Organizations in India are rapidly adopting online delivery and management of learning for their employee training programmes. They don’t want to be left behind, after all, global statistics confirm the obvious. More than one-fourth of the $200 billion corporate training industry is attributed to eLearning. The market is growing at a very fast pace, several studies predict that the eLearning market is poised to grow to $107 billion in 2015.
The benefits have been proven time and again. In the case of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the clinching argument has obviously been cost saving and administrative ease. What used to take enormous amount of organizational effort with conventional face-to-face training can now be managed with a set of clicks in a virtual environment. Employees are now able to learn at their own pace in a setting they feel most comfortable with.
In India, eLearning has come in the form of received wisdom with virtually no original studies on causal connections between modes of content delivery and efficacy of training goals. There are no home-grown guidelines or checklists available to select, assess or deploy eLearning platforms, to implement eLearning strategies, and to develop and evaluate engaging eLearning content. All this has resulted in creating many traps that organizations can fall into.
While many organizations in India still have no clear-cut policies and budgets for compliance or employee training, those that know often get confused by choices and decisions that need to be taken before switching to eLearning. Often, organizations take the plunge and pay companies to create eLearning content for them. Sometimes, it is only after the project has been initiated, training managers realize that a LMS platform would be required to host that content. Broadly speaking, LMS refers to a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of educational courses or training programmes. However, when it comes to selecting the right LMS platform, there are no clear winners.
A rough estimate suggests that there are some six hundred LMS platforms currently competing for adoption in the market. The brands that push these platforms through their franchisees or partners have not made things any easier for customers. Often bells and whistles are given more prominence in sales pitches than the basic feature set that should ordinarily suffice for most.
It should be clearly understood that most LMS platforms provide for enough functionalities to manage and deliver instructional content, sustain user engagement through continuous interaction, assess periodic and on-demand progress of learners and generate multiple tracking reports and analytics for administrative purposes. In addition, most LMS applications provide for extensive customization possibilities to adapt the system to individual requirements and preferences.
In most cases, these features should satisfy organizational needs of on-boarding, skill enhancement and compliance training. Bells and whistles don’t come cheap and any extra expense needs to be justified by careful calculation of its demonstrable utility for the organization. Among the exotic features touted, for example, by some fancy LMS platforms are talent management and career planning. Before paying for such features, an organization needs to seriously examine whether they indeed fit in with their perceived requirements.
The most important thing that needs to be understood here is that a final choice need not be made right at the word ‘go’. It would, of course, be redundant to say that one size does not fill all and a choice would ultimately depend on the individual requirements of an organization. However, the cruel fact is that it would be a rare organization that can and would exhaustively list its requirements. Often, requirements emerge only as one gets going. There is, therefore, no harm in initially experimenting with variable solutions rather than settle for an expensive system most of whose features may remain unknown and, in any case, un-utilized.
Certain fundamentals should however be always kept in focus. The temptation of doing it in-house should best be avoided. Unless adequate competencies exist and are available to take in the extra load, not much will be gained by hassles of licensing, hosting and maintenance. It is always safer to outsource temporary tech processes to third parties so that one can concentrate better on the company’s core concerns.
Finally, and this is most important, many organizations tend to underplay the need of engaging content that would feed the LMS platform. In many discussions, the choice of LMS occupies the centre-stage; the content is often taken for granted. In many organizations, budgetary allocations are made for LMS under the mistaken belief that content will automatically follow the installation.
Let this be clearly understood that for employees, training is most often a mandatory requirement that has to be joined in and completed; it is not a self-opted skill enhancement preference that one would look forward to. Unless the content is engaging, it is unlikely to be absorbed. It will be good enough to provide for reports and certifications to be used by and stored in HR/Training departments but it would not impact employee efficiency, and would certainly not lead to better job satisfaction, or reflect in increased productivity or profits.
A truly engaging content can make all the difference. It is crucial for any organization to understand that LMS is basically just a platform like a home theatre system; unless someone can be kept glued to his or her seat, nothing would be seriously heard, watched or retained.
When an organization decides to adopt eLearning as the preferred mode of training its employees, it should first and foremost concentrate on the quality of content that would go in the making of its courseware and associated learner experience. This is more often than not ignored in pursuing the big picture. Organizational targets and timelines become more important; the experience of the end user is often given the short stick.
In fact, if choices are carefully made, the vendors who excel in creating the content may also provide the platform and installation at minimal costs which would work for most organizations.
With the advent and hype of new and multiplying tech systems and platforms, it is easy to be swayed by the plethora of choices and options available when it comes to selecting supplementary items such as the LMS. It has become critical to prioritize one’s requirements and needs adequately. Talk to your training partner today or consult an expert, don’t fall into an endless trap of going with the big brands, where instead of being a cost effective and valuable asset, eLearning becomes an expensive cost center in your budget.
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