Talk from the Top: E-learning – the most exciting thing since the invention of writing | The Giles Agency

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In a working world that’s evolving at an unprecedented pace, the vital importance of ongoing professional development is well recognised by both corporations and individuals. The soft skills that jostle for top place on employer’s wish lists are ever-changing, and without regular reboots, technical know-how quickly becomes dated or even redundant.

Savvy corporations invest heavily in employee training to keep skills up-to-date, to remain agile, and to attract, motivate and retain staff. In fact, according to Training Magazine’s Training Industry Report, training expenditure in the US rose by 32.5 percent to $90.6 billion in 2017. Makes sense, but figures like that raise an unavoidable question: “how much of that training actually sticks?”

According to learningsolutionsmag.com, the average attendee will forget half of what they’ve been taught within just one hour of attending a traditional training course. They’ll forget 70% within 24 hours, and almost all of it – a whopping 90% – within a week. It seems that very little of what’s taught in the training room will survive in the memories of participants and make its way into daily working life.

While this may seem disheartening, it actually presents a unique opportunity to revitalise the way we think about and approach training. If traditional corporate training typically doesn’t last long in a trainee’s brain, it’s time to think outside the box and instead offer teaching that’s immersive, customisable, interactive, and new. It’s time to consider e-learning.

As the British Computer Society write, e-learning is far more than just “computers instead of books”. “According to Professor Diana Laurillard [of] University of London,” they write, “‘no sane person can say that e-learning is not essential.’ Rather, e-learning is ‘the most exciting thing to have come our way since the invention of writing’ — it helps to present ideas and knowledge in a new and different way.”

E-learning is an electronic form of learning that can be done fully online, removing the need for physical classrooms and restrictive study timetables. Entire professional teams can sign up to the same course and flexibly fit it around their work schedule, removing the logistical nightmare of coordinating schedules. Trainees can control their own learning, which in turn increases their motivation.

“Everyone’s knowledge gap is unique, and each individual absorbs information at different rates,” write socoselling.com. “When you use e-learning for training, you give your employees the option to choose exactly what they want to learn and to progress at their own pace.” And since we learn better when we study in short intense bursts spread out over time, which is exactly how most e-learning courses are structured, more information is retained. More information retained means better effectiveness and increased ROI. Employers can spend less time and money to achieve excellent results.

When this type of learning is combined and supplemented with personalised feedback, it can be even more effective. While medium is important, method is still the overriding factor in whether education or training is successful – and interactivity, or communication between student and student or student and teacher, has proven to be vital in all training methods.

Successful training doesn’t just deliver information via a static, top-down model of communication, but opens up debate by widening student viewpoints (via a more open, conversational, bottom-up model).

In this way, e-learning opens up many doors that traditional training cannot. For example, online courses can bring together all manner of students from varied backgrounds and locations, and allow them to instantly communicate. They quickly and easily combine numerous multimedia – text, image, video, audio, games, animations, real-time assessments – in a highly engaging format.

Does this mean traditional, everyone-in-one-room style training is redundant? No. Blocking out some time, getting out of the office and sitting face-to-face with colleagues has its uses, particularly if the aim is team-building or getting everyone on the same page. However, traditional in-house training is best delivered as part of a broader structure, not as a stand-alone.

It’s time to consider fresh, more effective ways of training ourselves, our colleagues and our employees. Training shouldn’t be done simply to tick a box and appear CPD-friendly; it should be a way to inspire and learn from others, to better one’s skills and improve one’s self confidence in the workplace, and to open up new paths for professional development. Training can be hugely fulfilling, rewarding and effective – if it’s done right.