Remember when training meant being pulled out of your work desk and whisked away into a cool training room with refreshments waiting for your consumption? For many employees, these days are golden; a nice break from routine tasks while they get a chance to “sharpen the saw” and develop their skills. Unfortunately for many start-up organizations and those with low training budget, classroom training is a luxury they cannot afford.

How then, do organizations get the training their people need without shelling out training budget that they don't have? The answer is eLearning. In this blog, we are going to break down the most important facts about eLearning and how organizations can use it as a leverage for skills development, compliance training (i.e. data protection, travel security or information security) or organizational change.

The Emergence of eLearning

The beginning of eLearning can be traced back to the 1840’s when an educator called Isaac Pitman taught his students shorthand writing by the use of letters. He sent and received students’ assignments through the mail, which became one of the first forms of distance learning.

In 1954, a Harvard professor named BF Skinner patented a “teaching machine”; a means to give programmed activities and tasks to students. But it wasn't until the 1960’s when what is now called a CBT or computer-based training program came into fruition. The first CBT was called PLATO or Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations which was first created for students of the University of Illinois.

Originally, online learning systems only functioned as a means to deliver knowledge to students. Advancements in technology in the 1970s allowed for interactivity within online learning systems. One of the very first examples of interactive eLearning was the Open University in Britain, an institution that offers distance learning programs. With eLearning, the Open University was able to switch from mailing course materials and teacher- student correspondences to more interactive learning activities and faster exchange of information through email.

In the early 90s, eLearning became institutionalized by the academic sector by offering courses that only available online. This maximized the Internet's ability to dispense learning to learners who are often limited by their location or with only a handful of time in their hands. Updated technology paved way for more cost-effective forms of distance learning making it more accessible to underprivileged students.

Modern eLearning as we know it today was born in the early 2000s, when business organizations started utilizing eLearning for employee training and development. Online courses were made available for incumbent and fresh hires, which afforded them a means to learn new skills and gain certifications in their own time and outside of the confines of the office.

Examples of Applied eLearning

eLearning in the Food and Beverage Industry

Coca Cola created a suit of five interactive eLearning games for their marketing executives. The objective of the game is to gather insights from customers, so it can applied in making marketing decisions.

The game uses a “Who Wants to be a Millionaire" format to capture their learners’ attention and to categorize players according to their skill level. It comes with an interactive menu with stages that can be “unlocked” as the learner levels up in the game. A number of unique tasks are set to assess the learner's ability to effectively market to different customer profiles.

eLearning in the Healthcare Industry

Due to the consistently increasing demand in healthcare practitioners and the dynamic nature of the business, the healthcare industry utilizes eLearning to catch up on the need for new talent and compliance training. eLearning provides a way for medical practitioners to upgrade their skills in a manner that suits their availability.

eLearning in healthcare involves compliance training related to new technologies , advancement in drugs and other treatments, use of new healthcare applications ( i.e. drug dispensing system, patient record maintenance, policies and procedure). It can also be used in training personnel in soft skills such as customer service, empathy and cross cultural diversity.

eLearning in Education

The education industry is one of the original consumers eLearning. It is only fitting that this industry continues to leverage on this learning method to widen their reach and provide alternative ways of learning for students. Today, online degrees have become widely accepted as credentials in the job market. Aside from online universities, an enthusiastic learner can take advantage of free distance learning programs or MOOCs (massive open online courses), podcasts, live and recorded webinars. The industry’s growth can be attributed to the accessibility of online courses, which has a potential to become a $325- billion industry by 2025.

eLearning in Retail

Retail has a lot of opportunities for improvement. Front liners have multiple touch points with the customers either face to face or online, which requires a consistent approach and voice. Policies and procedures change from time to time, which makes compliance training a must. Fast moving products, additional features and new inventory triggers a need for training.

Due to the rapid employee turnover and notoriously huge turnover rate, learning must be cheap and dispensed to new employees quickly. Organizations in retail point to eLearning to provide these learning needs. eLearning programs in retail are usually composed of modules in sales and marketing, leadership, customer care, customer success, hiring, business communication, product features and benefits.

Learning Management Systems

Creating eLearning is not enough. It is advisable for organizations to secure a way to effectively manage, deliver, and evaluate their eLearning programs. This is where LMS or Learning Management Systems come in.

Cloud-based learning management solutions provide learning and development teams a way to deploy different learning strategies in various forms such as mobile and social learning. Its ability to intelligently collect learner’s development data drives continuous improvement and ensures that the eLearning contents are updated according to the current need or the organization. Return of investment is achieved easily due to the LMS’ ability gather real time insights from learners and stakeholders.