Online Training

Is Online Training a Waste of Time and Money?


I was interested to read an article from CNBC discussing how corporations are embracing online courses as a way to significantly trim personnel training and certification costs.  The author, Ellen Lee, cites a report from Bersin, a unit of Deloitte Consulting, indicating that corporations spend approximately $130 billion each year for those costs.

Lee mentions businesses such as AT&T, Yahoo! and Bank of America that are using Massive Online Open Classes (MOOCs) and other online formats to train their workers. The professional development efforts and costs for small businesses are just as significant to their employees and their bottom lines.

I believe these companies are going in the right direction, and I believe we have entered a time that will forever change professional development.

However, we must approach this opportunity with care and deliberation. Knowing how to do online training is more than just having the equipment, creating a video and making the time. Just as all in-person professional development is not created equal, all online learning is not created equal.

Before leaders decree that training and professional development in their businesses and organizations will take place online, they and the people who will carry out their decrees must take sufficient time to learn what makes online learning work and what makes it drudgery and a worthless expense.

Sitting in front of a computer screen listening to a talking head does not make an employee more effective. It can take time away from work and enthusiasm without adding appreciable benefit. Before embarking on online training, presenters and facilitators should thoughtfully consider and answer the following questions:

  1. Who should participate? How will they benefit from the time they spend online?
  2. Are the objectives clear to presenters and participants?
  3. What is the content? Is it relevant to each participant? Do learning sessions offer participants some level of choice in how they will approach or demonstrate their learning?
  4. What strategies will focus learning and engagement so participants can make the most of their time spent in learning sessions? Do the selected strategies effectively promote learning new skills and knowledge?
  5. Where is the interaction? Since learning is a social activity, do participants have the opportunity to share ideas and learn from one another? How do online sessions add to or detract from the all-important relationships and exchange of ideas people build and experience when engaged in offline learning?
  6. How will participants use their new skills or information? How can they immediately embed their new learning into their work?
  7. How will proficiency be measured? Is sitting in front of a screen enough? What should a participant know and be able to do after completing online courses or learning sessions?
  8. What is the follow up? Does it include coaching, reflection or evidence of mastery?  Do participants have sufficient time and encouragement to use their newly acquired knowledge and skills?

If planners and developers cannot answer these questions appropriately, the money businesses may save in conference and training costs may do little to improve the quality of employee work.  The time and money spent in planning and presentation will be wasted.

If you are involved in or thinking of beginning online training programs for your business or organization, check with Women’s Learning Studio for planning, facilitation and presentation support. Click here and contact us to learn more about how your online training will genuinely make a difference for your audiences and your business or organization.

Photo Credit: jiposhy via Compfight cc

2 replies
  1. Tina Barrios
    Tina Barrios says:

    The questions you pose for presenters and facilitators are very thoughtful questions. In addition to these questions what I have found is that it takes careful planning to develop online courses because you must consider whether it will be self-paced, facilitated or a form of blended learning. I’ve also found that developing an online course and facilitating an online course are different skill sets. Some folks do very well in the development of the online content, but may not do as well in actually facilitating the course itself. I think the benefits of online training for employees if done correctly is more efficient in the long run but will take some planning and upfront costs to get started.

    • Lyn Boyer
      Lyn Boyer says:

      Tina, Thanks for adding your thoughts to this discussion. I am finding the wisdom of your words as we facilitate our own online events. The skill sets are entirely different than classroom teaching and group facilitating. I believe this is an area that bears greater exploration….identifying the skill sets and honing those skills. I also agree that online training is the future, but just as learning in the past, it can be very beneficial or have little effect. I hope you are enjoying your new roles.

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