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An Organization’s Inspirational e-Learning Quest to Achieve Improved Performance


Ethan Edwardsby Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist

I find myself unusually inspired this week as I sit down to write this blog. I spent several days with a client organization that is just beginning to explore the introduction of e-learning into their training curriculum. If you’ve been there yourself (remembering the endless meetings with potential tool and LMS vendors, facing sometimes uncooperative subject matter experts and instructors that may view you as some sort of enemy, introducing often tedious evaluation processes to your students), you may wonder how this can be inspiring.

This organization has an outstanding current instructor-led training program in place. They are seeking to expand their training to accommodate growth and to take advantage of the considerable logistical and financial advantages that e-learning can provide to a training operation.

Like everyone else, they are looking to:

  • reduce travel time and cost
  • provide training access to remote workers
  • be more flexible in scheduling
  • reduce the time it takes for a new employee to be ready to work
  • reduce the demand on precious skilled instructors

But unlike many other organizations, these are not their primary goals in redefining their training efforts.

InspirationPhoto The true hoped-for result of the effort is to improve the impact of the training. This shouldn’t seem so remarkable. But as I was compiling my notes and assessing the last couple days of consultation, I was definitely aware that this effort was substantively different than the way so many of my design students in the ASTD e-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Program talk about how their organizations are embarking on e-learning efforts.

Yes, we talked about how e-learning can shorten classroom instruction time, but the first response to that wasn’t a celebration of cost savings. Rather, it sparked a conversation about how the freed-up time could then be re-focused to provide expanded opportunities for the necessary repetitive individualized practice that they’re missing now.

We also talked about how e-learning can reduce the pressure on over-committed instructors, but the goal wasn’t to become less reliant on instructors. Rather, the hope was that if e-learning could effectively prepare learners through practice and repetition, the instructors could be even more impactful in focusing on the emotions and human elements that are actually at the root of this company’s success.

And yes, we discussed authoring tools and LMS requirements. But rather than making the decision on tools and technology and then redirecting all design decisions as secondary to the limitations defined by the technology, the focus was first on finding out what training features would be necessary to achieve the performance objectives of the training, which eventually will guide the final choice of an authoring platform.

For organizations that are already deep into years of e-learning development with technology decisions and e-learning philosophies already in place, it may be difficult to not feel trapped by a culture that has chosen to value e-learning efficiency (incorporating inadequate rapid tools, insufficient design time, dismissal of investing in appropriate media, etc.) over e-learning efficacy (creating training that makes a difference in performance).

I hope that you might take some inspiration as I have done from this experience to redirect your thoughts to what our purpose as trainers is. Let us keep that end result in mind…getting people to do the right thing at the right time…as we approach every single e-learning opportunity we face.