More than 77 percent of US companies have already been using eLearning to foster professional development. 3,000 companies in Europe are involved in the eLearning business. India’s 100 out of 140 eLearning companies were founded in a span of three years, during 2010-2013. A 2014 report “Corporate Learning Goes Digital¹” by Roland Berger shows. Long before enterprise eLearning went mainstream, IBM was already receiving economic benefits using a blend of the classroom (20%) and web-based (80%) instruction. The company found that their online training program provided five times the training at one-third of the cost of instructor-led courses, saving $200 million². They found eLearning skyrocketed their productivity – boosting employee work by 50 percent and getting a $30 return for every dollar spent on eLearning. This was back in 2002. You can only imagine the economic savings in the present.
However, despite such success stories, for many organizations moving their enterprise training online appears to be a minefield. Although technology makes it easier and economical to impart learning, the learning and IT managers are confronted with serious challenges related to financial investment, technology evaluations, time spent in planning, selection, and implementation, and the strategy required to set up an enterprise eLearning program. If you have also been dilly-dallying over whether to move online or not, the following steps can provide you with a base to get started in this direction:
1. Define your requirements
When you think along these lines, the first thing that crosses your mind is the contribution you expect eLearning to make in organizational learning. Keeping this in mind, work on listing out, then defining your minimum requirements. It is important to know exactly what you need to even get your program off the ground. However, at the same time, you might indulge in extensive analysis and long-term planning, which increases the complexity and delays the entire process of getting off the ground.
Defining short-term strategies can be a better option at this stage. Starting small will save time. Parallelly, you can start formulating the budget. Also, it’s impossible to implement a full-fledged corporate eLearning program right in the first phase. The ideal way is to have a short-term strategy and get started as quickly as possible. All companies initially start with small courses and then expand to a complete library of training programs in successive phases. If you have operations spread across the globe, you might want eLearning to be available worldwide. Another factor that you need to keep in mind.
2. Formulate the budget
Though eLearning is imperative, the cost of going online is the most important concern. While you want to keep your budget as less as possible, it is not that simple. A simple question “how much is it going to cost” doesn’t seem to have a clear-cut answer. It’s much like peeling an onion, which has different layers.
You don’t want to start a program that either doesn’t get finished or falls short of the projected ROI. You will need to create a business plan or strategy that takes into account realistic costs involved and a timeline for implementing the new course. When determining the cost of taking enterprise training program online, you will have to consider several factors:
- the cost of technology
- state of the current learning material
- training resources
- time taken in the instructional content development
- the cost of eLearning material development
- the remuneration of the eLearning project team
True that all these factors would add up but simultaneously, you should calculate the overhead cost of instructor-led training (on-site or off-site), as well as lost productivity for on-the-job training programs that require employees to participate during work hours. The former would be still more economical.
Return on investment is an issue of concern. But once eLearning is in full swing, it will significantly bring down the costs associated with corporate learning.
3. Work on technological requirements
One of the secrets of implementing a successful enterprise eLearning program is to choose the right technology. Your eLearning platform is the backbone of your corporate learning. Also, a major chunk of the budget will go into it. Therefore, you must ensure that you have evaluated all your options thoroughly before settling on one.
Ideally, you should have a list of features you need before you get to the market to weigh your options. The best way to identify your technological requirements is to create a request for proposal document. Here’s how to create an RFP.
The other consideration is the type of technology you wish to deploy. Traditional software programs will require you to install a full-fledged IT infrastructure. This will eat up a major chunk of your budget. As far as Saas platforms are concerned, it would be ideal to choose a subscription based plan. If you’re considering free open source platforms, let me tell you that free doesn’t come free. You may find this resource on how to choose the right eLearning technology useful to attain some clarity on the subject.
Additionally, identify both upfront and long-term costs in a variety of training options to compare the effectiveness and potential ROI.
4. Select Learning Format and Course
There are a number of ways to deliver training online – self-paced, virtual live class and blended. You can use any or all of them depending on your requirements and complexity of the learning material.
It is important to establish a program path, training curriculum, language and training format for your employees. Programs that go over employees’ heads or do not fully capture their attention are not going to provide the ROI expected in a training program. To determine program direction, you need to keep the following in mind:
- the key business goals for your enterprise training program
- globalization pressures if you have spread your business operations internationally
- diversity issues as people from different backgrounds perceive and learn things differently
- the current level of your learners
- the learning formats – whether a blend of interactive and instructive formats would best engage your employees
- the type of courses your employees need to take
- the assessment types you want to put in place to check employee performance
5. Utilize Existing Materials and Key Employees
One of the most important aspects of an enterprise training program is providing faster training distribution economically. This applies to your online enterprise training program as well. How do you maintain speed, while being cost effective at the same time? By utilizing your existing resources.
This means companies need to use whatever training materials they already have in place to reduce the time spent on writing and organizing their courses. Key employees that may help with training sessions might also be utilized to help write a course so that they are not required to spend their professional time training every new hire or new promotion.
Additionally, long-time employees that have never before trained may be helpful in recording practices and policies of the company to preserve processes that are key to your operations. However, one thing that you need to keep in mind here is to make offline training course appropriate for online consumption.
6. Structure the Delivery Process
In order to have an effective enterprise eLearning program, you will need to train those who are in charge of running the programs and tracking the results. To get your major players prepared for the new training program, you will have to define what that delivery process is going to look like. Ask these questions:
- Who is responsible for assigning courses to employees?
- How will participants be informed of expectations?
- Who will make sure employees are passing required courses by their expected deadlines and implementing material in their work?
- Who will answer questions that may arise with course materials or technical problems?
- For whom the courses are designed – for upward moving employees, new hires, employees struggling to meet company standards or all employees for compliance?
- What timeline will be followed for course completion and assessments?
- How will course success or failure be measured, what is the timeline for that assessment and who will measure it?
Take the process one step at a time. With thorough research, you will start to see just how beneficial an eLearning program will be for your company. Most of all, your research will help you gain support with the key stakeholders in your company who can help you get enterprise eLearning program off the ground.