As you could see from reading the premier issue of this publication, e-learning is hot. Everyone’s looking to it as the next great training frontier, with good reason. Unlike other training technologies and methodologies that have entered the fray over the past 10 to 20 years, e-learning seems to have all the right qualifications.
The problem facing many chief learning officers today is the ability to launch successful, longstanding e-learning programs. Much of the research coming in regarding the success of these early programs isn’t encouraging, particularly around utilization and completion rates. Even though many programs start out with a bang, many are finding it hard to maintain enthusiasm and some degree of staying power.
I’ve seen and heard of many different ways that CLOs are attempting to jump-start these initiatives—pilot groups, kick-off events and incentive programs, just to name a few. Yet even with the best of intentions, many roll-outs still stall and never get the momentum they deserve. What seems to be the problem? Could it be that a solution is staring us right in the face, but we’re not seeing it or utilizing it to its fullest? One of the most untapped venues to “market” any new training initiative is the one we have all learned to trust and depend on since we were in kindergarten: the classroom!
When I talk to organizations about rolling out e-learning initiatives, most have already moved out of the “classroom” mentality. They view e-learning as a cost-cutting and time-saving alternative to the classroom, rather than as an enhancement to it. The long-overdue emergence of blended learning, the integration of multiple learning modalities, has opened the dialogue on the role of the classroom in the entire process. Many people are put off when they ask me the best way to start an e-learning initiative, and I respond with, “Start it in your classrooms.” There are many compelling reason for this answer:
- Learning is all about trust. Students trust the classroom to be a safe place to experience learning. E-learning is a new and foreign learning environment. The classroom is the perfect place to help learners build confidence with this modality
- Trainers are excellent mentors and facilitators. Moving into any new learning domain takes time, patience and direction. These are the skills most trainers know better than anyone else.
- Most learners do not have the independent learning skills to master e-learning out of the shoot. It’s going to take time for them to master the learning strategies needed to make e-learning work. The classroom is a very effective place for these skills to be taught and monitored.
- Learning is not an event, but a process. Adding e-learning to the event-driven world of the classroom opens up a multitude of learning possibilities. Learners have been taught that this process begins in the classroom. E-learning is a powerful tool to support the out-of-classroom experience. It can be integrated into current classroom curriculum, and related learning strategies, to help carry the learner beyond the confines of the classroom.
- Change in learning is best introduced at an evolutionary pace. Starting in the classroom will give learners the time needed to make the adjustment. It will help them see the benefit of this new learning environment and how it relates to the ways they have learned in the past. It is not a replacement strategy, but an enhancement strategy. It empowers learners in ways never explored before, but they need the time and space to see that.
The classroom can become the unsung hero of e-learning. Even though e-learning is often positioned as opposing the classroom, it is actually a complement that will ultimately help propel your e-learning initiatives to the level we had all hoped for from the start.
Bob Mosher is the executive director of education for Element K. He has been an influential leader in the IT training space for more than 15 years. Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.