And Overcoming Them.
Here at Seams LMS, we make online learning content and learning management systems. We’re the online training division of Optimum Results, which is a long-established Irish business training company, so all of our elearning solutions are built for business, to answer common business needs in a results-focused, practical way, and it’s businesses we sell our products into. Obviously educational institutions, governments, charities etc all use elearning technology, but our background is in business – that’s what we know best, and it’s what we do best. Since we spend so much of our time selling into business, we’ve become very familiar with many of the standard reasons businesses tend to dismiss large-scale investment in online training, but what we’ve also come to realise is that there aren’t that many objections, either – it tends to be the same reasons cropping up again and again. In this piece I want to spend a little time addressing what we’ve found to be the 3 most common, and maybe help anyone currently debating how their training budget might be best invested to consider some of these common issues.
- IT Infrastructure
This is a common one, and it’s a very fair point to bring up. There are two separate things to consider here, in our experience. For companies with a high volume of seasonal staff turnover it’s not uncommon that there simply wouldn’t be PCs for all employees (or even a high percentage of employees) at peak times. The second thing to consider, even if you do have enough machines, is whether they’re all of a high enough spec. It’s all very well to invest a lot of money in flashy elearning content with all the modern bells and whistles – if you don’t have the PCs to run it for your staff then it’s money wasted, right?
Our answer is: not necessarily. In fact, this was more of an issue a few years ago. These days, web-based learning management systems allow access to online training content from multiple machines. That means not just computers, but tablets and smartphones too. If you don’t have enough machines it doesn’t necessarily mean reams of tedious admin booking PCs for seasonal induction – most of your new employees are probably carrying around their potential access to a system like that in their pocket. That means not only can they access the training from different places, they can access it at different times, too.
Also, since the system is web-based, the machines they do access it on really only need a compatible internet browser (which the vast majority of modern smartphones would have), so compatibility issues are absolutely minimized.
It’s not all sweetness and light, of course. There are data security issues and so forth raised by a system like that, but for the most part a sensible data security plan, properly implemented can save you an awful lot of headaches, and a company like ours, with a wealth of business training experience, can guide you through that without any great hassle.
Cost is of course a huge factor in any business decision (if not the defining factor), and in the online training business it cuts both ways. Certainly the cost advantages of elearning over traditional “classroom” learning models was a hugely influential factor in the adoption of elearning models by business in the early days of the industry. However, there’s a real difference between purchasing some off-the-shelf industry-standard online courses (or even working with a training company to make induction materials bespoke) and making an infrastructural investment in a learning management system.
Of course, an LMS is more than just a virtual cupboard for storing elearning materials – properly embraced and utilised it’s a way of streamlining training administration, of cutting down on the often tedious administrative work of recording and tracking training, and ideally it should be used as a cornerstone for future planning. Tracking training is one of the main advantages of an LMS and one of the reasons they’re worth the cost of the investment. The effectiveness of individual training modules can be assessed easily by filtering your data how you choose, and armed with the knowledge of what works (and what doesn’t), a good LMS will allow you to make the best possible decisions in future training spending, and maximise training potential for your organisation.
Also, systems like our own Seams Cloud operate on a subscription basis, operating essentially on a SAAS model, which means the cost is of a lower order than a major infrastructural investment would traditionally have been. You’re signing up for a web-based service, not purchasing a large piece of software infrastructure.
This is the final, major impediment to the adoption of any new system in any organisation. New technology can bring about great rewards in the long term (in terms of cost and time savings, as I’ve already covered), but there’s inevitably a period of transition. We work hard to make our systems as intuitive and user-friendly as possible, but until a HR manager gets inside the system, uses it for a while and can see the advantages demonstrated to them, there’ll inevitably be a period of adjustment.
There’s also the eternal issue with elearning – in that early adoption period I spoke of when industry was racing to use elearning primarily as a cost-saving measure, a lot of people were exposed to a lot of sub-standard elearning content, and it’s left a bad taste in many mouths. While there can be certain advantages to short procedural documents being available online for employees’ reference, large info-dumps are not best practice in instructional design and should not in any way be seen as a fundamental element of a business’s online training programme. Elearning, fundamentally, is built for learners, and should reflect how people learn. It should take every advantage of the format – it should be interactive, contain multiple complimentary content types and have elements of gamification. In short, it should engage people.
I mentioned at the beginning that we’re the online arm of a traditional training company, and that ethos has never left us. Business training, online or otherwise, is about improving the performance of businesses by improving the performance of people. Ultimately, people are our business.