How elearning is facilitating me-learning

Tony Hughes explores how multinational employers are meeting the needs of their learners.

What should the training world make of Mintel research showing that e-reader and e-book sales have declined, while paper publications have increased their market share?

What about findings from the Training Industry Report in the US, which showed traditional classroom-only delivery still accounts for 46 per cent of all professional training, and is growing faster than any digital means — accounting for only 26.4 per cent?  

At first glance, the conclusion might be that the analogue world has proved its resilience. Perhaps not though, because calculating the raw hours spent in one medium versus others is not always the relevant yardstick. The secret lies in getting the right mix.

The way professionals learn (and the way their multinational employers want them to learn) is changing. And as digital design matures, providers will have to think deeply about what that mix of ingredients looks like if they are to produce something both tempting and satisfying.

A colleague of mine is working hard to persuade traditional, international professional services firms — particularly lawyers — that their route to success is to give their senior client-facing people (i.e. partners) the same behavioural sales skills that have been common currency in every other part of the commercial world for decades.

The invariable response he gets from senior partners is: “Yes, we desperately need those skills, but at our charge-out rates, you’ll never get the partners in a training room for two solid days – or even one.”

Another colleague has a major global client in the new media sector. Most of the delegates in their training events are Millennials or younger, whose schooling and university experiences will increasingly have included e-learning, virtual and Massive Online Open Course elements, and correspondingly less chalk and talk; and their daily lives nowadays are massively digital.

So, for widely differing reasons, something has to change.

It’s important to distinguish between knowledge and skill. About 20 years ago, when the hot talk in training circles was that e-learning would overturn classroom learning in no time, my attitude was that it would not, but that the knowledge component of behavioural change (things that could be learned from a book or a lecturer) would be enhanced by a more bite-sized, interactive and entertaining medium.

So we put materials on a multi-media (by the standards of those days) CD-ROM that could be translated into all the users’ languages for them to work through before they turned up at a training venue, at which point the training would all be about role-play, behavioural practice and human interaction. People could go back to the CD-ROM for a bit of post-course refreshment. It worked, but it was very one-size-fits-all.

Nowadays, the talk is all about individual learning journeys, and rightly so. That involves planning what people need to learn, as well as why, where and how they need to learn it.

A company’s L&D people in all its countries and the training provider’s advisers in all the same countries must work together to bring all the assets (web-based, virtual, printed, face-to-face, coaching, social, reinforcement video etc) together.

To adapt an old advertising slogan, the aim is a me-shaped learning world. Within the same organisation there will be various different routes to the same learning point.

Indeed, our experience suggests there will be markedly different approaches to training within a single multinational company — with some country’s offices willing to spend three consecutive days in a conference room, while employees at the same company but based elsewhere in the world will focus on self-learning.

Digital and classroom-based training both have significant roles to play — helping deliver consistent training outcomes through bespoke training programmes. Elearning won’t necessarily be the right solution for every office in every organisation, but me-learning will be.


About the author 

Tony Hughes is CEO at sales and negotiation experts Huthwaite International.



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