, consuming enormous amounts of resources with unclear results,” Chris Dornfeld, president of Whistle, told TechNewsWorld. “These programs are not keeping up with how the work experience is changing, how people consume content, and how people want to engage technology.”
“The future will be about delivering the right information, to the right person, at the right time. Future learning programs will integrate learning with the other elements needed to change behavior and produce the desired business results, because they will leverage data science and AI tools to understand, measure, and predict outcomes,” he remarked.
Distinctly Defined Coursework
Being clear with prospective students about the value of the curriculum is also a critical component of e-learning offerings.
“You start out by defining what is the course about,” Hatla Faerch Johnsen, COO and co-founder of uQualio, told TechNewsWorld. “If your course does not have a clear use case, then add why this course is useful. Who is the target audience? For any course to succeed with its audience, it needs to be created with a specific target group in mind.
“Once you define your target group,” she continued, “you can start thinking about what kind of content would resonate with them, and how high should the quality be.”
Organizing course content so it’s easy to find and access is imperative, noted Whistle’s Dornfeld.
“Learning content will continue to explode, increasing the need for curation and organization. People don’t just need more learning content; they need more relevant and valuable learning content that will empower their success,” he observed.
Personalized, Experiential Learning
As learning management systems for businesses evolve, they’re becoming more personalized to learners, fields, and segments of the market.
“Personalized and experiential — or hands-on — learning is the path forward to deliver online education that meets the needs of both the learner and the organization,” Jack Koziol, CEO and founder of Infosec, explained to TechNewsWorld.
“It allows learners to get the knowledge they specifically need while putting their skills to the test in the realistic scenarios they’d encounter on the job.” “From an organizational perspective,” he offered, “time and resources are often the limiting factors of delivering effective online security training. The scalability of personalized and experiential education will be essential.”
Businesses are taking a holistic approach about what content to offer, how to offer it, and what value it offers to those who take the courses. “The approach to learning has become one of transformation,” said Brendan Noud, CEO and co-founder of LearnUpon.
“Learning is seen to enable performance, whether it’s employees, customers, or partners. Training is much more learner-centric, with programs designed for the learner’s expectations. Where learning was previously a cost center, it is becoming a value-generating center,” he added.
Ultimately, business e-learning offerings must be seen not as separate from the organization, but as an integral part of its entire identity.
“Learning systems are becoming increasingly integrated, not only with other learning tools, but with the wider business tech ecosystem,” explained Noud. “This is enabling businesses to centralize their systems and build a bigger picture of insights to make better decisions.”