It was a hot day in the middle of a hot Texas summer. I’d decided to complete my foreign language credit in summer school and was sitting in the testing center at the local community college. It was finals day. The way it worked here was that all foreign language students met together in a large testing room regardless of the language studied. I was wrapping up my own test when I heard a man yell “Je finis!” at the top of his lungs. He stood, arms outstretched in front of the bank of computers, in pure bliss. I came to learn he had just completed the final requirement for his degree. It was a French exam. Hilariously, he yelled out “I finish.” in French. Never mind conjugating the verb, his education was complete. The rest of us applauded. We didn’t even know him, but we knew the joy we would feel when school was officially over.
Little did we know we would join the corporate world to hear things like, “At XYZ Company, we’re committed to lifelong learning.” or “Your orientation will last a week and in that time, you’ll complete 50 hours of training.” The point is, our education, whether formal or informal, is never really complete. And in 2021, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an organization that is not incorporating e-learning into its strategy.
Let’s take a look at corporate e-learning in general and make the case for custom e-learning solutions as an ideal choice. Finally, we’ll consider ways you can use corporate online learning in your training plan if you haven’t done so already.
Corporate E-Learning: An Overview
Corporate learning comes in all shapes and sizes: conferences, instructor-led training, workshops, on-the-job training, coaching, virtual instructor-led training, public webinars, the list goes on. Where does e-learning fit in the mix? Corporate e-learning allows organizations to train employees virtually any time, anywhere. Good corporate e-learning engages employees to learn, practice, and improve their skills, making them happier and more productive while offering a solid return on investment to the organization.
How does corporate e-learning compare to a traditional classroom-based training solution?
I’ve been in learning and development for 25 years. Most of those were spent doing corporate learning at the front of a classroom. I trained in public environments (lots of people from lots of different companies coming together to learn a skill) and on-site at companies (people from one company looking for a more tailored take on a particular skill). And now, I spend my days steeped in e-learning.
I share this because I think all learning has value. I’ve had transformational classroom experiences that would be hard to replicate in e-learning. And I’ve absolutely learned skills in e-learning that no instructor would take the time to do in a classroom. They both have value.
And yet, I’ve noticed a change in how our clients talk about the two in recent years when discussing their corporate training solution.
When I first started in e-learning, the benefits people talked about were about time—we can effectively cover the same material in less time; money—while e-learning is an upfront investment, companies saved money on travel, time away from work, etc.; and testing—training managers loved the idea of being able to quantify learning through regular knowledge checks.
Lately, the message has changed. When I ask clients why they’re moving their corporate learning to more e-learning, they still mention those things, but they’re adding comments like, we’re finding our retention rates are better—employees remember more from their e-learning than they did sitting in a classroom. Or, our team prefers e-learning because they can connect the learning to what they’re doing on the job. They don’t want to discuss a theory, they want to practice a skill and get feedback instantly.
I am not one who believes one type of training is inherently better than another. There are too many variables at play to quantify that: the topic, the quality of instruction, the need, the learner’s interest, the day of the week, you get the idea. That said, I do strongly believe a strategy that leaves out custom corporate e-learning is dangerous in today’s world. While the mass shift to remote work in 2020 was a game changer, the migration to e-learning was taking place long before that.
Why are custom online courses an ideal corporate training solution?
There are many off-the-shelf e-learning options available in the marketplace today. They have a place in your strategy, particularly when you’re training on a generic skill. For example, if you need your staff to know the basics of the Microsoft Office tools, it is reasonable to look to a library of online learning resources to boost their skill. However, if you need your team to use your proprietary software, building a custom e-learning course is the way to go. More on that later.
Let’s explore some of the benefits of choosing e-learning.
E-learning is an engaging corporate training solution.
Have you ever left a classroom training not really knowing if you “got it.” I know I have. So much of the time in classroom training, we turn to our neighbor and talk about how to do something—have a difficult conversation, prospect for more sales, make good decisions, troubleshoot a problem—but we never actually DO the thing. Let’s face it, it’s easy to spend a day in a conference room or on a webinar just listening and pontificating.
This is not the case with a well-designed e-learning course. Here, you may have to solve a case study, or plan your script, or pass a writing test. Adult learners want to be engaged and want to be accountable. I’m the first to admit that bad e-learning is painful. But quality corporate e-learning engages learners and builds practical skills along the way. Check out these examples to see what we mean:
E-learning courses can increase the retention of corporate learning topics.
You’ve probably heard the maxim attributed to Confucius, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” I’m pretty confident, he wasn’t referring to e-learning when he said it, but there really is a connection between doing something and understanding it better and remembering it later. I am 100% confident I could never have learned Snapchat by watching my teenagers navigate it at lightning speed. I had to slow down and do it myself before I became a master at turning myself into a 20-year old with glasses and teddy bear ears.
I know, silly example, but it proves that practice is essential to skill-building. Here’s another example. You may have learned in your annual compliance training that you need a secure password. And yet, you also know there are people in your organization that think "password123" is secure. What if that employee spent just 5 minutes practicing choosing a secure password? Do you think they'd be better at identifying one?
Corporate e-learning can facilitate training for geographically dispersed employees.
If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us we can actually be productive without being in the same building every day. Chances are if you did not already have an e-learning strategy in place, you were scrambling to make corporate online training happen with a team of newly remote employees. You probably came to know Zoom or Microsoft Teams overnight and learned more about your team’s pets than you needed to know. With the help of experts, many L&D professionals shepherded us all through the early days of pandemic life.
For years we’ve helped clients with geographically diverse teams by designing custom corporate e-learning, often translating the content to serve learners in many languages. The beauty of e-learning is that your course is ready for your learners wherever they are.
Corporate online learning is more flexible for busy learners in a fast-paced environment.
It’s common for us to hear things from our clients like, “It has to be less than 20 minutes or people won’t take it.” Or, “Make sure it can be viewed on a phone. We never know where people are taking our course.” While I don’t advocate employees cramming any learning into their 10-minute break, we have to understand that employees are busy.
We do find that custom e-learning can be more efficient than classroom training. In most cases, we can cut the time in half. In e-learning, we don’t have to go around the room and introduce ourselves; we can tell one well-crafted story instead of the two we might tell in person and we can design a short activity that replaces a 20-minute in-person conversation.
The takeaway is to let the learning drive the length of the course. In doing so, you’ll also serve the needs of your busy workforce.
Corporate e-learning can be more cost-effective over time.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had an unlimited budget for our training efforts? Sadly, we’re all managing budgets and trying to get the most out of our training dollars. Commonly, clients ask about the cost of e-learning compared to instructor-led training.
Here’s what we generally find. The development costs for e-learning are more than the development costs for classroom training. How much more? Now we’re back to all the variables, but for the sake of argument, let’s say seven times more.
How can it be more cost-effective, then?
When you budget for an e-learning course, you’re in essence paying 90% of it upfront. We do recommend budgeting for maintenance costs over time.
When you budget for an instructor-led course, you’re just getting started with developing the course. You also may be paying for trainers, train the trainer costs, facilities, travel, food and beverage, materials, technology, flip charts, etc. Most of those costs occur every time you deploy the course. Suddenly the difference in development costs is eaten up by the maintenance costs of ILT.
Look at your costs over time to determine the return on investment for your corporate e-learning courses.
Corporate e-learning can be a continuous training process, rather than a one-time event.
For many organizations, by the time they pay to put people in a training room, they want to get the most out of their investment. With e-learning, there is much more flexibility to build skills over time. We’ve done this in a variety of ways. Here are some favorites:
- Build a training plan over time. Rather than develop one e-learning course, we can build several shorter courses that meet the learners' needs at different stages of their work. Imagine an onboarding course for all employees that introduces them to the core business. Instead of a long-form course, what about building three shorter courses to be rolled out on day 5, day 30, and day 90.
- Developing a booster course. It’s common for there to be a lapse between when you learn something new and when you need it. How about building a full course and a booster. The booster can be created with slides from the main course and serve as a quick, just-in-time reminder for the employee.
- Creating skill builders to complement a course. Whether the main course is instructor-led, video-based, or traditional e-learning, why not add a skill builder that offers the learner a chance to practice?
How can you use custom corporate online learning in your training?
By now, I hope you see the benefits of corporate e-learning. Earlier, I mentioned the difference between off-the-shelf e-learning and custom work and promised more on that later. Well, it’s later.
You may be asking yourself how to decide when it’s worth it to build a course rather than buy a course. The first thing that likely comes to mind is money. Custom work is more expensive so you want to choose well. Here are some things to consider.
- Are you teaching a proprietary skill? Perhaps an internal software program?
- Do you need to incorporate your culture? Even though you can buy a generic customer service course, will it match your organization’s culture if it’s not custom?
- Is your branding important? Does it matter that the course represents you and your branding?
- Are you looking to do something eye-catching, engaging, with a wow factor? We’ve built many compliance courses because clients want a highly engaging course to get people’s attention.
- Does an off-the-shelf course even exist? Sometimes the choice is made for you.
A lot goes into the development of a custom corporate e-learning course. At Artisan, we believe in building your perfect solution. For us, that takes great people and a proven process. Our team will meet you where you are. We start with our instructional design team who can help you build objectives and outlines, and write an engaging, action-based storyboard. Once that’s approved, you’ll work with our development team that makes your course come to life. Our team of QA specialists, browser testers, audio experts, and project administrators pay attention to every single detail. All the while, our project managers are the stewards of your schedule and budget.
If you’re looking for a trusted partner, we’d love to hear from you.
To learn more about custom corporate e-learning, explore the following additional resources:
- Custom E-Learning Development. Explore our process for creating custom e-learning courses at Artisan E-Learning.
- E-Learning Content Development Companies & Strategy Partners. To find a partner for all of your e-learning content development needs and more, check out this comprehensive list.
- Microlearning: A Comprehensive Guide & Tips for Your Courses. Microlearning is trending in e-learning development, but is it the right tool for your team? Learn more in this guide.