eLearning for small businesses
Why it makes sense
There is currently greater demand for training and qualifications than ever—and not only from employees, who choose their jobs based on the training on offer, among other things. Companies in particular are—and will continue to be—dependent on the qualification of their personnel. The potential workforce will shrink by 20% by 2050 alone. At this point, there will thus be 20% fewer skilled workers available than at present. As a result, many positions will remain vacant due to a lack of qualified staff. The only viable solution for SMEs will then be to train up less skilled workers themselves. This task will necessitate not only customized solutions, but above all efficient and cost-saving solutions. eLearning provides the ideal basis for training up staff in-house and saving on resources. This article explains what is involved with eLearning, its significant advantages over traditional face-to-face learning, how to deliver eLearning in practice, and what you need to do so.
eLearning: More than studying PowerPoints on your desktop
eLearning is so much more than just opening a digital version of a textbook on your laptop. In fact, the term encompasses all forms and facets of electronically assisted learning. Generally, eLearning means imparting knowledge via an eLearning platform
- Knowledge transfer via elearning platform
- attending an online course in the form of web-based training or
- learning in a virtual classroom.
It no longer has much to do with PowerPoints or PDF files. Rather, modern eLearning formats can be used to deliver all seminar content as well as facilitate interactions between teachers and learners. All versions combine the 4 key features of eLearning:
- Multimedia (use of varied media, such as infographics, audio files, videos, etc.)
- Multisensory experiences (appealing to various senses, such as hearing and vision)
- Multi-coding (integration of a variety of information formats, such as animations, simulations, and hyperlinks)
- Interactivity (inclusion of various control features).
In addition, eLearning formats can be displayed equally well on all devices, with functions to promote both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and sometimes to promote learning through play.
Benefits of eLearning
eLearning brings many benefits—both for companies and for learners. In fact, there are no aspects of analog learning apart from practical exercises that cannot be incorporated into and even optimized in eLearning.
Any time, anywhere
eLearning gives learners the greatest possible flexibility. Since content can be accessed on any device at any time without having to travel to a learning center, learning can always be fitted into everyday (working) life—for example, on the subway to work, on the couch in the evening, or at times set aside by the company for study. This enables even more training than could be achieved with fixed seminars.
Time and cost savings
Although introducing eLearning involves some initial investment (in software, personnel, creating or purchasing course content), these quickly pay for themselves by eliminating the costs of travel, seminar rooms, and trainers. You will also benefit from indirect savings resulting from significantly shortened employee absences and the increased effectiveness of training courses.
Individualized learning content
Everyone learns differently and has different learning preferences. eLearning’s multimedia-based approach enables you to make content available to all types of learners in the form that is best for them. At the same time, not all your employees need the same knowledge. The eLearning software allows you to assign each individual employee only the training courses he or she actually needs.
With face-to-face training, quality and learning outcomes are directly dependent on the teaching staff and can therefore vary. eLearning content, on the other hand, is of a—guaranteed—consistently high quality.
As many participants as you like
eLearning can be easily scaled: Once material has been developed, you can make it available to any number of employees without having to think about room capacity. The more learners you have, the quicker you will recoup your costs.
eLearning has a motivating effect on learners at various levels—be it through multimedia and multisensory experiences, game-based features such as quizzes and virtual rewards, or certificates for completing courses. eLearning gives you plenty of options to increase both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
In a survey by SPLENDID Research, almost 80% of respondents stated that the availability of seminars and training courses were an important factor when choosing a job. Companies that offer digital training sessions convey a sense of responsibility and an innovative mindset, and thus strengthen their branding as employers.
Instead of making learners dependent on a teacher—as used to be the case—eLearning promotes self-direction. With eLearning, learners decide for themselves how quickly and how intensively to learn, and sometimes even what to learn. This interactive aspect motivates them to explore the learning environment independently.
Monitoring learning outcomes
eLearning offers a wide range of reporting options and allows you to measure progress. This enables you to see what content learners have assimilated, what knowledge you can presume your employees have, and also where content can be optimized.
While analog seminars can only ever be delivered in one language at a time, eLearning allows learning to take place in different languages. This is a huge cost saving compared with analog training courses, where you would have to hire another teacher at a later date.
eLearning allows you to deliver knowledge to your employees not only in a traditional format, but also in a way that saves on resources. Instead of having to assign an existing staff member to train new employees, you can enable new employees to familiarize themselves independently with their areas of responsibility, tools and the company premises, and learn how to set up their new workspace, for example.
Annual training courses, on occupational safety or data protection, for example, rarely have different content from year to year, but must be completed regularly by the entire workforce. So instead of continuing to pay for rooms and teaching staff every year, you can purchase standard content like this quickly and easily in the form of a ready-made eLearning course. And you will only incur costs for updates.
Software and hardware training
It’s also easy to offer software or hardware training in the form of online courses. Employees can study independently whenever they need additional knowledge—of how to run new project management software or operate a large machine, for example. If you were to organize training for your entire workforce instead, there would be no guarantee that every participant would actually have an immediate need for all the knowledge provided. It’s easy to forget what we’ve learned all too quickly, especially if we don’t apply it straight away.
How do you get started with online courses as a company?
Introducing eLearning is less complicated than it might seem at first. The list of requirements is short. You’ll need:
- an eLearning software product
- eLearning courses
- human resources or an eLearning agency.
The software you’ll require: These are the tools you need
To introduce eLearning in your company, you need two tools:
- a learning content management system (LCMS), also known as an authoring tool, and
- a learning management system (LMS).
A professional authoring tool provides you with an intuitive, user-friendly interface for creating online courses. The courses you create are then delivered to learners via the LMS. This user-friendly platform allows you to communicate with learners and evaluate learning outcomes. Your learners have an overview of their courses and progress at all times, and can compare notes in learning groups and support one another. This creates an environment conducive to learning but whose independence distinguishes it from other work and tools.
eLearning courses can be easily delivered via your online learning platforms and results can be tracked using a standard format (such as SCORM). This broadens your options for creating and acquiring eLearning courses.
There are four different ways to approach eLearning courses:
Buying online courses (standard content)
Various platforms and eLearning agencies offer ready-made online courses that you can purchase and import into your online learning platform.
This option is particularly suitable for standard content such as data protection or occupational safety training.
Buying and customizing online courses
Standard content can be partially customized. Not only can content be adapted to fit your corporate design, it can also be customized to your company’s guidelines and circumstances. This enables standard content bought at a reasonable price to become a perfect fit for your company.
Online course creation by agencies
If you have the accumulated expertise in your company but don’t have staff with education training, you can have content prepared externally. This involves you passing your specialist knowledge to agencies such as chemmedia AG, who will then turn it into an appropriate eLearning course for you.
Creating your own online courses in-house
Of course, you can also just create your own eLearning courses. State-of-the-art authoring software such as Knowledgeworker Create provides you with a user interface where you can use drag-and-drop to organize your expertise into professional eLearning courses. But please bear in mind that converting specialist knowledge into educational materials requires a certain amount of expertise.
What eLearning costs
To claim that eLearning is cheap would be misleading. Of course, the market includes some free tools that are suitable for short-term learning projects. However, if you want to integrate eLearning into your corporate culture on a long-term basis, these kinds of software solutions will not be satisfactory for your employees. You would still have to invest a great deal of resources in deployment, but you would achieve predictably poor results. So it is worth investing in a professional learning content management system (LCMS / authoring tool) and learning management system (LMS). But don’t worry: The comparatively high costs that are involved, mainly at the beginning when you are creating courses, will soon be recouped when you are delivering training through online courses and never again have to incur the costs of travel and seminars. So, where you used to pay for data protection training every year, you invest once in the creation/purchase of an eLearning course and then use it for years for all employees with only minor updates.
The bottom line.
eLearning is an effective and sustainable form of training that can be easily evaluated. Instead of making learners dependent on a teacher, a place, and a time—as used to be the case—eLearning provides maximum flexibility and individualization. All learners will find content in formats that suit their learner type and will therefore be able to absorb new knowledge particularly well. Although initial implementation is not cheap—for small and medium-sized companies in particular—in the long term it is directly and indirectly more cost-efficient and effective. But most importantly: eLearning ensures you provide sustainable in-house training for new staff, strengthening your image and your employees’ loyalty.
You may also be interested in the following articles
Diversity in eLearning: digital learning for everybody
Privacy in e-learning: 6 tips for GDPR-compliant digital learning
Image source: Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com