The e-learning industry is currently worth nearly US$6 billion in the US and an estimated 77% of American companies are using online learning to develop and retain staff.
When employees are engaged and actively growing, they are committed, according to Anton Cabral, managing executive of LRMG Performance Agency. “In South Africa, where an estimated 50% of top performers within a company are continually on the lookout for new jobs, and highly-skilled applicants are sometimes few and far between, retaining valuable staff and upskilling those with potential is a wise move,” he said, adding that current statistics show that there are 4.6 million unemployed people in South Africa.
“Compounding this is an economy where most school leavers/graduates are not ready for the job market.” E-learning comprises all forms of electronically supported training. It should offer “a vibrant and interactive learning platform that seeks to keep learners engaged throughout the intervention”.
According to Cabral, the e-learning training platform is fast becoming the most beneficial business tool to date. He encouraged businesses to get on board so that they don’t get left behind. “Africa has the highest growth rates in the world for self-paced e-learning products and services.
Supply and demand for e-learning in South Africa is evolving so quickly that defining the size of the industry is no easy task. Quality e-learning, however, is simple to describe,” Cabral said.
Access to knowledge when users need it
The dynamic nature of quality e-learning gives end-users access to knowledge when they need it, as they need it. “If your staff has a need in their real work environment, they should be empowered by specific, customised solutions to satisfy that need and ultimately increase their performance,” said Cabral. “The knock-on effect of having employees actively engaged in their self-improvement is clear.
Blending various methods is important to create these benchmark experiences,” Cabral said, adding that the use of visuals, infographics, video, gamification, and scenario-based training makes the experience memorable and appealing.
“Each solution should include a wow factor to ensure the interaction is desirable. This will inspire learners to persevere which will lead to them achieving their potential,” said Cabral. “It is also important to incorporate conventional face-to-face strategies in order to ensure that learning is applied and practised.”
Theoretical concepts must be presented with interesting and animated screens avoiding a “wall of words” on paper. On a fundamental level, this means that e-learning keeps the learners’ hands and eyes busy, which, along with quality content, translates into an engaged mind and translated information.
Obtaining high-quality e-learning content is critical to success, whether this be generic or custom built. Common development needs that cross borders of organisations and industries can be effectively addressed with generic content, provided it is current and well designed.
LRMG Performance Agency works with global industry leaders like SkillSoft and Harvard Business Publishing as their sound instructional design principles and ongoing investments in research and development continue to turn out best-of-breed innovative generic online learning solutions.
We need to adjust the way we learn
As the way we work continues to evolve in this technology-enabled world, we need to adjust the way we learn as well. This is emphasised by the 70:20:10 framework, which has shifted awareness to the interdependence existing between learning and working. e-learning then offers an effective, flexible and sustainable way to bring formal learning closer to the learner at the time of need.
Supported by cutting-edge technology, the anytime-anywhere convenience of e-learning means it can be paused and then picked up again later at the learner’s/manager’s discretion. The functionality of the solution is critical as it eases learning and ensures reusability in different environments. Language and graphics must be of the highest quality and the objectives and expectations set out at the onset.
Suitably structured learning means that staff will spend less time away from their desks. Having learners receive standardised material heightens communication and synergy in the work environment. Travel and hotel costs are reduced as less tutor-led courses are required. In the long term, e-learning can result in a dramatic drop in training costs.
e-learning also extends one’s reach immensely. In a classroom, knowledge can be shared with 20 to 40 people, for example. On a shared portal, like a learning management system, the number of people that can benefit from standardised information is potentially limitless.
e-learning in Africa
Many organisations in Africa who choose e-learning also benefit from overcoming language, literacy and numeracy gaps by investing in specifically visual material that makes training accessible to all staff, irrespective of differing education and socio-economic levels.
“We are not a cookie-cutter factory,” said Cabral. “It is our role to improve performance and the only way to do that is to change behaviour,” he said, adding that this is achieved by engaging with the audience and giving them a positive experience.
Gone are the days of video lectures and electronic page turners – what Cabral terms as “glorified e-book/PowerPoint presentations on steroids”. “Although these modes still have a place in the quick-to-market and promoting awareness areas, we must advocate real, quality e-learning in order to really affect change in the workplace.”
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