E-learning has been increasingly employed in an attempt to drive business results, with the ultimate goal being to transfer learning to behavior. However, the statistics on the outcomes of training on job performance are lacking because a method capable of credible evaluation currently doesn’t exist.
Evaluating the Effects of Online Learning
In order to be able to assess the benefits of online learning, some methodology must be established. Kramer uses four different evaluation models, namely Kirkpatrick, Training for Impact, Success Case Method and Kirkpatrick-Phillips.
- The Kirkpatrick Model is an outcome-based model defined by four levels: reaction, learning, behavior and results, where each level adds information to create a comprehensive view of the value of the training program.
- The Training for Impact Model helps training coordinators to understand how to be more successful within the organization they are supporting, meaning that the chosen training programs should be linked to business needs, problems or opportunities. It is crucial that these are clearly understood by the management. The training model comprises 12 steps, as follows:
- Identify Business Needs and Clients
- Form a Collaborative Relationship
- Conduct Initial Project Meeting
- Conduct Performance Assessment
- Conduct Cause Analysis
- Tabulate and Interpret Data
- Report Results to Client
- Design Evaluation System
- Design Tracking System
- Conduct Training
- Collect, Tabulate, Interpret Data
- Report to Client
- The Success Case Method evaluates the business effect of training, aligned with organizational strategy. The method can be implemented in a short timeframe and shows clear evidence of the effects of training. The Success Case Method comprises five steps:
- Focusing and planning
- Creating an impact model defining “success”
- Designing and distributing a survey to search for best and worst cases of program success
- Interviewing the participants
- Preparing a report of the findings
- The Kirkpatrick-Phillips model a.k.a. The Phillips Five-Level ROI Framework adds a fifth level to the Kirkpatrick model – ROI.
Because ROI is usually the one single outcome businesses are interested in, The Kirkpatrick-Phillips model tends to be dominant. It follows that in order to monetize the knowledge, e-learning needs to be transferred to behavior — the task that can often prove difficult for the management.
Benefits of Online Learning
E-learning is beneficial for both employees and employers.
As established above, the ultimate goal of e-learning from the perspective of a business is that employee behavior changes in accordance with the knowledge obtained, influencing business results thereby.
1. Training Takes Less Time
Online learning, on top of that, takes less time and resources and can be organized across the board with ease, which is not the case with traditional training. Especially efficient in the case of new hires, e-learning allows companies to train the employees faster while at the same time allowing them the freedom to use the practices that suit them best.
However, whether the project’s results will be satisfactory depends on a couple of factors, notably on how employees respond to online learning.
2. Online Learning Can Boost Productivity
According to Kramer, learning increases for employees in favor of this type of learning, and job behavior increases when learning increases (measured by The Kirkpatrick Model). Employees with higher levels of online learning usually demonstrate higher productivity and job performance, which directly reduce the costs of training, turnover, and absenteeism.
However, employees not used to online learning often find the work environment unsuitable for the task, therefore taking extra time outside work to complete the training, according to the same source. Needless to say, the practice is inconvenient, which shows that outcomes of e-learning depend on a multitude of factors, including each individual mindset.
It is, therefore, crucial that management is up to the task. Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick have come up with the top 10 mistakes leaders tend to make when it comes to transferring learning to behavior, the majority of which are errors of omission. The most common two, it would seem, are not providing clear directions and not providing adequate technology and system support.
The latter is of extreme importance when it comes to e-learning, so it is necessary to take care of any potential issues in this regard before the training commences. The other issues are best resolved by working backward with the question, “What behaviors need to be put into practice to achieve the desired results?”
3. Changing the Learning Culture in an Organization
The road from getting people to understand the concept of e-learning to launching full-fledged online learning campaigns can be thorny.
Firstly, if the managers in charge of the training don’t have a clear strategy and cannot communicate the expectations clearly, things can get complicated.
Secondly, for reasons mentioned above, the environment where e-learning takes place must meet the demands of the learners.
These are, actually, not so difficult to deal with. Often a bigger issue is being unaware of potential obstacles. It’s always a good idea to clearly outline the strategy and the goals and to ask for employee feedback. Remember the individual learning part from above?
Implementing the right mixture of blended learning methods and tools easily understandable to everyone (ensuring that no time and concentration are wasted on overly complicated e-learning platforms, for example) is crucial.
Various approaches that will keep the learners engaged are usually the best way to boost participation and encourage positive outcomes.
4. Motivating Every Single Employee
Closely linked to the previous tip is motivation. Managers in charge of e-learning should have a clear strategy on how to motivate every single employee, no matter their mindset.
This can be done in various ways. One proven method is stimulation, such as personal development and career advancement.
Others may come to mind, too. However, the appeal of online learning should be stated clearly. Expectations should also be moderate. Organizational changes don’t happen immediately. Rather, they evolve just like e-learning does. Be patient and keep up with the developments, applying adjustments when and where needed.
Evaluating the Effects of Online Learning
In the case of individual learning, the evaluation is rather simple. People usually turn to online studies to secure better-paid jobs or learn critical skills to become entrepreneurs. Thus, success is measured by individual achievements, so no particular methodology needs to be established.
Benefits of Online Learning
Of course, not only businesses benefit from online learning. There are many people enjoying the benefits of the internet. In addition to the most obvious benefit, efficient planning of the study time, e-learning is virtually available to everyone (with a good internet connection). Plus, over the past year amidst continued social distancing, many have realized the power of online learning.
1. E-Learning Is Accessible to Everyone
If you’re reading this article from the U.S.A., you are probably unfamiliar with the accessibility issue for people from many poorer countries. Firstly, in some countries, there are not many university choices available, and secondly, even when they are available they are often too expensive for the common people.
With more and more institutions offering their programs online to people from across the globe, nowadays there are multiple choices for people who normally wouldn’t have access to many of these programs.
While some costs may be an issue, there is a variety of online programs that offer certifications in addition to university degrees.
2. Meeting the Demand
Further out, e-learning allows people from across the world to specialize in the fields that are in demand for which there are no satisfactory programs available in the place of their residence.
One notable example is Google certification, which has been gaining popularity worldwide for obvious reasons: keeping up with the rapidly changing rules of online business is a difficult task indeed. In addition, many companies pay decent salaries to people specializing in new technologies, meaning that literally, everyone can change the course of their career from the comfort of their home.
3. Digital Nomadism and Going Solo
Finally, many people have turned to the gig economy, which is yet to reach its height. Some are satisfied with per-project jobs, while others work remotely for established companies abroad. There is also the third trend that is rapidly gaining popularity — digital nomadism.
Many people have realized that they can work and travel in the same way they can e-learn and travel. For digital nomads, acquiring new skills that are in demand is crucial. Living and working abroad as a non-resident can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be an opportune time to determine the skills that are valuable within that particular region. In this way, you can adjust and focus on learning them online.
No matter what your take on online learning is today, things are likely to change in the future. The fact that everyone anywhere can obtain just the set of skills they need to steer their career towards the right direction is certainly appealing.
With the possibility to obtain all kinds of certifications and diplomas from the comfort of your own home (choosing from a multitude of learning providers, we might add), the possibilities are nearly limitless. Only a decade ago, the geographic limitations prevented many people from fulfilling their career dreams. Can you imagine what can happen in the next decade? How about the next two decades?
Well, the directions may be numerous, but one thing is certain: opportunities will keep getting bigger. E-learning is the future, after all.