Shift to complimentary e-learning
Many organisations have frozen non-essential spending over the past two years. Staff training is often an area that suffers when times are hard; unless it is critical to operations or required to meet compliancy it is often considered an expensive luxury. The requirement to maintain a well trained and supported workforce does not change in a recession, in fact one could argue that a more efficient workforce offers an organisation some protection when the chips are down and business is tough.
Typically, classroom teaching is often considered as the only feasible option. However, in recent years as training budgets are squeezed and resources are cut there has been a visible shift towards more time and cost efficient e-learning. That is not to suggest that web-based training should completely replace classroom training, they should be seen as complimentary with each format being used to address the differing training needs for both the organisation and the learner.
Tailoring training requirements
Organisations that have been able to successfully integrate e-learning into their training strategy have reaped the rewards. For some it has been a simple cost-saving exercise; ??300 to put a person in a classroom for a day versus ??30 to provide the same level of training online. For others it may be offering their staff options to suit their individual learning preferences or even reducing their carbon footprint.
In Me Learnings case, providing specialist training for local authorities has revealed a range of training requirements. Understanding each councils limitations allows for tailored training, a factor that is rarely possible with classroom teaching.
Making e-learning work
Me Learnings relationship with Trafford Council is a prime example of the gains that can be made by using online and classroom training. Since 2008, the two organisations have worked together to roll out an integrated training programme for both the councils own staff and their 2500 strong childrens workforce who include childrens social care practitioners working across the borough in the health, education, and voluntary sectors.
Delivering training to such a large number of professionals would prove extremely difficult without the flexibility of online training. In Trafford Councils case, e-learning proved an ideal solution due to its efficient nature. Without e-learning the time and costs required would be too great to leave solely to classroom teaching.
Results for Trafford Council
Traffords adoption of online training has meant practitioners can work more effectively and collaboratively. Learning time has decreased, saving an estimated 3,750 hours when compared to the corresponding classroom courses. There is no need to travel to hired facilities or even employ a trainer. Management can track user activity through a tailored, council-branded portal that covers all of the programmes online courses.
The response has been extremely positive with Cathy Atherton, interim manager for service development at Trafford Council CYPS stating that the online training is: easy to use, and the, interactivity of the courses generates more interest in learning. She went on to say that a significant benefit of e-learning is that: users can retake each course or module until they pass [which] improves knowledge retention, so being able to fail without repercussions or public embarrassment Results in more effective learning.
While many local authorities have the same requirement as Trafford Council, organisations should not think that online training is restricted to large scale rollouts. A smaller council might lack the resources to cover the cost of classroom training. Training is just as important for a workforce of 80 people as it is for 2500. In fact, with smaller user targets, online training can be customised to target individual learners needs.
Demonstrating e-learnings wider Benefits
There are often many misconceptions to what e-learning is all about. The most common one is an image of a learner sitting alone at home using their own PC to take an e-learning course. This certainly happens, but e-learning can be consumed in many other more sociable ways.
E-learning can become an integral part of a local authoritys classroom course by using e-learning during a classroom session. This enables people to learn at their own pace and afterwards, the group can engage in debate and discussion on what they have just learned. This form of blended learning has proven both effective and popular across the public sector.
An alternative approach is having computers available for staff to book during the day. The PCs are usually away from learners desks in training rooms or designated learning areas. Staff can take an hour of learning during the day as opposed to a classroom based course that would normally take around half a day of their time.
E-learning can be as simple as linked courses that are embedded into the help section of a local authoritys IT system. If a user is struggling to understand how to use a system feature, they simply run a quick e-learning tutorial by clicking a link.
For e-learning to be successfully adopted, organisations need to think about the nature of the content, how it is deployed and when it is made available. For example, training users on system navigation before attending a classroom-based course means the classroom training can be shorter and progress at a faster rate. All learners would arrive with a basic grounding on how the system works. This has proven very effective and with a strong policy on e-learning, like simply refusing access to classroom training until people have taken a number of pre-requisite online training courses, it can streamline the process.
Perfecting the e-solution - blended learning
Implementing e-training can be a daunting task, but the most effective training plan is one that combines e-learning and classroom training. More commonly known as blended learning, it yields the Benefits of both training solutions.
And, while the Benefits may vary there is no doubt that they are tangible and realistically achievable for any organisation that chooses to invest in e-learning.