E-learning in corporate training

There is no a single method to introduce the distance learning in the company - is a tool that should be adapted to the needs of each particular company. Depending on the current model of training, the organization's objectives and strategies for the development of corporate training, e-learning can take many forms. Below is a look at some examples, common among Russian companies.

Ready-made databases of electronic materials
To date, the e-learning market has evolved enough to produce "ready-made" solutions. First there were the e-learning courses on popular topics, do not need to be worked and designed for rapid deployment. Subsequently, this trend has grown in complete online database of training materials that can be integrated into the learning process.

Among the famous portals of this type we see Eduson, Lendwings, Zillion, "Business environment", "Netology". So-called "online universities” and MOOС-portals, such as LektoriumTV, INTUIT, “Open education” etc. may also be included in that type.

The main advantages of such databases are the speed of implementation and a wide range of database materials. The main disadvantages include the impossibility to affect the content (as it is “ready-made”), lack of individualization, lack of integration with LMS systems existing in the company. 

Databases can be compared to a library card: there are many books and they are all of different quality; some of them are very good. But how to know in advance which of them to choose to create a clear learning direction for employees and thus motivate them to reading? There is only one way to solve that task - to think through and organize everything separately.

Training for specific positions
In companies, it is common practice teaching specific groups of posts. For example, in the Russian market are companies that use e-learning for training of managers - middle and senior managers with the help of specially developed for these training programs, simulations, case studies and other complex materials. At the same time training junior positions is carried out with the help of on the job training and mentoring arrangements.

Conversely, in companies with a large number of junior positions subjected to frequent rotation, e-learning is often used as the only economical learning tool, while the personnel of higher level pass face-to-face training with guest coaches or go on training in specialized centers. The applicability of this approach depends on the company activities. In industry junior staff is trained mainly in the course of work, and e-learning is used as an auxiliary element (for example, to test knowledge). In financial and service companies, in contrast, it is required to possess the knowledge and skills that can fully conveyed off-campus.

Regular testing and certification
One of the specialties of e-learning are the security checks, including a high level of complexity. Some companies only use this range of corporate training opportunities for their employees organized regular testing, proof of qualification and certification of personnel.

The most common corporate tests for organizations that are required by law are to confirm the level of training of their employees regularly in terms of compliance with standards, safety requirements, knowledge of the necessary procedures, etc. Usually it is the construction sector, energy sector, subsoil use and other industries.

Also, this approach is applied in recruitment agencies or HR departments of the companies where the promising candidates pass the corporate testing, then their general level, strengths and weaknesses become clear. That helps to take the decision about the continuation of the recruitment process.

Blended learning
It is the most common and used in the form of today use e-learning, complementing the full-time training staff. Instead of "conclusion" of the training program in any one frame "only remote" or "full-time only", the company decides which skills and knowledge more effectively to each of the forms, and combines them in training.

There are various ways to implement this approach. 

For example, before a face-to-face lesson on the rules of working with clients, the general theory and strategy of the company can be introduced to the employee to prepare him for further training. 

And vice versa, after classes devoted to theoretical issues, the employee can consolidate his knowledge through test cases, program simulators or tests. 

The basic point of the approach is that the effective form of presenting different types of materials will be either classroom instruction or distance learning. Transformation of the programs into blended form improves the overall efficiency of the training and reduces the company’s cost.

E-learning as a self-contained format of corporate learning
The most intensive form of e-learning is the transformation of format in a separate area that is not associated with full-time training.

In this form, using all forms and methods of learning that offer e-learning, from developing new knowledge and testing to motivational and complex materials, including not only complex involving elements, but also social interaction between the students.

In this format, the corporate training ceases to be an isolated event and becomes a real ecosystem. Inside it has everything for the most effective employee development from the starting position to higher positions. It contains teaching materials of different kinds, tests, reference materials, e-books, programmable paths of learning as well as the high level of IT, which binds it all together.

In the center of this ecosystem there is a developed corporate portal that not only serves as a platform for integration of all of e-learning aspects, from providing access to materials and statistics training to planning of the staff development and building learning paths but also ensures the efficiency of all social and gaming aspects of learning.

An example of a leader

So far there are not many companies with "maximum" level of implementation of e-learning on the Russian market. The most remarkable of them is JSC Sberbank, developing its curricula in this way actively. Exactly on top of the current technological and methodological level, it has become possible to develop e-learning and create innovative formats.

For example, it was exactly Sberbank that designed and implemented “Introductory course on banking products for consultants”. It is a large-scale program of training of a particular group of positions, which has not only its own content especially targeted, tailored for the audience, but also contains its own platform for training, available to every employee online.

This project has absorbed all the advantages and developments of e-learning, worked out by active use of the technology in the Bank. At the time of the project launch it was the most extensive and effective program for staff training of the junior positions in the Russian practice of corporate training.

This became possible only with reliance on a well-developed infrastructure of e-learning, accumulated experience in distance education and willingness of the employees to the new format.

How to choose own e-learning format

Every company has a set of conditions that determine the optimal form of e-learning implementation in the corporate training.

However, the company could determine just the main points as a competent provider will be able to clarify all the rest in the course of the discussion on the training requirements.

Let us see some common elements and their effects as they need attention during e-learning implementation in corporate training.

Learning objectives: how to define target students, knowledge and skills to be trained and the scope

  • The more employees there are in the company, the more profitable each new electronic material is. If the format of online courses allows to get the necessary knowledge and skills, it definitely should be used as face-to-face training and mentoring in this case will be redundant and cost more

  • If face-to-face training is more applicable for development of skills in the company, e-learning can be a supplement to the existing system. Theoretical material should be conveyed in the form of distant training, and the time for face-to-face classes can be used to practice skills more thoroughly.

  • Not in all spheres junior positions can be fully trained through e-learning (e.g. construction, industry, etc.). At the same time, for all managers, mentoring, leadership and management skills are useful. Such skills can be trained with the help of e-learning courses

  • E-learning is not only giving knowledge but also testing, case studies, exercises and other forms of examination, including those of high complexity. If the task is to test knowledge rather than give new one, it can also be solved through e-learning.

  • If the company already has assets that have shown their efficacy and are still used (videos, recordings of seminars, lectures, internal manuals), it is not necessary to refuse them as they can be integrated into new products. But if we are talking about outdate material, which is simply "there", it is better not to use it.  

  • The most important document before implementing e-learning is a program of staff training. Basing on a detailed list of knowledge that listeners should possess, we can choose an effective combination of learning formats which quickly transfer knowledge

IT infrastructure. How  was it built in the company, what can be added to it and in what time period, whether it is able to support e-learning?

  • It is important to know the capabilities of most devices which will be used during training. This is necessary to ensure performance and comfortable viewing. CPU, memory, graphics memory, screen size, speed of the Internet connection are important for the final product

  • It is important to define the main platform of learning. It is not necessary for e-learning to have a desktop PC or laptop on hand. Tablets and smartphones can handle this task. For best results, it is better to know this in advance

  • Corporate educational resources. The basic LMS elements are not enough for many gaming and social mechanics of e-learning, as they require their own page or database on the enterprise portal. The final e-learning product will depend on the possibility to create them.

Useful hints

All “ready-made” solutions will not include the ins and outs of the company.

This applies to both ready-made courses, and plug-in libraries of training materials. They can be used in most “universal” knowledge (office software, "cold calls", tips for productivity, etc.) but they will not convey unique knowledge important to the company and will not be able to replace the targeted development.

The development of e-courses using the company’s resources is a good start, but not "for the rest of the life".

Creation of training materials by means of the company’s resources is a normal practice aimed at saving money. Moreover, it is one of the few ways in e-learning for small and medium-size companies as well as a good option for a primary development technology for a large company.

Any company can develop their own electronic materials. There are many programs such as "authoring tools" available on the market. They are easy to use and possess the minimum necessary capacity, and therefore at the first stage of implementing e-learning are quite applicable.

But this approach has its limits in terms of technology, speed of work, the quality of the final result. In some time, the internal department will not be able to move on to the next technological level or quality in e-learning and will impede the development of corporate training in the company.

Avoid depending on technologies of third parties.

Especially in the long run you should not rely on online resources to create courses, for example such as Stepic, a well-known online resource. Any online technology of this kind is extremely simplified, and the possibility to introduce graphics or interactive elements will be minimized, so we speak again about a finite number of possibilities for development.

In the future it would be virtually impossible to painlessly transfer the company to your own learning portal from a third party platform: the materials will have to be recompiled, and the statistics of courses completion may be lost.

Finally, there is the issue of safety: all training materials, including confidential, the company will have to disclose to the owner of the service. And even if they are not interested in unauthorized access, its protection from hacking attempts can also be doubted.

A fair amount of classroom training can be replaced by the distant one.

A talented coach with a good author's curriculum is extremely difficult to replace. Everything else can be replaced if not completely then  at least the need for classroom training hours can be reduced. Do not forget that e-learning allows to develop social games of high complexity, so even this aspect of face-to-face training is no longer a "monopolist".  

E-learning is not tied to any type or platform.

"Blended," and "mobile" learning are the terms to simplify communication, but they do not limit the possibilities of e-learning. Any platform today is able to reproduce any material, exercise, test, video and any form of social or game interaction. Just remember that PCs, laptops and tablets are the most used platforms and mobile phones are still in the process of learning and adaptation to the objectives of the study.

The parable of wisdom instead of a conclusion

One large, geographically distributed company ordered a large, beautiful and complex e-learning course for its employees. A lot of resources have been invested into its development and the final product was ready to take its rightful place on the corporate portal.

In addition to the "basic" online version a specialized version of the course for offline viewing was also developed. This version was delivered to the most remote branches of the company in a few hundred physical media by airmail so that each employee was able to get access to the latest e-learning developments. Availability of offline system of statistics collection enabled the remote locations to be trained and to transmit their results to the database of the company’s corporate University - absolutely on the same conditions as the head office staff.

The moral: To make learning work for the good of the company, make it work for the benefit of the employees. Do not forget who the electronic materials are created for and consider the interests of these people.