Making e-Learning work for your organisation

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Lessons about how to successfully introduce e-Learning are best learned from organisations that are already reaping the benefits. Kevin Young, Managing Director, SkillSoft EMEA rounds up the top 10 tips for successful e-Learning implementation.

1. Buy-in from the top

Without doubt, this is the most critical element of a successful e-Learning initiative. Your senior management must be active advocates of your e-Learning programme, with one or more of your executives remaining involved with e-Learning activities and communicating their support regularly throughout your organisation.

2. Getting everyone involved

All departments and levels of your organisation need to be made aware of the value of e-Learning and its alignment with identified business goals. Your line managers also have an important role to play. They should accept responsibility for their people accomplishing the e-Learning necessary to support your organisation’s business objectives; be active in planning the individual and group e-Learning needs for their teams; make time available for people to learn; and ensure that those doing the learning can easily provide feedback about the experience so that the programme can be constantly evaluated and opportunities to improve it can be identified.

3. Proactive leadership

Successful e-Learning programmes aren’t just administered – they’re led. Consequently, your e-Learning programme should be headed-up by someone who really believes in its business importance and is willing to take on an almost evangelistic role in promoting and supporting it. This is no easy task. Your e-Learning leader will need to embody a wide range of skills to be able to deal with issues relating to marketing, technology, financial justification and ongoing evaluation – whilst at the same time keeping all levels of your organisation involved in and appraised of your e-Learning programme.

4. The right content is useless without effective promotion

Naturally, the courses you make available through e-Learning have to be right for your organisation. They should be high-quality, technically current and well-targeted to your organisation’s real learning and re-skilling needs.

But, as with any new product or service, it doesn't matter how good your e-Learning programme is if your intended audience doesn't know about it! To promote your programme, a well-publicised launch, with a steady stream of marketing and other promotional materials and messages must be directed to all levels of the organisation on an ongoing basis.

5. A conducive environment

You’ll need to provide an environment that is conducive to learning – paying attention to issues of quietness; protection from interruptions; access to resources and equipment; and help and advice for any employees who are new to the self-directed e-Learning experience. For example, if you have dedicated Learning Centres, these should be adequately staffed with personnel who view the success of e-Learning as their primary responsibility. A crucial role here is that of the facilitator, who should make sure that all users are helped to understand how e-Learning can work best for them.

6. Workable policies and procedures

The working procedures for both your e-Learning team and the learners themselves should be well thought out, documented and clearly communicated to everyone involved. Course requesting, scheduling and reporting processes will need to be supported by the appropriate equipment and software.

7. Just-in-time accessibility

You need to do everything you can to make the learning available when, how and where employees need it. Important elements include; convenient locations of training PCs; delivery to your learners’ desktops; extensive access to all relevant facilities; and, where appropriate, take-home study options. The focus should always be on ensuring that your employees have the opportunity to build new skills and competencies - before they actually need to put their new learning to work.

8. Making e-Learning part of your organisational culture

When successfully implemented e-Learning automatically becomes an integral part of an organisation’s culture. But, changing the culture can take time and some organisations my not be ready to launch all aspects of e-Learning immediately. Consequently, you’ll need to assess the culture within your own organisation and introduce appropriate elements of your e-Learning programme in a timely manner.

Take every opportunity to encourage your employees to view e-Learning as a resource and to use it as a method for advancement and professional growth. Encourage your managers to include e-Learning during the induction process for new employees. And, for existing staff, utilise it to set goals for performance evaluation and/or to help implement organisational changes.

9. Ongoing evaluation and measurement
As with any other business process that is important to an organisation's success, e-Learning should be continually evaluated for quality, timeliness and alignment with the objectives of the organisation. Areas of evaluation and measurement need to be identified in advance where possible, to ensure that the right processes and support tools are put in place to gather the necessary data.

Additionally, you need to be able to evaluate whether the benefits you anticipated have materialised - proving the effectiveness and value of e-Learning to your business. If you do both these things, everyone within your organisation will understand why the e-Learning exists and what role it performs in sustaining business success. This, in turn, will buy you valuable support from the decision makers and influencers within your organisation.

10. Acknowledging the learners themselves

Don’t forget the importance of the end-users. Recognising and thanking the learners who have participated in the programme in some way should be an important part of your e-Learning programme. This could take the form of a ‘completion certificate’, a mention on a website, or acknowledgement within an internal publication. Giving people credit for what they have achieved will make them keener to continue building their skills – and it may also help to encourage others within your organisation to emulate them.

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