EIGHT. What Else Affects Your E-Learning Solution?

The perfect e-learning solution is elusive. This shouldn't surprise you since the perfect solution to any business problem is elusive. Real-world factors like time and money muddy the waters.

The important point I want to make here is this: You don't have to implement the perfect e-learning solution. The perfect solution will probably cost you more than you're willing to spend and take you longer than you want to wait. You need acceptable solutions that you can get up and running so that your e-learning can return business benefits.

-1. What factors affect your e-learning solution?

- There are only a handful of factors that influence how big and complex your e-learning solution will be.

- These are the factors you trade off in order to come up with an acceptable (but probably imperfect) e-learning solution.

Tell Me More

If you think of your e-learning situation as a sheet of plastic, these factors are like sets of hands grasping the edge of that sheet and pulling it in different directions. The sheet will be stretched into a final shape based on the relative strength of each pair of hands as they pull in different directions.

The following table summarizes the major factors (sets of hands) that pull your e-learning solution in different directions.

Factor

Description

1. Learning problem/budget

Does your budget match your problem—big to big or small to small? Or do you have a mismatch of small to big?

2. Number of students

Are you looking to train dozens or hundreds of thousands of students with e-learning?

3. Student time available for training

Can the students spend weeks or only a couple of hours in training?

4. Time to build

Do you have months or days to develop the training course?

5. Deadline for training everyone

Do you have a deadline to get people to a certain training level? For example, all salespeople need to be trained by September. When deadlines are a key factor, you might look closer at less than ideal but still effective solutions.

6. Long-term

versus short-term shelf life

Will the e-learning training you create be good for years, or is it a one-shot deal?

7. Starting and ending skill levels

Is your training focused on new skills or on update information for people who already have the skills?

8. Need for an instructor

Do you need instructors for the training, or can you use self-directed e-learning?

9. Need for collaboration

Do you need students to interact with other students? How should the instructor interact with students?

10. Measurement

needs

What degree of student achievement will be satisfactory for your training? How will you be able to tell?

Each of these is further discussed in question/answer sections in this chapter.

-2. How does the learning problem/budget affect your e-learning solution?

- Your budget is perhaps the thing that most affects your e-learning approach.

Tell Me More

Does your budget match your problem—big to big or small to small? Or do you have a mismatch of small budget to big problem? (If you only have $2,000 for a car, you're first headed toward the used car lot, not the Rolls Royce dealership.)

Your budget is perhaps the thing that most affects your e-learning approach. If you're reading this book in page order, then you've already seen a lot of how the learning problem and the cost can range widely:

- Chapter 2 of this book discussed how a learning problem can come in many shapes and sizes.

- Chapter 3 looked at the various costs of e-learning and the general shape of a cost/benefit ROI.

In general, if you have a small budget, you'll need to start looking at low-cost approaches even if that approach is imperfect. You may face the situation where you can return lots of benefits from a planned e-learning system, but you just don't have the budget to get it working the exact way you want it to right now. So do you do nothing? Of course not. If you can't solve the whole problem with your existing budget, then you take bite-size chunks of the problem and make progress. Then you take another bite-size chunk a little later.

Other times, however, what's at stake is so important that the budget is almost irrelevant. If it's a "do or die" situation for your business, then you do what you have to do. Of course, "do or die" situations don't happen too often.

You can conclude that the budget will have more of an effect on learning solutions when there is less immediately at stake than when there are critical things at stake. The following table reminds you of the range of business impact (stakes) for the case studies described in Chapter 2.

What's at Stake?

E-Learning Case Studies from Chapter 2

Immediate business impact (revenue, sales, ability to run

the business)

Case Study 1. Product sales update training. Training all salespersons quickly is critically important because your company's sales revenue depends on it.

Case Study 2. Technical certification training. Losing certified engineers means losing business.

Case Study 4. Business tools training if the new technical tool is critical to your business. Otherwise, it's less urgent.

Case Study 11. Legal compliance training, if the regulation compliance is critical to being able to run your business.

High business impact but plays out over a short period of time (not immediate)

Case Study 3. Professional competency training. Training will occur over months and even years, so a small delay will be only a small problem.

Case Study 5. Technical skills training. While training is important, it could be delayed without immediate business impact.

Case Study 7. New salesperson training in "how to sell." If the new salesperson can't sell, he's not doing the job you hired him for.

Case Study 10. Informal technical seminars. While training is important, it could be delayed without immediate business impact.

Mostly moderate business impact that plays out over a moderate amount of time

Case Study 6. "Ongoing professional" training. While training is important, it could be delayed without immediate business impact.

Moderate business impact that plays out over a long period of time

Case Study 8. New-hire training. While training is important, many employees (but not all) will figure it out on their own, but you won't project a "caring image."

Case Study 9. New HR benefits. While training is important, many employees (but not all) will figure it out on their own, but you won't project a "caring image."

 
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