The State ofE-LearningDeveloping Soft Skillsin partnership withand
The State of E-Learning:Developing Soft SkillsBy Paul Bernthal, Pete Weaver, and Richard Wellins HR Benchmark Group Volume 4, Issue 1 July 2002
About the DDI HR Benchmark ReportsBenchmark Group Volume 1: 1997–1998The DDI HR Benchmark Group is an alliance Issue 1—A Survey of Trust in the Workplaceof organizations committed to sharing Issue 2—Performance Management Practicesinformation and benchmarking current HR Survey Reportpractices. These organizations, an international Issue 3—Workforce Development Practicesmix of DDI clients and non-clients, have agreed Survey Reportto respond to periodic surveys in order to Issue 4—Job/Role Competency Practicesprovide current information in various areas of Survey Reporthuman resources. The organizations representa geographical and industry cross section. Volume 2: 1998–1999 Issue 1—Succession Management Practices Survey ReportAbout DDI Issue 2—Recruitment and Selection PracticesDevelopment Dimensions International (DDI) Survey Reportis an international human resource company Volume 3: 2000–2001that specializes in helping clients improve their Issue 1—The Globalization of Humanbusiness performance by aligning people Resource Practices Survey Reportstrategies with business strategies. Issue 2—Retaining Talent: A Benchmarking StudyAbout Training Volume 4: 2002–2003For nearly four decades Training has been the Issue 1—The State of E-Learning: Developingbusiness magazine of choice for executives Soft Skillscharged with training and human resourcedevelopment initiatives within their organizations. Special Reports Global High-Performance Work Practices: A Benchmarking Study (1998)About Online Learning The Leadership Forecast: A BenchmarkingOnline Learning magazine analyzes and Study (1999)assesses vendors and their products, challenges Leadership Forecast 2001: A Benchmarkingcurrent market thinking, and offers market-savvy Studypredictions.To order previous or additional reports, call: Or contact:1-800-DDI-1514 (1-800-334-1514) Paul Bernthal, Ph.D., Manager Center for Applied Behavioral ResearchFor more information or to join the HR Development Dimensions InternationalBenchmark Group, visit us at: 1225 Washington Pike, Bridgeville, PA 15017www.ddiworld.com/resources/benchmark.asp Phone: 412-257-7533 • Fax: 412-220-5204 E-mail: email@example.com
The State of E-Learning: Developing Soft Skills 1Purpose Study ObjectivesRapid growth in the past five years has catapulted 1. Understand thee-Learning into a $10-billion industry (Adkins, 2001).1 Inan attempt to keep up with the new technology, analysts’ advantages andpredictions about the evolution of e-Learning sometimeschange as fast as the industry itself. While new disadvantages oftechnology adds excitement and new areas for growth,human resource professionals must figure out which e-Learning.trends are real and which are passing fads. 2. Benchmark current andThe results of this study can help HR professionalsunderstand the many issues associated with selecting,implementing, and promoting e-Learning for soft skills. future use of e-LearningOf particular note, this study focuses specifically on therole of e-Learning in the development of soft skills. Most technology.existing e-Learning studies and reports do not differentiatethe types of skill development. By their less tangible 3. Determine effectivenessnature, soft skills may present special challenges in thee-Learning arena. of e-Learning methods. 4. Describe the impact of e-Learning on the HR function.1Adkins, S.S. (2001). Market analysis of the 2002 U.S. e-learningindustry: Convergence, consolidation, and commoditization.Sunnyvale, CA: Brandon-Hall.com.
2 The State of E-Learning Definition Although a commonly used term, “e-Learning” can mean different things depending on the context and the audience. In this study we used the following definitionWhile general e-Learning of e-Learning:receives much attention Instructional content or learning experiences delivered or enabled by computer-basedin industry publications technology.and research studies, few This definition of e-Learning includes practices such as web-based training (WBT), computer-based trainingstudies have focused (CBT), and CD-ROM. The definition also includes learning resources that are less frequently classified asexclusively on the e-Learning, such as e-mail or voice mail (both of which are enabled by the use of a computer).application of e-Learning While general e-Learning receives much attention infor soft skills. industry publications and research studies, few studies have focused exclusively on the application of e-Learning for soft skills. We used the following definition of soft skills: Personal and interpersonal behaviors that develop and maximize human performance (for example, leadership, coaching, team building, decision making, initiative). Soft skills do not include technical skills, such as financial, computer, quality, or assembly skills.
Developing Soft Skills 3Respondents and MethodsSurveys were sent to members of the DDI HRBenchmark Group, an international alliance oforganizations committed to sharing information andbenchmarking current HR practices. In addition,subscribers to Online Learning magazine completedthe survey.A total of 139 organizations from 15 countries respondedto the survey. Slightly more than half (56 percent) areheadquartered in the United States. We recommend thatall results presented in this report be interpreted in light ofthe demographic profile of the sample. A complete listingof participating organizations and their demographicsappears at the end of the report.
4 The State of E-Learning The Case for E-Learning There are many reasons why an organization would want to use e-Learning. We created a list of 17 potential reasons based on a literature review. Respondents wereIncreased flexibility of asked to identify all the reasons why their organization decided to use e-Learning for developing soft skills.learning was the most We submitted the ratings of these 17 items to a principle components factor analysis to determine which itemscommon reason for tended to cluster together. This analysis yielded four primary factors or clusters (see Table 1).introducing e-Learning Factor 1: Improving Learning Efficiencymethods. In traditional learning paradigms, learners usually attend a scheduled session that requires them to spend time away from the job. Often, these sessions are led by a facilitator, require travel, and are limited to a preset list of topics. With the advent of e-Learning delivery methods, most of these restrictions no longer apply. Increased flexibility of learning was the most common reason for introducing e-Learning methods. Other benefits such as just-in-time delivery, reduced travel, reduced costs, and increased variety add to the appeal of e-Learning. Factor 2: Extending Global Reach Although it is a unique benefit that might not apply to all organizations, e-Learning’s global reach allows organizations to offer a wide variety of learning options regardless of employee location. Web-based learning, electronic performance support systems (EPSS), and CD-ROMs can be delivered anywhere in the world, as long as the appropriate equipment and infrastructure are present. Factor 3: Maximizing Impact and Integration Some organizations believe that by offering e-Learning they will increase the overall effectiveness and impact of learning. Given that learners have different learning styles
Developing Soft Skills 5and preferences, it makes sense that a greater variety ofoptions will facilitate learning. Additionally, e-Learningtechnology has begun to blur the lines between learningand development and other organizational systems.For example, several different electronically basedmethods can link assessment, learning experiences, and Internal demand is not aperformance management into a single process. strong influence driving theFactor 4: Responding to DemandPartly because of the high levels of attention it has adoption of e-Learning.received in recent years, e-Learning has become anoption sometimes requested by learners and theirmanagers. It’s hard not to feel left behind when thereis so much focus in the popular media on advances inlearning technology. However, internal demand is not astrong influence driving the adoption of e-Learning. Theoverall demand for e-Learning from within the organizationhas been low (16 percent). Table 1: Reasons for using e-Learning. 59% Improving Learning Efficiency 78% Increase flexibility of learning (e.g., learn at one’s own pace) 71% Allow learning to be delivered just-in-time when it is needed 62% Reduce amount of travel for learning and development 61% Reduce amount of time learners spend away from the job 58% Reduce long-term costs 53% Increase variety or amount of learning resources 29% Give HR or training staff more time to do other things 47% Extending Global Reach 47% Global reach—meeting the needs of geographically dispersed employees 42% Maximizing Impact and Integration 48% Improve the overall effectiveness or impact of learning 35% Increase the level of integration between learning and development and other systems 16% Responding to Demand 19% Learners have asked for this method of learning delivery 15% Senior management expects or demands this method of learning delivery 14% Desire to keep up with what other organizations are doing (don’t want to be left behind)(Numbers indicate the percentage of organizations selecting the reason.)
6 The State of E-Learning Delivery of E-Learning The use of e-Learning for soft skills will continue to grow.The excitement about When comparing past, current, and future use of e-Learning methods, a strong upward trend emerges (see Figure 1). In 1999 most soft skills learning resourcese-Learning may be (87 percent) were delivered in a classroom setting. During the next two years, the number dropped to 77greater than the actual percent. Respondents indicated that, in the near future, e-Learning delivery will be used for 42 percent of all softgrowth rates. skills learning resources. Although the growth trend observed in this study is encouraging, the excitement about e-Learning may be greater than the actual growth rates. Adkins (2001) predicts that the adoption rate for e-Learning is likely to be 15 to 20 percent.2 In their 2002 State of the Industry report, Van Buren and Erskine of ASTD state, “The growth of e-Learning and the decline of instructor-led classroom training has been widely heralded for several years.”3 However, they observed that many of the expected increases in e-Learning usage had not materialized. As a caveat to their conclusions, they cautioned that organizations using blended learning approaches (for example, classroom instruction combined with e-Learning technology) might have categorized these approaches as classroom learning. In the future, it will not be so easy to classify learning experiences as either e-Learning or non- e-Learning based. 2Ibid. 3Van Buren W., & Erskine, M. (2002). State of the industry report 2002: ASTD’s annual review of trends in employer-provider training in the United States. Alexandria, VA: ASTD.
Developing Soft Skills 7Electronic technology is seeping in to all aspects of theworkplace, and even traditional classroom delivery oftencontains elements of e-Learning. We asked respondentshow many of their soft skills learning programs wereoffered in more than one format and how many learningprograms used a blend of delivery formats. Only 13 We predict that manypercent of organizations offered the same soft skillslearning content in more than one format. Additionally, organizations will eventuallyfew organizations (18 percent) in our sample were offeringlearning programs that used a blend of delivery methods. diversify their learningAlthough these numbers are not high, we predict thatmany organizations will eventually diversify their learning formats and take elementsformats and take elements of different delivery optionsto create the best programs possible. At this point, of different delivery optionse-Learning is still in its infancy, but is continuing to growand evolve rapidly. to create the best programs possible. Delivery Methods1999 Other Other Delivery Self-Paced CBT 3% 4% 6% Classroom 87% Delivery Methods2001 Delivery Methods2003 Other Other Other Delivery Self-Paced Other Delivery 3% Self-Paced 5% 4% 7% CBT 15% CBT Classroom Classroom 77% 31% 58% Figure 1: Past, current, and future use of learning delivery methods.
8 The State of E-Learning Most e-Learning programs address technical skills. Many early e-Learning applications focused on technical skills. The process for learning how to use software or follow a safety procedure, for instance, could easily be broken down into a series of objective steps and deliveredMost e-Learning delivery in an automated format to one person. Because soft skills are more interpersonally focused, most past learningstill focuses on technical delivery methods relied on human interaction and were less structured. As shown in Figure 2, most e-Learningor other non-soft skills. delivery still focuses on technical or other non-soft skills. Even so, soft skills do represent a significant proportion (33%) of the topics addressed through e-Learning. Other 7% Technical Soft Skills Skills 33% 60% Figure 2: Topics addressed by e-Learning.
Developing Soft Skills 9Most e-Learning programs are developedexternally.Not many organizations have the resources or expertiserequired to create and deliver their own e-Learningprograms. Consequently, they often look to externalvendors to provide or co-develop the programs. The challenge forWe asked respondents to indicate the percentage of organizations will be toe-Learning resources that were developed internally,externally, or through other methods (for example, determine which externallyco-development). Results show that more than half ofe-Learning programs are developed externally (see developed programs are ofFigure 3). high quality and meet theThe challenge for organizations will be to determine whichexternally developed programs are of high quality and needs of their learners.meet the needs of their learners. Recently, severalorganizations such as ASTD have offered rating andcertification systems to help HR select the best programs.Although these systems may be useful, changingstandards will require constant updating and modificationof the rating system. Other 15% Developed Developed Externally Internally 53% 32% Figure 3: Origin of e-Learning programs.
10 The State of E-Learning E-Learning is more effective when organizations use a learning portal or a learning management system (LMS). The diversification of learning options can be confusing and difficult to manage. Along with the growth ofUsing a learning portal and e-Learning technology, we have seen a corresponding growth in the use of learning portals and learningan LMS helps organizations management systems (LMS). These tools are defined as follows:organize and keep track of Learning Portal—A public or commercial sitetheir many e-Learning accessed on the Internet or an intranet using a browser. Learning portals offer a large numberoptions. and variety of courses and other curricula/ learning assets. Learning Management System (LMS)—A software platform to register students, launch and manage courses, track performance of learners, associate courses with competencies, manage skill gaps, schedule venues and instructors, and perform related activities. About 40 percent of organizations in our sample use a learning portal or an LMS (see Figures 4 and 5). About one quarter (24 percent) have both systems in place. Most organizations with a learning portal report that they operate the portal internally (70 percent). Although these numbers are not high, many of the respondents indicated that they were investigating the possibility of introducing these systems. Using a learning portal and an LMS helps organizations organize and keep track of their many e-Learning options.
Developing Soft Skills 11Analyses revealed that the perceived effectiveness of e-Learning in the organization is significantly higher whenorganizations use either a learning portal or an LMS.However, these tools are less likely to be used byorganizations first venturing into e-Learning and may beindicative of a more advanced or developed approach to Perhaps the use of ae-Learning. Perhaps the use of a learning portal or anLMS indicates the seriousness with which the learning portal or an LMSorganization has embraced e-Learning and the degree ofimplementation. We would expect organizations with indicates the seriousnessmore invested in e-Learning to be more satisfied with theirimplementations. with which the organization has embraced e-Learning. No, but Investigating Yes 21% 41% No 38% Figure 4: Do you have a learning portal? No, but Investigating Yes 34% 37% No 29% Figure 5: Do you have a learning management system (LMS)?
12 The State of E-Learning Organizations predict the greatest increase in the use of web-based learning and electronic performance support systems (EPSS). E-Learning encompasses a wide range of learning formats, and not all are being used to the same extentOverall, web-based learning or growing at the same rate. We asked respondents to indicate the percentage of learning resources for softand EPSS show the skills that are delivered using 10 e-Learning formats. Respondents offered estimates for both today and forgreatest percentage-point the next two years. Because resources can be delivered using multiple formats, we did not require that their totalincrease in use over the estimates equal 100 percent. Figure 6 shows the percentages for both current and expected use.next two years. (Appendix A contains definitions of all formats listed in Figure 6.) None of the formats are being used by more than half of the organizations in our sample. Currently, e-mail (37 percent), telephone conferencing (18 percent), and web-based learning (17 percent) are the mostly commonly used delivery methods for developing soft skills. Overall, web-based learning and EPSS show the greatest percentage-point increase in use over the next two years. These two delivery methods are newer than e-mail and telephone conferencing and are currently receiving more attention.
Developing Soft Skills 13 17 Web-Based Learning 38 Electronic Performance 5 Support System (EPSS) 17 7 Extranet 17 16 CBT or CD-ROM 24 Simulators or 3 Virtual Reality 9 31 E-Mail 37 2 Cable or Satellite TV 7 4 Interactive TV 8 13 Voice Mail 17 Current Telephone 18 Expected Conferencing 20 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 Percentage of Organizations Using the Method Figure 6: Changes in use of e-Learning methods.
14 The State of E-Learning E-Learning Effectiveness and Barriers to Effectiveness It can take years for e-Learning programs toAlong with building internal realize maximum effectiveness. Launching e-Learning programs can present manysupport for changes, challenges for organizations. Along with building internal support for changes, organizations must develop theorganizations must appropriate infrastructure and determine criteria for selecting the best learning options. All of these challengesdevelop the appropriate may make it difficult for organizations to produce the desired results.infrastructure and determine We asked survey respondents to ratecriteria for selecting the best the overall effectiveness of their organizations’ use of e-Learning for soft skills. On a scale of 1 to 10learning options. (1 = Not at all effective; 10 = Extremely effective), respondents provided an average rating of 3.9. Almost three quarters (73 percent) rated their current effectiveness at a 5 or lower. However, e-Learning effectiveness does increase over time. Organizations using e-Learning for five years or more were significantly more likely to provide positive ratings (see Figure 7). Figure 7: Effectiveness of e-Learning over time.
Developing Soft Skills 15We also asked users to rate the effectiveness of thevarious e-Learning delivery methods (see Figure 8).All programs were rated between slightly and moderatelyeffective. The most effective programs were simulatorsor virtual reality, EPPS, and web-based learning. The effectiveness ratings forThe effectiveness ratings for e-Learning tend to be muchlower than effectiveness ratings for traditional classroom e-Learning tend to be muchinstruction. In an informal survey of 30 HR professionalsconducted during a DDI web-based seminar in 2002, lower than effectivenessaverage effectiveness ratings for classroom learningwas a 3.4 (on a 4-point scale). The low ratings for soft- ratings for traditionalskills e-Learning effectiveness is troubling. HR will needto continue its focus on removing barriers and enhancing classroom instruction.overall effectiveness. Simulators or Virtual Reality 2.79 Electronic Performance 2.78 Support System (EPSS) Web-Based Learning 2.75 E-Mail 2.68 CBT or CD-ROM 2.65 Extranet 2.58 Telephone Conferencing 2.49 Interactive TV 2.34 Cable or Satellite TV 2.30 Voice Mail 2.00 1 2 3 4 Not Slightly Moderately Very Effective Effective Effective Effective Figure 8: Effectiveness of e-Learning methods.
16 The State of E-Learning Organizations are most concerned about the content and quality of e-Learning programs. Organizations encounter a broad range of barriers that reduce the effectiveness of e-Learning programs. We asked respondents to indicate the largest barriers their organizations had encountered when using e-Learning to develop soft skills. Statistical analyses of their responses yielded five major clusters of barriers (see Table 2). Table 2: Barriers to e-Learning. 43% Concerns about Content and Use 47% Concern about the content quality of e-Learning programs 42% Difficulty finding e-Learning that effectively covers the right topics 40% Doubt that learners will use the learning resources on their own 36% Not Ready for E-Learning 45% Lack of resources to develop the e-Learning programs needed 43% Lack of funding 37% Lack of an e-Learning strategy 18% Lack of support from senior management 31% Technical Issues 40% Lack of necessary equipment or infrastructure to support e-Learning 37% Technical problems or issues—breakdowns, incompatibility, bandwidth, etc. 16% Security issues—viruses, privacy, hacking, etc. 27% Low Receptivity 29% Lack of receptivity to e-Learning in workforce 25% Low participation rates in e-Learning programs 3% Impact on HR Staff 3% Concern that e-Learning will reduce the need for HR or training staff
Developing Soft Skills 17Barrier 1: Concerns about Content and UseCurrently, there are no standards for ensuring the qualityof e-Learning offerings that are accepted by all providersand users. Some groups do “certify” vendor programsor evaluate offerings in terms of a set of predeterminedcriteria. However, Adkins states, “The adoption of The mere presence ofstandards that aren’t compatible with new integratedplatforms, blended services, and evolving learning e-Learning is not enoughtechnology may actually impede the adoption ofe-Learning in some sectors.”4 The number of to ensure its success.organizations selling e-Learning programs is large,and organizations have difficulty determining the bestprograms for their needs.Organizations also worry that learners will not use thee-Learning resources on their own. If organizations donot provide high-quality e-Learning offerings, learners willnot participate. Some HR professionals may also beconcerned that learners won’t feel motivated to completee-Learning offerings even when programs are of thehighest quality. Personal motivation may not be asufficient driver to ensure the widespread use ofe-Learning resources. The mere presence of e-Learningis not enough to ensure its success. As with any learningprogram, e-Learning must address a clear need, provideappropriate content, and be delivered effectively.4Adkins, S.S. (2001). Market analysis of the 2002 U.S. e-learningindustry: Convergence, consolidation, and commoditization (p. 33).Sunnyvale, CA: Brandon-Hall.com.
18 The State of E-Learning The type of e-Learning resources provided can make a big difference for learner acceptance. We asked respondents to rate the effectiveness of two e-Learning delivery methods for developing soft skills: Synchronous—All learners participate in the learning event at the same time, although not necessarily at the same location (for example, chat rooms, videoconferences, learning sessions with a facilitator). Asynchronous—Learners do not participate in the learning event at the same time (for example, videotaped lectures, bulletin boards, WBT, CD-ROM). Overall, interactive synchronous learning approaches were perceived as more effective than asynchronous approaches (see Figure 9). Synchronous Learning Not Effective Asynchronous Learning 6% Not Slightly Effective Effective Moderately 15% Moderately 15% Effective Effective Slightly 50% 41% Effective Very Effective 32% 29% Very Effective 12% Figure 9: Comparison of synchronous and asynchronous e-Learning approaches.
Developing Soft Skills 19Barrier 2: Not Ready for E-LearningSuccessfully introducing change in an organizationusually requires a good strategy, a communication plan,the involvement of internal resources, support fromsenior management, and a budget. A fair percentage oforganizations in our sample encountered problems in The bottom line is thatseveral of these areas. Many do not have the resourcesor funding to develop or introduce the types of programs many organizations justthey would like to use. Additionally, they may lack astrategy and clear support from senior management. aren’t prepared to do all ofFigure 10 shows that few organizations (25 percent) in the things it takes to makeour sample have a clear strategy for how they plan toimplement e-Learning programs. Still, organizations e-Learning successful.realize that a good strategy can make a difference, andthey are either working to put one together or hope tocreate one in the near future.The bottom line is that many organizations just aren’tprepared to do all of the things it takes to makee-Learning successful. Change takes time to implement,and the organizations in our sample are experiencingsome obvious growing pains. No Strategy; No Plan to Develop 8% No Strategy; Developing a Want to Develop One Strategy 22% 45% Have a Strategy 25% Figure 10: State of e-Learning strategy.
20 The State of E-Learning Barrier 3: Technical Issues By definition, e-Learning requires a specific technical infrastructure and technical resources to ensure success. Few organizations are equipped with the right computer resources and support systems to allow e-LearningFew organizations are functionality for all eligible learners. Even if an organization can provide the necessary equipment andequipped with the right support, those resources may quickly become obsolete if the technology changes significantly. Issues associatedcomputer resources and with bandwidth, reliability, and security make the technical aspect even more complicated.support systems to allow Streaming video is becoming an increasingly populare-Learning functionality for method for delivering e-Learning on the computer. To better understand the viability of video-based learning,all eligible learners. we asked organizations to provide information about the percentage of employees who play video on their desktop computers for learning and development purposes. Only 44 percent of all employees of the organizations in our sample are permitted to play streaming video and have the necessary software. Of that group, only 23 percent actually use their computers for learning and development purposes. Thus, only 10 percent of all learners are using their computers to play video for learning and development (44 percent times 23 percent). This rather small percentage indicates that even when learners have the necessary equipment and software, they may not make use of the capability.
Developing Soft Skills 21Barrier 4: Low ReceptivityMoving to an e-Learning platform represents afundamental shift in how organizations provide learningresources for their employees. Classroom instructionhas been taking place for centuries, and most learnersare accustomed to receiving instruction in this well- Although e-Learning offersestablished format. Although e-Learning offers someobvious advantages, not all learners are receptive to it. some obvious advantages,Some learners may see e-Learning as an infringement ontheir busy work schedules. Others might like the idea of not all learners areseparating learning from the daily work routine, and theymight enjoy the high level of interaction in the classroom. receptive to it.Regardless of the reason, some organizations (27percent) experience resistance or apathy from learnerswhen attempting to promote e-Learning. As with anyprogram, learners must be motivated to participate andshould be held accountable for acquiring new skills.These requirements are especially salient in the contextof e-Learning, because the learning is often at thelearners’ discretion. This can be a difficult adjustment formany. Through years of formal education many learnersmay be accustomed to the structure of an educationsystem that incorporates grading and strict accountabilityfor compliance.Barrier 5: Impact on HR StaffFew respondents in our sample are concerned thate-Learning will reduce the need for HR or training staff.Although e-Learning could potentially reduce the numberof classroom sessions, its presence introduces a new setof demands and opportunities for HR. HR professionalsmust now manage learning management systems,evaluate e-Learning offerings, communicate and educate,and perform a whole new list of activities. We asked HRprofessionals if the introduction of e-Learning in theirorganizations had changed their roles. Nearly half(40 percent) indicated that their job roles had changed.
22 The State of E-Learning Figure 11 shows the types of changes HR professionals have observed in their roles. For many HR professionals, the range of e-Learning options can be overwhelming. As a result, they are forced to become knowledgeable in many new areas. In addition, HR professionals areFor many HR professionals, expanding their responsibilities to include strategy creation, consulting, and program coordination. Finally,the range of e-Learning some professionals find that the new e-Learning options are putting a strain on their resources and budgets.options can beoverwhelming. Greater Demand on HR Resources 11% Increased Need for Knowledge Miscellaneous and Education of HR Staff 23% 40% Expanded HR Role (Strategist, Coordinator) 26% Figure 11: E-Learning impact on the role of HR. Sample Comments about the Changing Role of HR Professionals • “A challenge is finding the best mix of programs and delivery methods— these are always changing!” • “My role has become more of a consultative one, where I will often search for learning solutions from other sources rather than creating them internally.” • “I must try to stay informed of advances in e-Learning—what the opportunities are and the cost. Also need to learn how to author courses in e-Learning format.” • “Grown from managing a program of just over 100 different titles with limited associate access to one having close to 300 different courses available to the entire associate base of approximately 5,000. This now includes internally developed content as well as vendor content.”
Developing Soft Skills 23Impact of E-LearningEach organization may experience a variety of outcomesas a result of using e-Learning technology. Althoughmany organizations hope to improve the efficiency and Several organizations notedavailability of learning by introducing e-Learning, they mayrealize other related outcomes. We created a list of 14potential outcomes of e-Learning and asked respondents that a greater “learningto indicate if the outcome had decreased, stayed thesame, or increased as a result of using e-Learning culture” had begun totechnology. Figure 12 shows the net change(organizations indicating an increase minus organizations develop as a result ofindicating a decrease) in outcomes. We also conductedan analysis to see if the outcomes clustered into unique introducing e-Learningfactors. The following four factors represent many of thecommon outcomes of e-Learning. programs.Outcome 1: E-Learning promotes participationin learning activities.Some of the most apparent increases in Figure 12 relateto the greater utilization of learning resources withinthe organization. Simply by increasing the diversity oftraining options and making the training more accessible,people are more likely to take advantage of learningopportunities. Learners have different needs, and manylike the flexibility that e-Learning offers. Interestingly,several organizations noted that a greater “learningculture” had begun to develop as a result of introducinge-Learning programs.
24 The State of E-Learning Availability or accessibility 73% of learning options Need to demonstrate return 54% on investment (ROI) Employees participating in 53% learning activities Measurement of learning outcomes 39% Program development cost 36% Consistency in quality 36% of learning programs Focus on the individual 35% needs of the learner Presence of a learning culture in the organization 34% Time employees spend learning 29% Reputation of the L&D 29% function in the organization Money spent on employee learning 9% Time for new workers 5% to reach maximun productivity Number of staff in the learning 12% and development function Cost per learner 28% 40% 20% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% Percentage of Organizations Indicating an Increase or Decrease Figure 12: Net change in outcomes as a result of e-Learning. By increasing the flexibility of learning, organizations can show that learning is a priority and that they are taking steps to make it easier. The first cluster of outcomes included the following: • Availability or accessibility of learning options (73 percent) • Employees participating in learning activities (53 percent) • Focus on the individual needs of the learner (35 percent) • Presence of a “learning culture” in the organization (34 percent) • Time employees spend learning (29 percent)
Developing Soft Skills 25Outcome 2: E-Learning increases the need todemonstrate impact and ROI.About half of the organizations in our sample haveexperienced an increased need to measure anddemonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of e-Learning.Although e-Learning programs might not cost more The need to demonstratethan traditional learning programs, the introduction ofe-Learning often requires substantial investments in added value is a keyequipment and technical infrastructure. component of most newTo justify the investment, HR must prove several points.First, HR must show that e-Learning programs are as programs or approaches.effective or more effective than traditional learningprograms. Next, it needs to demonstrate that a real needexists for e-Learning programs and that their introductionwill offer some benefit to the learner and/or theorganization. After all, if employees are already learningeffectively, why introduce changes? The need todemonstrate added value is a key component of mostnew programs or approaches.The second cluster of outcomes included the following:• Need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) (54 percent)• Measurement of learning outcomes (39 percent)
26 The State of E-Learning Outcome 3: E-Learning can improve the quality of the learning experience. In the past, learning programs may not have been well integrated or consistent in quality. The use of e-Learning has forced organizations to pay greater attention to theE-Learning may require a quality and content of the programs they use. While it is true that greater consistency does not assume greaterbetter planned approach quality, some respondents (36 percent) indicated a corresponding increase.and a careful review of E-Learning may require a better planned approach andcontent. a careful review of content. Many organizations have had to review their entire range of learning and development offerings to see how e-Learning can play a role. HR professionals have become more educated about learning delivery options and are now more savvy about their choices. As a result, some HR professionals are doing a better job of choosing the right programs and are improving their reputations within the organization. As a side effect, HR is becoming more efficient and may choose to restructure its staff as new roles and responsibilities develop. The third cluster of outcomes included the following: • Consistency in quality of learning programs (36 percent) • Reputation of the L&D function in the organization (29 percent) • Number of staff in the learning and development function (–12 percent)
Developing Soft Skills 27Outcome 4: E-Learning might reduce long-termcosts for learners.A fourth cluster of outcomes addressed the costsassociated with e-Learning. About one-third oforganizations (36 percent) pointed out that programdevelopment costs have increased with the introduction More than half of theof e-Learning programs. Some (9 percent) also indicatethat the amount of money spent on employee learning has organizations in our sampleincreased. Although these costs may have increased,slightly more than one quarter (28 percent) of feel that classroom-basedorganizations indicate that the overall cost per learner hasdecreased. programs should cost moreThe fourth cluster of outcomes included the following: than e-Learning-based• Program development costs (36 percent)• Money spent on employee learning (9 percent) programs.• Time for new workers to reach maximum productivity (5 percent)• Cost per learner (–28 percent)How can an organization spend more money on employeelearning but have a reduced cost per learner? Severalof the questions in our survey dealt with the costs ofpurchasing, implementing, and maintaining e-Learningprograms. Figure 13 shows that more than half of theorganizations in our sample feel that classroom-basedprograms should cost more than e-Learning-basedprograms. Essentially, many believe e-Learning shouldnot cost as much to purchase. However, when estimatingwhich type of program costs more to implement,organizations are almost evenly split between classroom-based and e-Learning. Each type of program has uniquecosts that make it hard to give either approach anadvantage in terms of implementation.
28 The State of E-Learning Finally, we see the real value of e-Learning in estimates of long-term costs. A large majority of organizations (84 percent) believe that in the long-run, the costs of e-Learning are less than the costs of classroom delivery. Once the e-Learning programs are set up and running, HR no longer needs to invest much more money beyond the initial outlay. Thus, long-term costs per learner may be reduced. Cost to Introduce E-Learning vs. Classroom Both Cost About the Same 8% The E-Learning The E-Learning Program Costs More Program Costs Less 50% 42% Long-Term Cost of E-Learning vs. Classroom Should Classroom and Web-Based Programs Have the Same Purchase Price? E-Learning Program Web-Based Should Costs More Both Methods Cost About the Same be Higher 7% 18% 9% E-Learning Program Classroom Should Costs Less be Higher Should be 84% 57% the Same 25%Figure 13: Cost issues associated with classroom-based programs and e-Learning.
Developing Soft Skills 29Conclusions1. E-Learning for soft skills development isworking to fulfill its promise.Not all of us would choose to buy a new car model or new E-Learning is off to a slowerpersonal electronic device in its first year of production.History shows that it takes us a while to figure out which start than many predicted,features are really necessary and how much technology isappropriate for human consumption. Many organizations but it is growing in use andare running into barriers related to user acceptance,equipment, features, and quality. However, few would acceptance.deny that e-Learning offers a great deal of promise for thefuture. No matter what happens in the next few years,technology will advance, and e-Learning will eventuallybecome a mature component of the learning environment.E-Learning is off to a slower start than many predicted,but it is growing in use and acceptance. As barriers falland adoption increases, more users learn to leverage theprimary advantages of the technology.2. E-Learning success is dependent on acomplex mix of factors.Some would argue that the introduction of e-Learning hasproduced a true paradigm shift in our understanding oflearning. Using e-Learning is not simply a matter ofadding a listing to a course catalog. Along with the newtechnology comes a host of changes and adjustmentsrelated to learning strategy, infrastructure, implementationplanning, HR roles, learning styles, and organizationalsupport. In many cases, introducing e-Learning requiresexperimentation and constant adjustment to determinewhat works best. It can be hard to foresee barriers in thecontext of new paradigms. Even the best quality e-Learning program can fail if there is no organizationalsupport or if learners are not held accountable forapplying their skills. In this sense, the process forensuring the effectiveness of e-Learning is no differentfrom any other program. Good planning, careful needsanalysis, building support, effective implementation, andthorough follow-up are the keys to success.
30 The State of E-Learning 3. HR professionals need not fear e-Learning technologies, but there is a lot of learning to do. For many HR professionals, the introduction of e-Learning has served as a forced primer in modern learning technology. Just keeping up with the long list of acronymsIn addition to the promise and terms can be exhausting, especially as new ideas are introduced and old approaches become obsolete. In ourof greater learning flexibility, conversations with e-Learning users and prospective users, we quickly realized that buyers are becoming muchmany organizations are more sophisticated and capable of assessing program quality. HR departments are working more closely withcounting on the long-term MIS and IS professionals or hiring technical experts to be part of the HR team. As new standards for quality andbenefits of reduced costs delivery develop, it may become easier to navigate the wave of information and choices. Nevertheless,through e-Learning knowledge of technology has increased and will continue to increase in the HR function.technologies. 4. E-Learning cost savings come from longer- term use and scale. In addition to the promise of greater learning flexibility, many organizations are counting on the long-term benefits of reduced costs through e-Learning technologies. When the learning process becomes more automated, it should also cost less to deliver. Every time an employee uses an automated e-Learning system, it reduces the overall cost per learner. Additionally, the ability to immediately update e-Learning resources eliminates the need to purchase all-new materials. Scheduled instructor-led sessions addressing predetermined topics can be replaced by just-in-time application of automated systems over a broad population. The move toward e-Learning can incur high initial costs in addition to the cost of the programs themselves. However, the real payoff appears in volume and ongoing use.
Developing Soft Skills 315. The e-Learning landscape is constantlychanging.In the time after the data was collected for this survey,new technologies and trends have already developed.Recently, “live e-Learning” has been the topic of muchdiscussion. In this approach learning is synchronous As e-Learning blends withand connected across distance by technology. Just whenwe think we have defined and analyzed the e-Learning other forms of learning,landscape, it changes before our eyes. As e-Learningblends with other forms of learning, we may no longer we may no longer identifyidentify e-Learning as a separate delivery mechanism.Rather, many learning experiences will have electronic e-Learning as a separatecomponents, and studying e-Learning as a separate topicmay no longer be relevant. delivery mechanism.6. We need more hard and objective researchfor e-Learning.We acknowledge that it has been very difficult to find solid,objective research about the value of e-Learning. Numerousstudies (for example, www.nucleusresearch.com) haveshown that technology can reduce learning costs andimprove efficiency. However, we know much less about thee-Learning experience and what drives its effectiveness.The wide range of quality, content, and delivery formatsmakes it difficult to draw general conclusions.It is hard to ignore the media buzz about e-Learning, andmany fall into a bandwagon mentality when consideringthe future of learning in organizations. No one can predictthe future, not even the users. Many have touted thebenefits and impending growth of e-Learning, but it istaking longer to take root than was expected. In addition,industry surveys and opinions may not always be entirelyobjective and representative of what is actuallyhappening. For example, few organizations will respondto a survey about e-Learning if they are not actively usingit. All users should maintain a skeptical and critical viewof new developments, always asking questions whiletrying to make the right choices for their organizations.
32 The State of E-Learning Appendix A E-Learning Formats Cable or Satellite TV: The reception of television signals for learning and development purposes (for example, business courses). CBT or CD-ROM: Any learning event that is text- or multimedia-based and delivered from a single computer (diskettes, hard drive, or CD-ROM). Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS): A computer application that uses any combination of expert systems and media to help a user perform a task in real time quickly and with a minimum of support by other people. E-Mail: The exchange of messages through computers—used to send or receive messages associated with learning or performance support. Extranet: A network that uses Internet technology to link organizations with their suppliers, customers, or other organizations that share common goals or information—used for the purpose of activities associated with learning and development. Interactive TV: Video combined with a method of providing interactive responses (audio or otherwise). Simulators or Virtual Reality: A device or system that replicates or imitates a real device or system. Telephone Conferencing: The instantaneous exchange of audio between two or more individuals or groups at two or more locations. Voice Mail: An automated, electronic telephone system—used to send or receive messages associated with learning or performance support. Web-Based Learning: Access to learning experiences delivered through the Internet or an organization’s intranet.
34 The State of E-Learning Participating Organizations Aboitiz & Company, Inc. Edu Media Web Advanced Business Incorporated e-Learning Technologies Affinity Logic Eli Lilly and Company Albany Medical Center Emory Hospitals AMC Entertainment Inc. Equate Petrochemical Company Andragogics First Union/Wachovia Anonymous Franklin Templeton Investments Applied Industrial Technologies Frontline Technology Center AT&T Wireless The Gillette Company Ball Corporation Harleysville Insurance Company Bally Total Fitness Corporation Hotel Dieu Hospital Bank of America Corporation Hotel Inter-Continental Toronto Banque Nationale du Canada Howard Hughes Medical Institute Baptist Health Systems of South Florida hyperstudy.com Bayer Corporation IDS (Philippines), Inc. (formerly a Bayer Corporation, Consumer Care Division division of JDH [Phils], Inc.) Blackfox Training Institute Imperial Oil Limited Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana Indian River Community College BMW Manufacturing Corp. Intellinex LLC Bravo! Development, Inc. Iron Ore Company of Canada Bristol-Myers Squibb Philippines, Inc. Istituto Orga Brown-Forman Corporation J.C. Bamford Excavators Ltd Brunswick Bowling and Billiards Jardine Salmat Corporation Bunnings Building Supplies Johnson & Johnson Cable & Wire Optus Limited Johnson & Johnson Medical The Carousel Casino & Entertainment Keystone Mercy Health Plan World, Sun International Kimberly-Clark Corporation CCL Industries Inc. Legato Systems CEMEX, Inc. LOMA Cigarrera La Moderna, S.A. de C.V. Lowe’s Cingular Wireless LLC Masonite (Africa) Ltd City of Oakland Mayford Seeds (Pty) Ltd Corporate HR Solutions Media Scan S.A. Corporate Information Solutions, Inc. Medihelp Courseware A/S Medtronic Physio-Control Delta Motor Corporation Metrorail DHL Systems Ltd Moog Controls Corp Domtar Inc. Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation
Developing Soft Skills 35MRI Siemens Ltd.M-Web SkillPath SeminarsNational Australia Bank Limited Sprint CanadaNational Grange Mutual Insurance Company Star TribuneNational Semiconductor Corporation Stora Enso North AmericaORBI Consultores SWIFT (Society for Worldwide InterbankOrlando Utilities Commission Financial Telecommunication)The Partnering Group, Inc. SyneticsPearson Technology Group Taiwan Semiconductor ManufacturingPhilippine Stock Exchange, Inc. Company LtdPhilips Semiconductor Calamba Tech Data CorporationPitney Bowes Limited TechnicolorPitt County Memorial Hospital Tellumat (Pty) LtdPossis Medical Inc Tetra Pak South Africa (Pty) LtdPPG Industries TMX Philippines, Inc.Pratt & Whitney Canada Toyota Team EuropePraxair Mexico, S.A. de C.V. UCI Medical CenterPraxair, Inc. Union Pacific RailroadPremier System Integrators, Inc. Unisys Africa Ltd (IncorporatedProHealth Inc in Delaware, USA)Puyat Vinyl Products, Inc. United Airlines—WHQTDQAD Inc. United Sleep ProductsRadio Frequency Systems University of Colorado Hospital AuthorityThe Reynolds and Reynolds Company University HealthSystem ConsortiumRolls-Royce Plc. UnumProvident CorporationRoot Learning Inc. Valassis Communications, Inc.S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. VF Playwear, Inc.St. John’s Health System Wesleyan Assurance SocietySanofi-Synthélabo West Bromwich Building SocietySappi Fine Paper South Africa Wheaton USA Inc., an AlcanSchindler Lifts (SA) (Pty) Ltd Packaging CompanySEH America, Inc. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc.SGL Carbon Group The Wood CompanySiam Guardian Glass Company, Ltd.
36 The State of E-Learning About DDI For more than three decades, DDI has helped thousands of organizations worldwide achieve superior business performance through selecting, developing, and retaining extraordinary people. The firm’s two major areas of expertise are helping companies find and hire better people faster and building leadership capacity and capability at all levels. DDI is a human resource pioneer—recent innovations include blended learning strategies, web-based training, and selection technologies. DDI’s solutions are built to help clients realize results. DDI’s team of 1,000 experienced associates in 70 locations can meet client needs anywhere in the world and in any industry. Visit www.ddiworld.com for more information. About the Authors Paul Bernthal, Ph.D., is the manager of DDI’s Center for Applied Behavioral Research. Paul, who conducted more than 100 large-scale measurement projects for DDI, is also director of DDI’s HR Benchmark Group. His publications have appeared in Training and Development Journal, Group and Organizational Management, and Advances in International Comparative Management. Pete Weaver is a senior vice president and heads DDI’s leadership solutions group. He is also chief technology officer and has been instrumental in the success of many DDI projects, including award-winning CD-ROM and intranet learning systems, such as OPAL (Online Performance and Learning). Pete is a frequent speaker at major conferences on topics related to the integration of emerging technologies with learning and assessment sciences. Richard Wellins, Ph.D., is senior vice president of global marketing for DDI. Recent accomplishments include conducting a nationwide study with Gallup on workforce effectiveness, helping new manufacturing facilities select and train highly participative workforces, and managing DDI’s internal knowledge management function. Rich has written for more than 20 publications, published six books, including the best-seller, Empowered Teams, and spoken at numerous professional conferences around the world.