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The benefits of e-learning in a new technological era

This is a guest post from Jessica Freeman.

We live in an era where the popularity of digital solutions is increasing in almost every domain of activity. Everything is changing, and that is because of the fast-paced development of technology. In every field, you can now find digital software, professional tools, and innovative solutions for almost every possible problem.

Education and training is one of the fields that currently evolves at an extremely fast rate. E-learning is a key trend which has emerged in the last several years. Traditional learning is becoming less and less efficient, because people are becoming more accustomed to interacting with technology in every aspect of their lives, and they expect to use it to learn too. For some of the youngest people entering the workforce today, it's hard to remember a time with no instant messaging, no ebooks, no online courses, and especially no video or audio courses. Things have changed, and we are presently witnessing a big boom in the e-learning industry which is only set to continue.

Did you know that the e-learning activity can increase your retention rate by 25-60%? In contrast, traditional face-to-face learning is thought to linger around 8-10%. Also, since 2000, the growth of the e-learning industry is showing 900% growth, owing to its growing popularity and usage. In this post, we’ll look at the benefits of e-learning in today's technology-focused world, and we will also tackle some of the perceived drawbacks of e-learning.

Benefit #1: E-learning is flexible

Learning from digital courses and resources is an extremely flexible activity. You can often set your own schedule, work on the road and make your learning fit around you. This enables you to use your time more efficiently, rather than having to step away from your job to learn at a specific time for a lengthy face-to-face workshop. This allows busy employees to create a learning schedule which better suits them, and may even enable people to learn more regularly as they can set time aside to do short bursts of learning.

Benefit #2: E-learning can be inexpensive

Face-to-face training can be expensive when you factor in the cost of finding a trainer, booking a venue and any equipment and transporting everyone to the venue; not to mention any associated food or accommodation costs. E-learning can be a significantly cheaper way to deliver learning at scale, as everyone can access learning online from their devices. There are thousands of e-learning providers to choose from globally, so you can find a vendor to suit your budget. Alternatively, if you have the capacity in house, you can opt to design your own learning using an e-learning authoring tool.

Benefit #3: More choice

E-learning gives people access to more learning than ever before. Even through an internal LMS, employees can explore more learning to complement their mandatory training. For example, an employee may learn topics from two or three unrelated fields at once. While some organisations prefer their learners to follow a specific learning path, others may prefer to let people find their own resources to enhance their understanding. This is very different to the traditional face-to-face experience, where you will learn only what is covered in the course for which you signed up.

Benefit #4: Cultivates self-discipline

When there's no one to dictate when and where you should learn, you must do it yourself. Self-discipline is essential for self-guided e-learning programmes in order to remain productive. E-learning allows learners to take control and access learning as and when they need it, which is essential for their ongoing development.

Mary Watson, HR and social media manager at Australianwritings, says: “When you embark on an e-learning journey, be prepared to come across some disempowering situations, and be ready to tackle them all.”

This means that if you fail an assessment or don't achieve one of your learning goals in time, it's not the end of the world - the beauty of e-learning is that you can move at a pace that suits you, and revisit material that you struggle with to ensure you succeed in improving your performance.

Potential drawback #1: Lack of motivation

One of the key perceived disadvantages of e-learning that many individuals report is the lack of motivation that may occur. Even if you’re motivated when you start the programme, the whole process is useless if you lose the motivation after a few weeks. However, this can be remedied by reinforcing why the learning is important to the individual, as well as by introducing elements of gamification, such as leaderboards, points systems and incentives to maintain motivation.

Potential drawback #2: No social environment

One drawback of e-learning is that many believe they will be learning completely alone without the social element of classroom training or seminars. That is why it can be beneficial to reintroduce the social element with a social learning platform like Totara Social, or to keep some of the face-to-face workshops with a blended programme. This will help your learners strike the balance between focused online learning and social interaction.

Potential drawback #3: Nobody to help

Some organisations worry that introducing e-learning means that people won't have access to instant help as and when they need it. This is why social learning platforms can be so useful; they allow people to ask questions of their network, access community-created knowledge banks or start chats to find the answers they need immediately.

Potential drawback #4: No feedback

Some skills or behaviours will require a lot of feedback or input from a mentor or manager to ensure the learner stays on track. However, delivering learning via a learning management system like Totara LMS means that instructors can give feedback directly through the platform for a permanent record of what the learner needs to improve. This can help managers track progress and implementation of feedback over time, helping them understand how learners' performance is developing over time.

Why e-learning, why now?

In an era where technology is so prevalent, learners expect to be able to access their learning online. There are many benefits of offering e-learning to your employees and wider audiences, and many of the common misconceptions can be solved with some creativity and thoughtful learning design.

Jessica Freeman is passionate about content writing and journalism. She finds her calling in making others interested in topics of education, technology, and career developments. Meet her on Facebook and Google+.

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