Employers 'don't get' e-learning and workers don't like it

Apr 13 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Businesses have fundamentally failed to understand how e-learning technology should work, and as a result are not getting the most benefit from it, an academic has argued.

Howard Noble, learning technologist at Oxford University, speaking to specialist newspaper Computer Weekly, has said most employers see e-learning as technology that enables a single person to learn from a screen.

In fact, if an organisation wanted to maximise its e-learning potential it should be looking at collaboration among a group, he said.

"Learning normally happens when groups of individuals collaborate to complete well-designed learning activities," he told the newspaper.

"Technology helps us do this in two ways: it helps us form and facilitate new types of collaboration between learners and experts, and it helps us represent knowledge in new ways."

His criticisms echo concerns raised by employers, including the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, that businesses often invest heavily in e-learning technology without thinking through how it is actually going to be used.

Employees, in turn, have complained that off-the-shelf packages are often irrelevant and too "American" and that they are often expected to do the learning in their free time.

The growth and development of e-learning would only increase if public perceptions of it changed, Noble agreed.

"We need to remove the 'e' from e-learning so that use of technology is seen as part of normal learning experience," he said.

Businesses needed to think about what benefits or outcomes they wanted to achieve, and link the technology to that, not the other way around.

It was also important clearly to communicate both to managers and employees the benefits of using e-learning technology, as its advantages were always immediately tangible, Noble said.

"The goal of an e-learning strategy should be seen as developing the technological environment and business processes that help employees share and generate knowledge that contributes to the success of the business strategy," he explained.