Friday 28 November 2008

When an economic crisis hits eLearning, what do managers have to say about it?

I really need your help here, if you are a conscientious eLearn provider, please add to the discussion (on your blog, forum, here,… anywhere). I came across some old school thinking and solutions regarding eLearning (see below).

There is an old economic tendency that in times of crisis the training department budgets get cut. For more then one reason I tend to disagree with this tendency. When a crisis hits your organisation or company, that is the right moment to rethink training and boost it. The same with R&D (research and development), because it is by rethinking you can outrun your competitors. If something did not keep you from a crisis, something is amiss and new methods can help you overcome them. You need training to get people thinking out of the box (or broaden their box) and you need training to implement new methods that will counter the crisis within the company quickly.

Last week I read an article on the subject in the sciencedaily, which was also listed in and prlog and in innovationsreport (it is a press release issued by Online Educa Berlin - OEB): “The present world’s economic woes are opening up new opportunities for innovative forms of education and training such as informal learning, e-learning and blended learning. Faced with shrinking budgets, the use of learning technologies is becoming increasingly attractive for businesses: This was the appraisal articulated by the consultants and training professionals who responded to an impromptu survey undertaken by the international e-learning conference Online Educa Berlin.”

In the press release there are some nuanced quotes and then a very scary one. A nuanced one from Sue Martin from Global Certification Portfolio Manager at SAP: "In times of tight or zero travel budgets and increasing environmental awareness, the importance of learning technologies has to be given a second look.”
Yes, I agree. A second and in-depth look at training (face-to-face and eLearning) is the way to go. But will eLearning cost less than face-to-face? Well, not sure, certainly not in the beginning of the development. And the myths of eLearning could pop-up again too.

With this in mind I predict a growing need for more qualified eLearning evaluators. They will enable management to get a good idea of what works most efficiently (yes, I am also an eLearning evaluator) and it will result in solid eLearning.

But then the article lists a very scary quote!

Christophe Binot, E-Learning Manager at the French oil firm Total, adds: "The newest solutions make it possible to turn a PowerPoint presentation into a course for a thousand employees within two hours. The ROI outperfoms training in a classroom."

What the HUH!!! eLearning is NOT about turning some kind of stupid non-descriptive, non-assessing powerpoint into a course! Can you imagine the non-interactivity of these powerpoints?! I mean in TWO HOURS! Oh my lord and goddess! How can OEB keep this quote in a press release? They know better than that. Okay he will be a keynote speaker at their conference, but looking at what is quoted here, I can almost imagine what his speech will be about (but I give him the benefit of the doubt, miss quotations have been made before).

Maybe winter is getting to me... darn dark clouded days...


  1. Luckily my manager is very knowledgable of e-learning design and does not allow ineffective e-learning in our organization. However, there are too many people out there that think a powerpoint and/or a page turner can be passed off as training. And too many people, and I try my best to educate these people when I encounter them, are not interested in the actual transfer of knowledge, but rather just want to check the box and say, "They were all trained."

    Bottom line, I think e-learning can be a cost effective alternative. However, as you noted, there is a cost for development and a cost for keeping courses updated, as the subject matter may change. E-learning is not a low cost alternative and may require as much in expense as classroom training to be effective. Managers must also recognize that while their staff may not be away at training, there is still time required on the part of staff. I don't know why, but some believe because it is online it is quick and requires little effort. Not true.

    I feel part of my role as an e-learning designer is to inform all involved of when and how e-learning is effective, what resources will be involved, including time, budget, staffing, commitment from managers and the learners, etc. But most of all the downfalls of ineffective page turners.

  2. Education and Training is like Christmas lights. It brightens up the dark season and boosts spirits. Without opportunities for education and training, it's hard to maintain enthusiasm.

  3. @Jeff
    Your company is lucky to have you on board. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    Great metaphor :-) education keeps motivated indeed

  4. Ignatia,

    I have been enjoying your blog and have added it to my blog roll at My blog is relatively new and provides practical advice and resources for m-learning and e-learning. Please take a look, any feedback would be appreciated. And if you deem it appropriate a reciprocal link from your blog would be great too.