Friday, August 25, 2006

Getting Opt-in for Your eLearning

My colleagues Mike Grant and Jon-Anthony Lui led an interesting webinar session yesterday focused on improving adoption rates for participation in eLearning initiatives. We did this because we are continually hearing from people in the field about the challenges of low uptake rates for the eLearning that they produce for their employees (in the case of companies) or members (in the case of associations or sector groups). As was mentioned in last week's posting, low adoption rates are often a symptom of poor eLearning design and/or poor management of eLearning initiatives. Fear of the unknown also plays a part.

Mike provided strategies for improving eLearning adoption rates, and Jon provided some insights from the many discussions he has had with eLearning professionals across many sectors.

Mike pointed out that adoption rates are important because these have a real bottom-line impact on the effectiveness of eLearning interventions. For example, if your eLearning program can be proven to have a positive effect (e.g. increasing sales, decreasing defects, shortening cycle times for various processes, etc.), these benefits will obviously be multiplied when more people actually complete the eLearning.

He outlined three strategic approaches for improving adoption rates.

Change Management Approach

This approach makes most sense for large-scale eLearning roll-outs. It involves the creation of a well-thought-out communication strategy from the top of the organization regarding the importance and value of the initiative, and has completion built right into the performance system. Learners are provided with much incentive and support to complete the program (including the most valuable resource: time).

Stealth Approach

For smaller scale eLearning roll-outs, it makes more sense to slowly insinuate your eLearning along the paths of least resistance in the organization. Which topic area, or which group of targeted learners are the most suitable for eLearning? You create great examples of eLearning where you can get buy-in, good word-of-mouth, and build upon this success into other areas.

Marketing Approach

This is a strategy that makes sense no matter how big your eLearning initiative. It focuses on understanding the users' needs, designing your eLearning to address these needs, and communicating these benefits clearly to your user group. Understand and respond to the WIFM (What's In It for Me?) factor.

We had about 60 webinar participants from across North America. When we polled them regarding their own eLearning adoption rates, the results paralleled what we have been hearing elsewhere.

Low - 34%
Medium - 53%
High - 13%

Clearly, a great deal of work remains to be done.

When we asked participants what contributes to low and high adoption rates, here is what we heard.

Reasons for low adoption rates: no clear communication from above on importance of program / no incentives or penalties tied to completion or non-completion / no alignment with business goals / no alignment with HR system / time and space not provided for completion.

Reasons for high adoption rates: good management support / making it required and having clear accountabilities for completion / good internal marketing / internal champions / making eLearning interactive and engaging.

Here is a link to the recorded webinar.

4 Comments:

Blogger Geeta said...

You have discussed some key issues that are close to my heart. I strongly believe that the key reason why dropout rate is high in eLearning is because elearning is not for real learners, it is created for stakeholders whose motivations are very different from that of actual learners. Listed below are a few key reasons:

1. Most people design elearning like they would design software – from the top, aloof, and with features, plug-ins, and bottomline as the only decisive parameters. There is absolutely no consideration for the learner for whom the elearning is designed. They design for those one in a millionth instance when a learner may do something wrong and ignore the millionth time that a learner will need to do something right.

2. Most elearning is driven by stakeholders. Often design inputs come from stakeholders’ needs and not the learner's needs. "Use red because client likes red." Client likes an interactive course so you make your computer-wary adult learners sweat it out learning through a hard-to-navigate game.

3. Most elearning is designed to justify either the training budget or update the skill-sheet. Only if elearning is designed with the learner in mind, only if elearning was for real people in this real world and not for nameless faceless corporate or unknown audience pursuing an online diploma would it really make sense.

eLearning designers need to think about this. If people can make an effort to learn from unreadable PDFs, ad-scarred web pages, and unfriendly e-books, why aren’t they motivated to learn from colorful, engaging, and fun elearning courses?

Any amount of external incentives, motivations, or penalties can motivate a learner to learn. They may sit through the course until the progress bar shows 100% percent, but they may not achieve the learning outcome. The objective of good elearning is not just get learners interested in the course but also ensure that they achieve what the course is set out to help them achieve.

I strongly advocate learner-centered design for elearning. You can check out more thoughts on this at:
http://elearning.kern-comm.com

Cheers,
Geeta Bose
http://www.geetabose.blogspot.com/

10:26 AM  
Blogger Rick Nigol said...

Hi Geeta:

Thanks for your excellent reflections.

I couldn't agree more, learner-centred design is essential for the acheivement of learning objectives, and to improve course completion rates. However, even with an excellently designed eLearning intervention, we still find that strategies are required to ensure high adoption. If it is an effective course, and only a few complete it, the full benefits are not being realized.

Rick

10:54 AM  
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