Sunday, March 02, 2008

eLearning is Green

In the course of helping a company devise an eLearning strategy, we were interviewing a number of key stakeholders in the organization. These interviews are an important part of the process of gathering information on the best ways of better integrating eLearning into the organization's training mix.

When we asked interviewees why the company wanted to better utilize eLearning, we heard many of the usual and quite predictable answers: they need learning on demand and at the point of need; they need to reach a highly dispersed workforce; they need to keep up with the rapid pace of change; they need a consistent approach to training across the organization, etc. However, we also heard from two Vice-Presidents who said that replacing a lot of classroom-based training with various eLearning approaches (e.g. online courses, webinars, knowledge repositories, online communities, etc.) will help them meet their strategic focus of becoming an environmentally sustainable company.

This was something of an "aha" moment for me. It is so obvious now, but I never really stopped to consider it before. eLearning is a green industry! They talked about reducing their "training footprint." These two VPs could see how more eLearning meant less carbon expended on planes, cars, taxis, training rooms (to ferry and house trainers and trainees across the country) and fewer trees expended on three-inch thick training manuals (which seem to be de rigueur for in-person training sessions).

I'm not the expert on environmental questions, but I am sure there must be some formula out there for calculating an organization's carbon footprint, and the amount that their current training efforts contribute to this. If anyone has seen any literature out there on this question, please pass it on.

So, if you are looking for more potential benefits to list when convincing decision-makers to invest in eLearning, be sure to mention its green nature. This, however, cannot be the only reason for doing eLearning, or the only measure of success. If you reduce your organization's training footprint, but fail to provide training that is focused on real value creation for the organization, you are not really any farther ahead. You may end up helping save the planet a little in the short-run, but lose the company in the long-run.