Benefits of eLearning for You and Your Students: Well-Known and Not-So-Well-Known Rewards from Online, Self-Paced Training
Is This the Right Article for You? (What You’ll Learn Here about Benefits of eLearning)
Let’s start by stating a few assumptions so you can be sure this article will be helpful. After all, we want to respect your time just like you want to ensure your students get a lot of “bang for their buck” — with the “bang” being knowledge/skills that they understand and retain and the “buck” being the time they spend to complete training.
Since you’re exploring the benefits of eLearning, we assume:
- You have a role in helping students gain knowledge/skills. For our purposes, we’re discussing learners who are adults. They might be your employees, members, suppliers, vendors, or volunteers.
- You are contemplating using technology to deliver your training. We’re defining eLearning as self-paced learning completed online on a computer, tablet, or mobile device.
If our assumptions match your reality (you’re exploring online, self-paced learning for adults), let’s dive in.
We’ll cover some well-established benefits of eLearning first; then, we’ll explore some eLearning benefits many people have not considered. So if you’ve got a handle already on how eLearning offers flexibility, saves time and money, and enables you to scale delivery, you could skim section one—but be sure to check out section two in detail.
As examples, we’ll describe two eLearning courses we have designed and developed for our clients: a court-mandated parenting course to support couples going through divorce and separation, developed for a single county in Arizona and gaining traction nationally, and a suite of courses to aid essential, direct-care workers during the COVID pandemic and beyond.
Some Well-Established Benefits of eLearning
You can’t beat the flexibility of eLearning.
Training can be accomplished wherever and whenever makes sense. This is especially important for adults, who expect and value some control over their learning experience. For example, busy people completing the parenting course can accomplish their learning while working around jobs, children’s schedules, and personal commitments. Even employees who receive an allotment of time for training benefit from this flexibility. They don’t need to interrupt a critical task that is almost complete because their training session is about to begin. And employers don’t need to schedule coverage because an entire team will be attending training at the same time. eLearning is also a natural complement to the work-from-home culture that is so prevalent now.
eLearning saves money and time (and, of course, time is money!).
There are obvious savings from things like not having to pay an instructor and eliminating travel expenses for instructors and learners. Couple those with the fact that students can complete eLearning in much less time than comparable training in a live setting. For example, one of our direct-care worker courses took seven hours in a classroom; students can cover the same content in a series of three one-hour eLearning courses.
There are some less-obvious savings, as well. There are costs associated with classrooms, whether you are renting space or nabbing a conference room that is now unavailable for other uses. And while we can easily recognize the time instructors spend delivering training, they spend additional time preparing materials, reviewing content, and setting up classrooms. eLearning means you can eliminate all these costs.
The ability to scale delivery means you can train 10 or 10,000.
Once you have invested in creating training, you need to spread your costs across the widest audience you can, right? With eLearning, you can scale delivery to maximize your investment and drastically reduce your cost-per-student. Do you have learners on both coasts who would benefit from a certain course? No problem! In fact, scalable delivery is one reason our parenting course is attracting interest nationwide. If you're using a Learning Management System like the TraCorp LMS that does not charge a per-user fee, you literally can train 10 people or 10,000 for virtually the same cost.
Some eLearning Benefits You Might Not Have Considered
If flexibility, savings, and scalability are not enough to convince you to take the eLearning technology plunge, there are more benefits you should consider!
“Cut out the middle person.”
Often the person who is most knowledgeable on a subject (we call them the subject-matter expert or SME) doesn’t have the bandwidth or skills to deliver effective instruction. With live training, you sometimes need to choose between an instructor with mastery of the content and one with facilitation skills and availability. One of the benefits of eLearning is the partnership between the SME and an instructional designer. The instructional designer works with an SME to sift through, distill, and organize content. Then, the instructional designer uses their expertise to present information in an engaging way, build activities that apply knowledge and skills, and create assessments that confirm success. The SME approves the course as the final step in this partnership. When we worked with an RN Educator Consultant as the SME for the direct-care worker training, we leveraged her considerable expertise while freeing up her time from delivering repetitive live sessions.
Deliver consistent content.
With eLearning, each student gets consistent information. There is no question about the relative skill, background, or biases of different instructors. There is also no risk of learners derailing the experience with questions that are well-intentioned but off-target. Different students naturally have their own unique questions and observations. And while some of these can enhance a group experience, too many can jeopardize or even sink it. This was one of the challenges we overcame in the parenting course. During live training, learners understandably posed questions about their own legal cases. This put the instructor in the difficult spot of managing time constraints and declining to offer legal advice. The eLearning solution ensures that all learners receive consistent information and includes resources for individual questions.
Respect individuals’ privacy.
This is a non-issue for some subjects but crucial for others. Policy and procedure training for new employees likely does not require privacy. But potentially emotional topics such as divorce and parenting certainly do. The ability to complete this type of training in a private time and space supports learners’ success.
Ensure that everyone participates equally.
It’s just a fact: some people are quiet, and some are chatty. In live training, a very skilled instructor may be able to draw out a reserved student and gently suppress their talkative neighbor. But you will never achieve—or have time for—every student to fully participate in every discussion or share their results from every activity. One of the benefits of eLearning is that every student, even the quiet ones, must fully complete any required component before continuing.
Increase the odds that a student uses a resource after training.
One of the benefits of eLearning is the ability to immediately and seamlessly link to online resources. For example, in the parenting class, we link learners to a very helpful guide that helps divorced/separated couples plan parenting time. We display an image of the Table of Contents with hot spots for topics we especially want parents to explore. Then we encourage them to “consider creating a bookmark on your electronic device to easily find [the guide] in the future." This boosts the likelihood that students will use this resource in the future since it is already linked/downloaded on their devices.
The research is in. eLearning offers benefits that other methods of delivering training just can’t match. Consider eLearning if you’re looking for flexibility, savings, and scalability. If you want to cut out the middle person, deliver consistent content, respect privacy, ensure that everyone participates, and increase the odds that a student uses a resource after training—well, you know what to do!
Of course, that assumes that your eLearning courses are, you know, good. To be sure your eLearning gets results, read Interactive Online Courses: The Big Picture to Help You Achieve Great Results. This article outlines the principle behind which interactive elements make online training courses effective and describes specific instructional goals you can achieve with different types of interactions.
So, is eLearning perfect? No. If you want to explore the advantages and disadvantages of eLearning, check out eLearning: Powerful Advantages Plus a Few Disadvantages and How to Overcome Them. (Spoiler alert: As the title implies, in this article we’ve also included a tried-and-true strategy to mitigate the negative implications for each disadvantage.)