In recent months, employers and employees alike have become increasingly comfortable with the idea of conducting business through technology. Whether it’s client meetings, mid-year appraisals or new employee onboarding, technology provides us with the opportunity to work remotely whilst still hitting business targets and ensuring a strong team spirit. One other area with the potential to move online is learning and development.
L&D allows employees to gain new skills and capabilities, aligned with their role and their position within the company. As the global pandemic has demonstrated, we can no longer operate on an offline-only basis: we have to be ready to work remotely as needed. L&D is a core part of a business’s talent management, and it can’t just be pushed to the sidelines if employees are working from home. Enter e-learning.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of e-learning, and the potential it holds for advancing employees’ skills from home.
Pro: It fits flexibly around your schedule
Typical L&D days at the office follow regular working hours, and if a last minute emergency comes up - maybe you’re sick, or you have to look after your child - you’ll miss the training. E-learning, on the other hand, means you can choose when it suits you. It doesn’t have to be a set time every day or every week, which is a lifesaver if you have other priorities. If you find yourself with a couple of extra hours at the weekend, you could choose to participate in your course then. Bonus: you can choose a time in which you’re most able to concentrate, meaning you’ll absorb more of the training.
Con: The risk of technical difficulties
While technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, especially concerning e-learning, it’s not infallible. Imagine this: you’ve used your L&D budget buying an online course for your employees, and you want them to do it this week before your big negotiation. The website is overloaded with people and crashes. Suddenly, it’s no longer possible for your employees to take part in the course before your client meeting, and the money you spent is wasted - at least for this project. An in-person workshop, on the other hand, is pretty much guaranteed to go ahead whatever the case. From WiFi connectivity issues to websites crashing, there are risks inherent with relying too much on technology.
Pro: You can learn at your own pace
Everybody learns in different ways. Do you like listening to a course, and taking notes once it’s done? Or do you prefer making notes as you go along? With e-learning, you can learn in the way that’s right for you. If you don’t understand a certain module, you can rewind or pause while you look up some key terminology, meaning you make the most of the training. If the lecture were taking place physically, on the other hand, the speaker would just have continued, and you wouldn’t have had the chance to fully grasp the topic. Being able to pause the training and come back to it also means it’s easier to integrate what you’ve learnt into your role at the company.
Con: It’s less social
For those who love company L&D days, the social aspect is part of the enjoyment. E-learning means you lose that social interaction that comes with in-person workshops. Although Zoom provides a worthy alternative, it’s not the same as sitting around a table chatting with your colleagues. Brainstorming is also more difficult online. If your team is participating in an offline workshop together, there are often moments where the participants split up and head to different corners of the room to come up with ideas in groups. It’s a great way of switching things up and allowing new ideas to flow - and it’s a lot more difficult virtually.
Pro: It’s better value for money
Online training is usually cheaper than in-person training. Your company will save the speaker’s transport costs and food and drinks cost on the day, and they’ll also supply their own materials. Some online courses also come with additional bonuses, such as access to Zoom discussions or Facebook groups, which facilitate peer-to-peer interaction and provide the chance to discuss subjects or questions with the teacher. Many online courses are very in-depth, because it’s easy for the teacher to share additional resources, materials and worksheets with students. In addition, some courses are regularly updated, and everyone who has bought the course in the past is granted access to the new materials.
Con: It’s not in real time
Although the flexibility of e-learning is a great advantage, the downside is that you’re not taking part in the course in real time. If you’re sitting in the room with the teacher, you can get any questions answered on the spot. Online, however, you either have to contact the helpline or message the teacher directly, and you’ll have to wait for an answer. If your question is one that needs to be answered before you can move on, this hold-up could delay your learning.
At the end of the day, e-learning holds a great deal of potential, and it’s an interesting route for companies to explore as we get more comfortable with remote working. E-learning allows employees to absorb workshops in the way and at the time that best suits them, so they’re more likely to be lively, engaged participants, and remember what they’ve learnt for years to come. L&D is a big investment for many companies, and it’s essential to ensure that employees are getting the most value from the training - which benefits not only the employees, but your company as well.
If you already have a great learning and development system in place, but you lack talented people, get in touch with us and we will help you.