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17 January 2024

Avoiding Pitfalls In eLearning: A Few Words On How To Prevent Common Mistakes

Summary: Exploring eLearning pitfalls, the article emphasizes aligning training with business goals, customizing content for users, managing resources effectively, and viewing eLearning as an investment, not a cost, for successful implementation and ROI.

Corporate Strategies For Effective eLearning Implementation

In the era of digital education, eLearning has become a key element in the process of teaching and professional development. However, it’s important to remember the old principle: it’s better to prevent than to cure. During the planning stage of solutions, it’s worthwhile to anticipate potential problems and prevent them in advance. Understanding and avoiding these mistakes is crucial for the effectiveness and efficiency of eLearning programs. What are these mistakes? I will try to categorize them, support them with examples, and show preventive steps. However, it’s important to remember that these are just some of the possible pitfalls. Life is usually richer than the most comprehensive article, and the complexity of some EdTech solutions does not help in avoiding mistakes, sometimes very costly.

Errors And Concerns In eLearning Training Implementation

1. Strategic And Organizational Errors

eLearning should be closely linked to the business goals of the company. It should be a response to a business problem or need (sales, customer service, complaints, production, etc.). It should add value, increase the operational capabilities of the company, or improve the efficiency of processes. Often, the mistake lies in the lack of clear communication and understanding of business needs by eLearning designers, leading to ineffective training implementation. The subject of the project is not the creation of eLearning, but the improvement of the company’s operation expressed in business indicators. Both sides should understand this in such a way.

What do we do when we are not sure if we understand the other side? First, we do not base our beliefs on the purpose of the project. They often result from a lack of understanding of the other side. Second, equally important: ask—seemingly trivial questions: Why is this eLearning course to be implemented? What is it for? What is your problem? How is it now? How should it be after implementing training solutions, i.e., the initial and target situation? Before implementing eLearning, conduct a detailed analysis of the project’s goal and training needs, understanding the specific requirements and expectations of the business that wants to apply eLearning.

2. Lack Of Business Indicators In eLearning Implementation

On a micro-scale, this is the answer to the question of how much a company’s functioning will change after going through eLearning training or participating in the entire developmental process. Imagine an insurance company facing a high level of dissatisfaction with the quality of claim service. Customers are dissatisfied, it’s hard to get through on the hotline, and the consultants’ responses are rated as unhelpful. eLearning training aimed at improving these indicators should take into account the main problems (which I mentioned) and provide an opportunity to improve these indicators.

To make this possible, it is necessary to know the starting point, e.g., the level of the NPS indicator, which measures customer satisfaction. Then, the business owner of the topic (person responsible for customer service quality) should ask themselves what level of NPS would be satisfactory for the organization. And, how they will measure the change. Probably by an NPS survey, which includes critical customer service elements, including the quality of responses provided by consultants. From there, it’s very close to specifying the substantive scope of the planned training. In the end, what remains is—after a specified time—to measure the NPS and verify whether the training actually improved it.

3. Methodological Errors In eLearning: The Importance Of Proper Methodology And Tailoring Content To Users

The effectiveness of EdTech solutions depends on many factors, including proper adaptation to the needs and preferences of users and the application of appropriate methodology. Errors in these areas can significantly reduce the effectiveness of online training, leading to participant frustration and not fully exploiting the potential of digital education.

a. Failure To Adapt To User Needs

The first and fundamental mistake is the failure to adapt eLearning programs to the needs of the users. An example could be a situation in a manufacturing company where online courses were technically advanced but did not take into account the conditions in which production hall employees operated (using a large amount of video and audio without the possibility of playing them in comfortable conditions). This led to a situation where the courses were ineffective for many participants who could not fully use the offered materials.

Technology itself is not a guarantee of success—understanding and taking into account the individual needs and preferences of learners is key. Therefore, it is recommended to design eLearning courses with the diversity of users in mind, offering materials in various formats, such as text, video, and interactive quizzes, to enable each learning style to effectively assimilate knowledge.

b. Methodological Errors

The second important aspect is methodological errors, which can include improper use of educational tools, lack of interactivity, or inappropriate selection of content. Proper methodology is essential for the effectiveness of eLearning. An example is training devoid of interaction, flat, typically textual. This leads to a low level of participant engagement. eLearning cannot be just a passive transfer of knowledge. To increase engagement and learning effectiveness, it is necessary to introduce interactive elements, such as gamification, group discussions, or interactive tasks. These methods not only make the learning process more attractive but also promote better understanding and assimilation of the material.

4. Errors In Project Management

The success of implementing eLearning programs depends on many factors, including the ability to manage resources, time, and expectations of project stakeholders, not just its final recipients. However, we often encounter errors that can significantly affect the effectiveness and efficiency of these projects.

a. Lack Of Dedicated Resources

eLearning requires dedicated resources, including a team responsible for the project, or a guaranteed budget for implementing activities, purchasing infrastructure, or acquiring necessary competencies. The lack of such resources can lead to ineffective implementation and management of the deployment. Often the responsibility for introducing eLearning is transferred to the training team, which does not yet have the necessary competencies. It’s obvious that in the avalanche of duties, people from training or HRBP do not treat eLearning as a priority activity. Why would they if the organization also does not attach importance to effectively introducing these methods, based on the analysis of needs and possibilities, potential benefits, or possible risks?

In one of the projects I consulted, a critical element was providing technical support to training recipients. The company attached great importance to this, much more than to other elements of the project. It quickly became clear why. This implementation was another attempt to introduce eLearning to the company. The previous one, a few months earlier, ended in a resounding failure. Why? Because when the platform and training were launched, no one anticipated that users would need technical support when using the environment. The company decided to extinguish the topic for a while, returning to it only after several months. Quite costly learning, right? It would have been enough to prepare an analysis before implementation, in which the recommendation to launch a hotline would probably appear.

b. Shifting Responsibility To External Companies

Shifting responsibility for the success of the implementation to external companies is another mistake. I can’t imagine a project—any really—in which the client would not take an active part. The company must actively participate in the process of implementing and monitoring eLearning, not only in the design phase but at every stage of implementation, both in deploying the platform and preparing individual training, or even launching communication channels in the project.

Imagine a situation where, at the pre-implementation analysis stage, we hand over responsibility for designing and building the environment to specialists who, although they have cut their teeth on it, do not know the specifics of our organization. In such a situation, there is no question of meeting one of the key factors of engagement (J. Keller) about the adequacy of content to needs. There is no such thing as a standard and universal implementation of eLearning. Each should take into account the specifics of the organization and its needs. And this is the domain of the client, not the supplier.

5. Financial Errors

The effectiveness and value of eLearning for an organization do not depend solely on the quality of content or technology, but also on how it is perceived and managed financially. A key mistake that often occurs in organizations is treating eLearning as a cost, not an investment. The problem is seen at the level of priorities for the company, the size of financial outlays, or messages sent to recipients. In short, a big mistake is treating eLearning as a cost center, not an investment that simply pays off for the company.

Such an approach can lead to a series of problems, including underestimating costs, limiting the budget, and therefore, compromises in terms of the quality of training materials. In this context, it is extremely important to understand that eLearning is not just an expense—it is an investment that can bring significant benefits, both short- and long-term. And it’s not about emphasizing the stereotype that eLearning is cheap. It’s not—especially in the initial phase—and repeating this slogan also does not work in its favor.

How not to make such mistakes? Best—before we start implementing or buying anything—to do a pre-implementation analysis, which will answer the question of whether and for what eLearning is needed. Why this method is optimal for our needs. This will also allow us to sensibly choose the model of eLearning implementation, which has a direct impact on costs. Not all companies need a large platform and a whole library of training right away. Sometimes it is worth considering purchasing access to resources, which is definitely a cheaper and faster solution. It is worth seeing eLearning as a strategic investment, conducting a cost analysis and potential Return On Investment, to justify expenses and ensure the appropriate quality of training.

Conclusion

Usually, it’s better to learn from others’ mistakes. But what if we are just getting into the topic and do not yet have such knowledge? The internet is full of great content, industry portals, and case studies. eLearning providers organize a multitude of events, conduct webinars, or publish recommendations. Workshops and conferences are available. You can also buy a few hours of consultation at the beginning with an industry expert to ask what to pay attention to so that the topic does not overwhelm us.

Avoiding mistakes requires a comprehensive approach, including both strategic planning and a detailed understanding of the technological, methodological, and financial aspects of eLearning. Success in eLearning lies in a balanced approach that takes into account both business needs and user expectations.

This text has been published on elearningindustry.com – the largest portal gathering e-learning professionals worldwide

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