CONCERNS ABOUT TECHNOLOGY-BASED LEARNING

Technology, with its many forms and features, is here to stay. Its growth is inevitable and its use is predestined. At the same time, some concerns must be addressed about the accountability and success of technology-based learning. Three critical issues create a dilemma: the need for business results, the executive view, and a lack of results.

The Need for Business Results

Most would agree that any large expenditure in an organization should in some way be connected to business success. Even in nonbusiness settings, large investments should connect to organizational measures of output, quality, cost, and time—classic measure categories of hard data that exist in any type of organization. In a review of articles, reports, books, and blogs about learning through technology, the emphasis is on making a business connection. For example, in the book Learning Everywhere: How Mobile Content Strategies Are Transforming Training (2012) author Chad Udell makes the case for connecting mobile learning to businesses measures. He starts by listing the important measures that are connected to the business. A sampling is shown in Table 1-1.

Udell goes on to say that mobile learning should connect to any of these, and he takes several measures step-by-step to show how, in practical and logical thinking, a mobile learning solution can drive any or all of these measures. He concludes by suggesting that if an organization is investing in mobile learning or any other type of learning, it needs to connect to these business measures. Otherwise, it shouldn't be pursued. This dramatic call for accountability is not that unusual.

Table 1-1. High-Level Business Benefits From Mobile Learning

Decreased Product Returns

Reduced Incidents

Increased Productivity

Decreased Defects

Increased Accuracy

Increased Shipments

Fewer Mistakes

On-Time Shipments

Reduced Rise

Decreased Cycle Time

Increased Sales

Less Downtime

Less Waste

Reduced Operating Cost

Fewer Accidents

Fewer Customer Complaints

Fewer Compliance Discrepancies

Reduced Response Time to Customers

Source: Adapted from Udell, C. (2012). Learning Everywhere: How Mobile Content Strategies are Transforming Training. Nashville, TN: Rockbench Publishing (co-published with ASTD Press).

The Executive View

Those who fund budgets are adamant about seeing the connection. Yes, these executives realize that employees must learn through technology, using the devices, while being actively involved in the process and enrolled in the programs. But more importantly, they must use what they've learned and have the business impact. Top executives weighed in on this issue in an important study sponsored by ASTD (Measuring for Success: What CEOs Really Think About Learning Investment, 2010). In a study of large company CEOs, particularly the Fortune 500 group, the executives indicated the extent to which they see certain type of metrics connected to learning now, what they would like to see in the future, and the ranking of these measures. Table 1-2 shows the results.

Clearly, this table shows that regardless of what method of learning is used, executives want to see the business connection. In total, 96 percent of them want to see business impact, but only 8 percent see it now. Surprisingly, 74 percent would like to see the ROI on learning, and yet only 4 percent see it now. Even for application, the use of the learning on the job, 61 percent wanted to see this data, and only 11 percent see it now. Clearly, the measures that executives want to see are not being pursued to a significant degree by the learning and development team, regardless of whether learning is technology based or classroom based. Table 1-2. Executive View of Learning Investments

Measure

We Currently Measure This

We Should Measure This in the Future

My Ranking of the Importance of This Measure

Inputs: “Last year, 78,000 employees received formal learning.”

94%

85%

6

Efficiency: “Formal learning costs $2.15 per hour of learning consumed.”

78%

82%

7

Reaction: “Employees rated our training very high, averaging 4.2 out of 5.”

53%

22%

8

Learning: “92% of participants increased knowledge and skills.”

32%

28%

5

Application: “At least 78% of employees are using the skills on the job.”

11%

61%

4

Impact: “Our programs are driving our top five business measures in the organization.”

8%

96%

1

ROI: “Five ROI studies were conducted on major programs, yielding an average of 68% ROI.”

4%

74%

2

Awards: “Our learning and development program won an award from the American Society of Training

& Development.”

40%

44%

3

 
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