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eLearning is quickly becoming a ubiquitous form of teaching that companies use to train their workforce. Since its inception, eLearning has expanded into a wide range of applications, from educational curriculum (like Khan Academy) to specialized environmental compliance training (like Mapistry). But, how can eLearning be used to augment your current training programs? Should it be complementary to or substituted for in-person training? And is online learning effective and affordable? Before we can answer these questions, let’s start with the basics.

What is eLearning?

eLearning refers to utilizing online technology (usually web-based) in order to access educational material outside of a physical classroom or training session. High-quality eLearning courses share a few similar characteristics. As a web-based technology, eLearning enables self-paced education of concise, “microlearning” courses that offer relevant and interactive content. Microlearning is pursued in a number of different ways, but how we accomplish this at Mapistry is by creating small digestible chunks of high impact learning points that can stand alone, or exist in a larger course. Microlearning is also a way of gaining traction with your users. Immediate, responsive feedback is essential and keeping the experience short and sweet will lead to better retention and more satisfied users.

eLearning, much like traditional classroom learning, has two parts: 1) the classes and 2) the school. The online courses are the classes and the learning management system is the school where learner’s sign in to take their classes, get their grades, communicate with instructors, and beyond! Some companies have their own tracking system or LMS. In addition to having our own tracking and reporting system for all of your users we also have the ability to plug into any of our client’s LMS.

Many eLearning programs also gamify learning material to encourage user engagement and decrease the stress many of us feel in traditional classroom settings. In short, eLearning is an effective tool for the education of a large workforce while maximizing engagement and knowledge retention of the individual user. And since many people can access online courses simultaneously, eLearning easily scales to be cost-effective.

What are the values and limitations of traditional training?

While there’s no doubt that in-person training can provide a personal touch and allow for active QA and audience participation, there are significant limitations to this type of training that can lead to higher costs and staff overhead.

Though this may sound counterintuitive, how many times have you hired an employee right after the yearly training seminar? Did you give the new hire a one-on-one session or did you wait for the seminar next year? How many people in your workforce could fall into this undertrained bucket?

Here we see the drawbacks of in-person training. Quarterly – or even annual – training can be prohibitively expensive when determining your ROI. Travel cost of training personnel, overtime payments for classroom sessions, facility shutdowns during training are just some costs to consider in your program. Moreover, if training occurs less frequently, process failures or noncompliance pose significant business risks, including disruption of customer-facing and internal operations, not to mention potential fines, penalties, and reputational damage. Unfortunately, these costs add up and it’s not scalable.

For example, let’s say you have 25 people that need to attend a 1-day mandatory compliance training. Here are the estimated costs you might incur:

Source: Altman, Ian (2014) Forbes. Online.

It can be challenging to determine how to spend your precious training dollars, but the cost savings of moving to an eLearning strategy are impressive — from our example, you can see that a facility could save $29k by deciding to move at least one of their trainings online.

How eLearning bridges the gap?

An eLearning course done right can address some of the issues inherent in traditional training. On one side you have the first generation of “eLearning” which is basically reading bullets off of a piece of paper or screen. This form of training, however, does not appeal to all the learners’ senses. The learners’ senses are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (or interactive). A good eLearning course (on the other side of the spectrum) will tap into all three of these senses rather than just one. Engagement and retention go hand-in-hand. Engagement is a matter of getting the user’s attention and retention is making the most of it. Retention will be the highest across the board when you have appealed to all of the learner’s senses.

For example, with Mapistry, one central goal of our eLearning solution is to deliver a learning format that’s compelling, engaging, and fun! Also, because our audience is industrial manufacturers it’s important for us to deliver a realistic experience so concepts can easily flow from the screen into the real world — we do this by simulating a facility context and process that best matches your industry and training needs.  

So, how does this impact your training ROI? One of the simplest ways that makes eLearning so effective for companies of all sizes is by making training accessible. Think back 30 years ago to when you wanted to listen to a specific song, what did you have to do? You had to find a blank tape (or one worth recording over), find a radio with a cassette recorder, and wait for the song to come on the radio. Hopefully, you pressed record in time and you didn’t have to jam a pencil in the reel! Now, we don’t even have to lift a finger. eLearning is the same way. It is on-demand access at the user’s convenience, and they can easily revisit specific information if needed. No need to block for annual training or shut down operations for a classroom session. Staff can complete these courses at their convenience and pace, and you can rest easy knowing your team has been properly trained (and you can ensure training completion via backdoor metrics and accountability tracking).

How have we applied these concepts to stormwater training?

Mapistry’s instructional design team has been hard at work ensuring that our training system incorporates all the benefits that eLearning has to offer. We create interactive and engaging online learning tools that are accessible to anyone on your team at their convenience. Animated, customizable features allow for direct engagement with best management practices and potential pollutants specifically relevant to YOUR facilities.

And, with a range of training material –  from general awareness to more granular tutorials – we can help you optimize the correct learning programs to increase user knowledge retention, provide visibility into your training program, and positively impact your bottom line. Class is in session, sign up to learn more or watch our recent our eLearning webinar to see one of our courses in action!

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