To talk about e-learning it is almost natural to start by referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has pushed for profound changes in our society. The pandemic and the confinement have mobilized different aspects of people’s lives and organizations. E-learning is no exception, although online education has existed for many years, having a slow development during the incipient access to the Internet and graphic browsers, it seeks to differentiate itself from its predecessors, distance education by mail or other variants, since it not only seeks to encourage individual work and self-discipline, but also cooperation in training, through the use of platforms that allow interaction with teachers and participants.
In the context of the pandemic, different organizations were forced to implement emergency measures to ensure the continuity of their operations. Thus, the entire educational system, from preschool to higher education, which we might have thought was better prepared, was confronted with a new reality, very restricted in terms of confinement and which pushed face-to-face education towards emergency virtual education.
Some of the main factors affecting the application of e-learning models in organizations are:
- The coverage of access to technology: In different countries there is an important technological gap, especially if we think about access to the Internet, which can be increasingly widespread in some sectors of the world, with the difficulty that the main means of connection are mobile devices, which are not so friendly with learning , being a major difficulty.
- The type of organization: This conditions the way to conceive and implement an e-learning training program. For example: How many of the people working in your organization have access to corporate email, or how many employees have time slots scheduled and respected by management for on-the-job training, or are training plans designed to be carried out outside working hours, and if so, who has access to a stable internet connection at home and is able to support multiple connections, given the confinement? All these examples help us to generate certain definitions to consider when implementing a training model of this type.
- Finally, we take into account the different learning styles, personal and relational skills, and job fit.
When implementing an e-learning model, it is necessary to contemplate a series of general considerations, benefits and challenges, among others that exist, that must be taken into account when applying this format in our organizations:
- Training model: Define the model(s) to be applied according to the nature of the positions in each line of work. Different types of methodologies and sub-classifications can be used, such as e-learning, which can be synchronous or asynchronous, b-learning or MOOC courses.
- Selection of the type of platform: There are multiple platforms to implement an e-learning program, from some massive ones such as Coursera, Udemy or Edx, to others in which you can develop your own developments such as Moodle.
- Type of organization: This will determine the main characteristics of the design and implementation of the program, since it must meet the needs in terms of content, time availability, levels of the organization and, of course, staffing.
- Previously identified training gaps. It is crucial to have the planning of staffing and training plans congruent with the organization’s objectives. It is also crucial that the contents are aligned with the job position and people’s interests. Allowing greater ease in the acquisition and anchoring of learning.
- Cost evaluation between face-to-face and distance education: It is worth evaluating the convenience of one or the other option in terms of costs, not only because of the fact that today there are restrictions due to the pandemic, but also considering all possible factors, such as transportation, renting of rooms equipped for training, among others.
Benefits of applying e-learning in organizations:
- Decrease physical and space-time barriers: In this sense, when your organization has offices in different and distant geographical locations, implementing training programs with these characteristics can become a very viable and sustainable alternative. Additionally, it reduces time-related barriers by expanding the ranges for asynchronous programs.
- Encouraging lifelong learning: If conducted with attention to a career progression plan and focus on feedback, the capacity of each collaborator could be increased, and he/she could also commit to his/her training by increasing his/her competencies in relation to his/her current or future progress in the organization.
- Flexibility and Personalization: It allows to go at one’s own pace, in this sense it contributes to the organization of time and progress in the deepening of knowledge. Always bearing in mind that the plan should have time limits so that it does not become a program with no effect on learning.
- Economics: Less installed capacity is needed, it favors cost reduction, however, it incurs an initial investment related to the platforms to be used.
- Minimal technological competence: An initial knowledge is needed for Internet navigation and use of some frequent applications, in online training programs. without this initial aspect, it becomes very complex to implement and loses any possibility of impact on people.
- Strong discipline: it is necessary to have a much more complete study habit than when in a face-to-face program, due to the different distractions that may be present.
- Greater investment of time of tutors and/or teachers: Instructional, planning, evaluation and feedback designs are considered.
- Design of precise evaluation/progression mechanisms: As this type of education implies a greater commitment, this means that the progression of the study falls with greater responsibility on the people who are receiving the training, so there must be greater clarity on the expected progression for each learning.
- Stable internet access conditions: The essential thing is to have an internet connection that allows connecting to synchronous classes or viewing video-classes without interruptions, as well as interacting on the organization’s platforms.
When opting for e-learning training, it is necessary to clarify the objectives of the organization with respect to the training of its employees, the purpose of the work and the commitment to the training activity to be achieved, must be an initial factor to achieve learning.
People learn when they are interested in something, therefore, training for the job must go hand in hand with an adequate installation of the task with respect to its fundamental desires and functions.