Posts Tagged ‘e-learning


3 E-learning Myths It’s Time to Put to Bed

Jeff Cobb

Jeff Cobb, co-founder of Tagoras Inc.

This month’s guest blog post is by Jeff Cobb, co-founder of Tagoras and co-host of the annual Leading Learning Symposium, a high impact event for leaders in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education and professional development. It was originally published on the CommPartners blog.

With the global e-learning market now valued at more than $100 billion, we are well past the point where e-learning is simply a trend. It has become a fact of life for learners of all ages, and particularly for those who are coming up through the K-12 and higher education systems – in other words, future association members and lifelong learning customers.

In spite of this shift, there is often still reluctance on the part of organizations to fully embrace e-learning and promote it as a flagship offering. In my experience, there are three key myths at the root of this reluctance and it is past time to dispel each of them once and for all.

Myth No. 1: E-learning is not as effective as classroom-based learning

There is – and has been for decades – a reliable, valid body of research that refutes this claim. As Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer put it in their classic E-learning and the Science of Instruction:

“From the plethora of media comparison research conducted over the past sixty years, we have learned that it’s not the delivery medium, but rather the instructional methods that cause learning. When the instructional methods remain essentially the same, so does the learning, no matter which medium is used to deliver instruction. [13-14]”

In other words, if appropriate methods for achieving the desired learning objectives are used, the medium (e.g., online or classroom) matters relatively little.

Perceptions of e-learning tend to suffer from the fact that it is often designed poorly, but in most cases, dramatic improvements can be made with relatively straightforward changes and without breaking the bank. I recommend Clark and Mayer’s book as the first place to look for actionable suggestions.

Myth No. 2: Creating interactivity in e-learning costs a lot

In my experience, this myth springs from a misunderstanding of what “interactivity” means. The default assumption seems to be that it involves adding animation and game-like elements to courses, but effective interaction can be achieved with much simpler methods.

Whether in live or self-paced e-learning, simply posing reflective questions or scenarios to learners is arguably a form of interaction – one that can be enhanced by having the learners respond via chat or discussion board. And simple quizzing is another. Indeed, low-stakes quizzing throughout a learning experience has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to make learning stick. Another is to have learners download worksheets they can make use of before, during or after a course experience.

Of course, if you do want to add animation or game elements to your e-learning experiences, even the cost of doing that has dropped through the floor. Many self-paced e-learning authoring tools now provide a variety of ways for adding in software-based interactive elements with no programming knowledge at all. Used judiciously in combination with some of the other options suggested above, these tools can empower organizations to create highly interactive e-learning without breaking the bank.

E-learning Concept. Computer KeyboardMyth No. 3: People won’t pay for e-learning

This one has staged something of a comeback with the rise of MOOCs and other free content, but it doesn’t take much more than observation and common sense to dispel it.

People have been paying thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, for online degrees for decades now. The online training site, recently acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion, was operating profitably on around $150 million dollars a year in revenue at the time of the acquisition. I routinely consult with associations that have e-learning businesses generating hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

I could go on and on, but the point is that it has been clear for ages that people will pay for e-learning that actually delivers value. The rise of “free” content has not and will not change that. What it has changed and will continue to change is the imperative to actually deliver and prove you are delivering value with your e-learning (and all of your other educational offerings, for that matter). If you are having trouble getting people to pay for your e-learning, value is the first issue to investigate.

So there you have it: It is possible to create e-learning that is as effective as classroom-based learning, provide for interactivity at reasonable cost and assuming you do these things and communicate the results effectively, charge appropriately for it.

And that’s no myth.


If companies build (capability), greatness will come

approach-buildingWe all know professional development is important. To thrive, companies need to have highly skilled and knowledgeable employees.

So the WHY is covered. But the HOW….that’s a different story. Although companies’ PD needs have increased, most seem to be pursuing the same traditional methods – and many are getting less bang for their bucks.

According to a recent survey by McKinsey and Co., a global management consulting firm, companies are struggling with the best way to build capabilities. (Institutional capabilities are all skills, processes, tools and systems that an organization uses as a whole to drive meaningful business results. Individual capabilities refer to training, learning or specific skills.)

In the study, companies cited customer demand and strategic importance as the top reasons for building capabilities. McKinsey and Co. says executives most often identify skills in strategy, operations and marketing and sales as most important for business performance, focusing efforts mostly on frontline employees.

Despite recent technological advances and the advent of e-learning, on-the-job training is still the No. 1 vehicle companies use to better their workforces. And while experts have proven that informal or formal coaching is an effective PD tool, only 33 percent of respondents engage in mentorship. And even fewer companies use methods such as experiential learning or digital (mobile exercises or group-based online learning).

“These leading-edge training methods could enable all organizations to replicate or scale up their learning programs quickly and cost-effectively across multiple locations,” the authors wrote. “But currently, companies tend to plan and execute large-scale learning programs with a train-the-trainer approach or with help from external providers to roll out their programs.”

mentorAt the same time, executives reported struggling with how to measure the ROI of capabilities building. At least according to the McKinsey and Co. report, companies lack a clear vision for how to link capability building to the overall business. They also indicate a lack of resources for developing programs and implementing efforts. More than half the survey respondents said they’re not sure if their capability-building programs have met their targets – or whether such targets exist.

And so….what does this all mean?

McKinsey and Co. offers some tips:

  • Diagnose systematically. Companies are best able to build strong capabilities when they systematically identify the capabilities, both institutional and individual, that can have the most positive impact on the business. Objective assessments are an important tool in this process — and few respondents say their companies use such assessments now. These diagnostics not only help companies assess their skill gaps relative to industry peers but also help them quantify the potential financial impact of addressing capability gaps.
  • Design and deliver learning to address individual needs. The core principles of adult learning require that companies tailor their learning programs to employees’ specific strengths and needs, rather than developing a one-size-fits-all program for everyone. The most effective approach to adult learning is blended — that is, complementing in-class learning with real work situations and other interventions, such as coaching.
  • Align with and link to business performance. To be effective and sustainable, capability building can’t happen in a vacuum. Learning objectives must align with strategic business interests, and, ideally, capability building should be a strategic priority in and of itself. Making human resources functions and individual business units co-owners of skill-building responsibilities and then integrating learning results into performance management are effective steps toward achieving this alignment.

What do you think? Have your PD efforts led to better company and/or individual performance?


Association e-learning: what you need to know

Sarah Lugo

Sarah Lugo, digital marketing coordinator for Digitec Interactive

This month’s guest blog post is by Sarah Lugo, digital marketing coordinator for Digitec Interactive. Follow her on Twitter.


Associations are beginning to grow their education departments by bringing member education online. Why? Selling courses and certifications online provides a new revenue source for the association while adding more value for members. At the same time, members who can’t attend a conference or workshop benefit from the convenience of on-demand content. But it’s difficult for many associations to determine the types of offerings they should provide online.

Want to get off to a good start with your association’s online education products? Here are my suggestions for best-in-class member education:

Give members what they need and want
. Will an eight-hour course be something members will utilize or do they prefer shorter “mini modules?” The education members want online will likely differ from what they want at a conference. Analyzing the online education products your competitors provide can also help you determine what already exists and what your audience wants. The best way to determine what your members need and want is to ask. Survey your members and gauge their interest in potential topics and formats. While you’re at it, ask members what they’d be willing to pay for these offerings. For tips on surveying members and valuing your education products, check out Digitec Interactive and Tagoras’ recent webinar.

Keep it fresh. The shelf life of an online course is not indefinite. Keep your content fresh by re-purposing and updating content routinely to ensure it’s both relevant and timely. Pre-plan your content’s maintenance schedule and decide how you’ll determine when the content has “expired.” One suggestion is to look at the data from your Google Analytics account and the association’s learning management system (LMS) to determine which courses are least popular among members. The trick is to refresh the course or webinar before traffic has died down completely. If the content has become so outdated that members have quit purchasing it entirely, consider whether the topic is still relevant to your members.

Invest in marketing. Most associations do an excellent job of marketing their annual meeting, but few know how, or even attempt, to effectively market their online offerings. Developing and delivering education is an investment like any other initiative. Don’t sell yourself short by assuming, “If we build it they will come.” Getting members involved early on (i.e. surveying) is also helpful in obtaining buy in. Keep members abreast of your plans to offer online education and begin marketing your offerings well before they launch. Once you’ve launched your first course, continue to roll out additional offerings and utilize features within your LMS to “up sell” members on related courses. You can read more about marketing your education products on the Association eLearning Blog.

e-Learning Concept. Computer KeyboardEducation is at the core of professional and trade associations, and technology-enabled learning is quickly gaining popularity with membership organizations. Associations are uniquely suited to provide members with specialized professional development and continuing education, so if you haven’t already, it’s time to get started with association e-learning and begin bridging the skills gap for your members. There is value in offering online education, and with these tips you’re sure to get off to the right start at your associations.


Goodbye e-learning

TechStockPhotoAs a former journalist, I love data. And trend data are even better.

So when I came across “Association Learning + Technology 2014,” a recent report by Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, founders of consulting firm Tagoras, imagine my delight!

Young or old, technology has redefined the way we learn and work. As 8-to-5 days at the office have slowly turned into 24-hour social media networking from the car and virtual meetings during the kids’ soccer practices, social media has filled in the gaps.

“The world of continuing education and professional development has changed dramatically in the past few years,” Cobb and Steele said.  “To meet member needs and stay out in front of the competition, you need to arm yourself with real data targeted to help you grow your programs.”

The 52-page Tagoras report provides such data, which were collected based upon a survey of 200 trade and professional associations. “Association Learning + Technology 2014” is designed to help association leaders strategize for a new learning landscape, while meeting their members’ needs for convenient and quick access to information.

There’s a goldmine of information in the report, which you can get for free if you subscribe to Tagoras’ free e-newsletter.

I’m sure the trends and data provided in the report will provide future blog fodder. But for starters, Cobb and Steele have abandoned the term e-learning and instead use the term technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning.

Nearly all survey respondents – 88.7 percent – indicated they use some form of technology-enabled learning. The most popular form of such learning, according to the report: webinar.

As for social media, 33 percent of respondents reported using YouTube for learning programs, followed closely by Twitter (32 percent). Facebook was next, followed by LinkedIn. Nearly 37 percent of those surveyed indicated they have a mobile learning platform, and live streaming – rather than virtual conferences – seems to be an upcoming trend.

Another key takeaway: The majority of all respondents report technology has increased their revenue from educational offerings, but less than a quarter have a strategy in place to launch new learning platforms.

Cobb and Steel found organizations that consider themselves to be very successful:

  • Report increased net revenue from their education offerings as a result of their use of technology for learning.
  • Have a formal, documented strategy for their use of technology for learning.
  • Have formal, documented product development and pricing processes that cover their technology-enabled and technology-enhanced learning.
  • Offer facilitated online courses, gamified learning, virtual conferences and at least some mobile learning.
  • Use a learning content management system (LCMS).
  • Offer a formal credential (e.g., a certification or license), regardless of whether the credential is their own.

As the association industry transitions into technology-enabled learning, other trends will emerge, the report said. There will be:

  • Growth in implementation of learning platforms and their integration with other key systems, like association management systems.
  • A continued focus on professional instructional design to help ensure educational products are effective.
  • The slowly growing use of social media for learning and increased dabbling in emerging products, like microcredentials and massive courses.
  • An increase in competition that will, in turn, drive experimentation as associations look at how best to deliver more value.
  • The professionalization of the education function overall, as the adoption and integration of sophisticated technologies increase the demand for savvy, experienced leaders in the continuing education and professional development business.
Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

“We want to see more associations develop and use a strategy to guide their use of technology for learning,” Cobb and Steele said. “Gut-level governance can work, but more consistent approaches empower staff all over the org chart.”

While all this may seem overwhelming, “Associations Learning + Technology 2014” is an incredible measurement tool for associations, regardless of size and budget. As associations plan educational programs, sessions and conferences, it’s becoming increasingly important that technology take center stage.

But it’s O.K. to start small. Maybe the answer is a hybrid conference – in-person and live stream. Or maybe it’s establishing a professional group on LinkedIn. Or perhaps smaller associations can establish a YouTube channel and provide “tips of the day.” (By the way, this is a great project for interns, who love to create videos and are social-media savvy.)

The point is: Don’t be afraid to taste technology. And don’t leave your clients and members hungry or with a bitter aftertaste in a world full of ripe and delicious technological treats.

So, tell us, are you embracing technology-enabled learning? How do you incorporate technology into your matrix of educational opportunities?

meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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