Do you still have to sell eLearning to your boss?

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So you’re in charge of your organization’s Training and Development function. You’ve evaluated several training alternatives and you’re convinced that eLearning could be the answer to at least a few of your organization’s knowledge and skill upgradation needs. Now you have to bell the cat. How are you going to sell this to your boss? She’s practical, results-oriented, and on a tight schedule, and if she thinks you’re wasting her time, she’s unlikely to be amenable to your ideas.

The Preparation Before you venture into her office, make sure you’ve done your homework. Do you know what eLearning is today? Do you know what forms it can take? Do you know your organization’s pain areas? What about your boss’ pain areas? And do you know which of those could be resolved through eLearning solutions, and how? If you’ve answered no to any of these, then you may want to consider trying your luck another day.

The Strategy
Okay, so once in, your mandate is to convince your boss that eLearning beats classroom training and workshops on all fronts, right? Um, nope. It’s really not about eLearning versus classroom training; rather, it’s about which forms of Learning delivery are suitable for achieving which desired outcomes, how well designed they are, and how they fit into your overall training and learning strategy. In other words, look at eLearning as a part of your learning mix, not the whole.

This doesn’t mean you set out to declaim a long list of eLearning’s benefits. These have already been established, and your boss is probably aware of them.

Instead, put the benefits of eLearning into context and tell her how well-designed eLearning customized to your organization’s unique needs can solve some of those pain areas.

Stress that this eLearning can come in different sizes and shapes; some might be half-hour introductory pieces on general topics, while others can be delivered in small, targeted pieces that are relevant, to the point, and available on demand to fill a specific skill gap.

Tell her how learning sources move with you as you can access them from laptops, mobile phones, PDAs, and other hand held devices, and how cloud computing is allowing learning sources to become accessible from anywhere, anytime.

eLearning has been around for a long time now and much has been written about its benefits.

Way back in 2005, Jenna Sweeney compiled a list of these in the “Benefits of e-Learning”.

A couple of years later, Clive Shepherd, in “Elearning: Is it time to party?” took a look back and declared that “Elearning has grown up – it’s more real-time, more rapid and more collaborative”.

A couple more years down the line, here’s what several experts had to say when Ron Chapman declared eLearning a fad.

And according to the Global Industry Analysts Inc.’s “e-Learning – Global Strategic Report” (May 2008), “the world eLearning market is projected to exceed US$52.6 billion by 2010”.

Tell her she’ll get hooked – that’s right, hooked. To games. Because well-designed games offer immersive, challenging, non-traditional, and fun learning environments where learners practice knowledge and skill application – and compete – to attain defined learning outcomes.

Perhaps your boss believes strongly in transfer of knowledge through face-to-face experience sharing. Because she knows through personal experience that it works. Reassure her that eLearning doesn’t mean you’ll be barred from interacting with experienced instructors and experts. It doesn’t necessarily do away with all classroom sessions, nor does it eliminate peer interaction.

Tell her about how virtual classrooms, wikis, podcasts, and social news and networking sites are being used to create, capture, share, respond to, and enhance learning. Tell her how you can follow and interact with experts on blogs and micro-blogs, participate in webinars and video conferences, access and share bookmarks, and attend a classroom session in a virtual world. And tell her that all these can be components of an eLearning solution.

The Process Recommendation
Your boss is prudent. And so she should be. So tell her you’ll run a pilot project first, with a control group of learners whose performance could be tracked on a free or less costly hosted LMS.

The End
In short, the decision about whether or not to go in for “eLearning” isn’t about all or nothing. Convince your boss to adopt eLearning as a part of your training and development mix. Getting the size or proportion of that part right for your unique set of needs and circumstances is winning half the battle. The other half is getting the right kind of eLearning component(s) – those that are instructionally effective – and the right mix of presentation and delivery media.

Let us know if you have any specific objection which you can’t overcome. Chances are we can help…

Good luck!

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