8 reasons why corporate learning has finally graduated
A brief history of online learning
Sidney Pressey invents
the “Automatic Teacher”,
a self-testing machine
Computer-based training is
born with PLATO: Programmed
Logic for Automated Teaching
First e-learning courses
are developed using
Technological improvements enable
blended learning online with virtual
classrooms and chat. Businesses
begin to implement e-Learning
ad for shorthand
is first known mention of
BF Skinner develops the
“Teaching Machine”, a
device which delivers
takes hold and open
universities are created
in the USA and UK
Home computer boom
and adoption of the
internet allow for first
Second wave of online and virtual
learning, fueled by mobile devices
and tablets. Massive Open Online
Courses (MOOCs) are set to
transform higher education
Online learning is gathering pace
e-learning now accounts
for about one third of
corporate training and
e-learning is the second most
employed method for imparting
learning in organizations by hours
of learning 4
1. The 2011 State of the Industry: Increased Commitment to Workplace Learning – www.astd.org. ASTD, 2011. Web. 24 Feb 2012.
2. The Worldwide Market for Self- aced eLearning Products and Services: 2010–2015 Forecast and Analysis, Ambient Insight, LLC. July 2011.
The global market for
e-learning reached $32.1
billion in 2010 and is forecast
to reach $49.9 billion by 2015 2
e-learning is generally
shorter than classroom
training on the same
subject by up to 25-60%3
So why are some companies still cautious about
making the change to online learning?
Many believe that online learning techniques are based on memorization and basic rote
learning without the guidance of a teacher and therefore do not work well. However, modern
online learning environments employ a wide variety of interactive teaching techniques (eg.
virtual classrooms, web-based teachers, gamification) which can be tailored to suit each
individual student’s preferred learning style to optimize their success.
This perception of online learning as a passive process is no longer accurate. Through the
use of virtual, online classrooms there is often the opportunity for much more interaction and
support than with traditional classroom learning.
“It requires more
This is only relevant when online units are completed asynchronously as independent selfstudy. Users interacting as part of a synchronous curriculum, with an online community
and virtual classrooms, will benefit from the same peer encouragement as in traditional
classroom learning. In addition, some online language providers offer students study
advisors to coach and motivate students remotely.
“It’s less credible”
Actually, online learning has become more accepted, especially by academia. A report
sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation* in the US found that 75% of academic leaders
at public colleges and universities believe that online learning quality equals or surpasses
* . Allen and J. Seaman, Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and 2004 (Needham, Mass.: The
Sloan Consortium, November 2004), p. 3, http://www.sloan-c.org/resources/entering_mainstream.pdf (accessed 24 Feb 2011).
What’s so great about online learning anyway?
Well, eight things to be precise….
It allows for
It really works
In 2010 the US Department of Education
commissioned a significant study to
evaluate the effects of online learning*.
This study, entitled Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices
in Online Learning, involved meta-research into 51 studies of
practical research findings on the effect of online learning on
The overall finding of the meta-analysis was that classes
incorporating online learning (whether taught completely online
or blended), on average produce stronger student learning
outcomes than do classes with solely face-to-face instruction.
* U.S. Department of Education, Office of planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online
Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, Washington, D.C., 2010.
Professionals are busy, so
when it comes to learning,
they often feel like they don’t
have the extra time to fit study
into their hectic schedules.
Studies show that adults learn best when the learning environment
can be adapted to suit their lives*. A fixed time for classroom training
competes with other business or personal activities and often does not
take priority over other issues.
Online learning gives flexibility of
when to learn
Online learning gives the student the opportunity to study
when it’s most convenient for them whether at work, home
or while traveling.
how to learn
Unlike traditional classroom learning, online learning allows
each student to work at the pace and style that best suits
Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of Adult Learners With Implications for Online Learning Design. AACE Journal, 16(2), 137-159.
Chesapeake, VA: AACE. http://www.editlib.org/p/24286
Online learning is generally shorter
than classroom training on the
same subject by up to 25–60%*.
Since the biggest cost of any corporate training is the time each
learner spends on the training itself, this time differential can
make a big difference to your bottom line.
For example, Ernst Young cut its training costs by 35 percent
while improving consistency and scalability. The company
condensed about 2,900 hours of classroom training into 700
hours of web-based learning, 200 hours of distance learning and
500 hours of classroom instruction, a reduction of 52%. *
* “Benefits of e-Learning.” e-Learning Reports. Kineo, n.d. Web. 29 Jun 2012. http://kineo.com/elearning-reports/the-benefits-of-e-learning.html.
It allows for more variety
Peoples’ learning habits and the way
they learn are different. Everyone has
a predominant learning style, such as
visual, auditory or even social.
Online learning provides a range of activities that can
accommodate all of these styles which allows the user to
choose what works best for them. The most modern online
schools and courses can also dynamically adapt themselves to
the learner’s specific profile.
Reporting and accountability are easier
For any company, tracking return
on investment is essential, but
managing training for hundreds or
even thousands of employees can be
a daunting prospect.
The advanced software tools often incorporated into online
learning solutions make this task much easier to manage,
saving time and money. Information is collected instantly
online and reports are available immediately. It allows you to
track the progress of an individual employee or view general
trends for the whole workforce.
It’s more scalable
The number of staff in a
company that requires training
can fluctuate greatly from
With classroom learning, accommodating these changes
takes a lot of time and effort as schedules need to be
rearranged and new time-slots booked.
When training is moved online, it is effortless to increase or
decrease the number of learners in no time at all; no new
classrooms need to be found, class schedules don’t need to
be changed around and teachers need not be hired or fired.
It’s easier to access
Mobile devices have made online
learning more accessible than ever;
smartphones, tablets and mobile
gaming devices allow users to study
at any given moment.
Not only is mobile learning incredibly convenient, it
also frequently nudges learners across the line from
formal into informal learning. This is significant because,
according to studies, informal learning represents
70-80% of worker knowledge acquisition*. Basically,
when students don’t realize they are studying, they retain
*Ambrose, John, and Julie Ogilvie. “Multiple modes in corporate learning: propelling business IQ with formal, informal and social learning.”
Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. 14.2 (2012): 9-18. Print.
Online learning can be cheaper than
traditional classroom-based learning
by 35%*. For companies looking to
increase ROI and reduce training
expenditure, that’s a big number.
Josh Bersin, President and CEO of HR research and
consulting firm Bersin Associates, said “In 2008 and
2009, training expenditures dropped 11 percent in
each year. And a lot of that reduction came in halting
instructor-led training, canceling travel and a shift to
technology-based training.” **
* attaglino, Tamara Butler, Matt Haldeman, and Eleanor Laurans. “The Costs of Online Learning.” Education Reform for the Digital Era. (2012): Web. 21 Jan. 2013. http://www.
** Prost, Marlene A. “E-Learning Still Trending Up.” Human Resource Executive Online. LRP Publications, 02 Dec 2012. Web. 29 Jun 2012.
Here’s how to get the most out of online learning…
What to look for
Blended online learning
The human touch
What it will bring you
Studies show that a combination of self-study and teacher-led learning, known as blended
learning, delivers superior results*. Find a provider that allows students to attend classes
online and gives them access to a multitude of exercises, games, movies and the like which
they work on from their desk or at home.
Students will learn best if they engage in activities that mirror tasks they do in everyday
situations outside the classroom**. This is called task-based learning; its high practical
relevance enables students to apply their learning to their jobs instantly. It also means
they retain the knowledge longer.
Interactive technologies boost engagement and make studying more fun. Virtual
classrooms and social learning bring students together and generate peer
The most effective online learning incorporates interaction with real people; having
somebody available for learning support during difficult periods really makes difference to a
student’s motivation. The best online online schools include teacher-led virtual classrooms
as part of the curriculum. A provider that offers study advisors to coach and motivate
students will also boost progress significantly.
*U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and
Review of Online Learning Studies, Washington, D.C., 2010.
**Bachman, Lyle F. Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. Oxford University Press, 1990.
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