Will the e-learning light finally turn on for all?

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How many

  • Remember when you first used a 14.4K modem? What about 56K? 
  • Remember when you first heard the word “broadband”?
  • Remember when you had a paper based course with the add-on of a CBT?

How many of you

  • Remember when CBT (Computer Based Training) was all the rage?
  • Remember when having a blended program meant having a paper based course and classroom ?
  • Remember having your learners sit in a room to watch new training on a video tape or via a DVD?
  • Remember providing trainees with a training manual which was massive in size?

Now ask yourself

  • Do you remember when you first heard the term “e-learning”?
  • Do you remember the first time you knew that learning could be “in the cloud” and not sitting on your servers?
  • Do you remember when the “light” turned on and you thought to yourself, this is the future of learning?

 For the vast majority of folks who provide training/learning this “light” has yet to be turned on.

Blended Learning

We all the know the term, but do we know what constitutes blended learning?

Blended Learning is a combination of learning components. The only minimum requirement is two.

Combinations (just a few and by no means all)

  • Classroom (ILT) & E-Learning (in some form)
  • Classroom & Paper-Based (the most common method for a long, long, long time)
  • Paper Based with a CBT and Classroom
  • Classroom, Paper, CBT
  • Classroom, Paper & E-Learning
  • Video, Classroom, Paper
  • Video, Classroom, Paper with a CBT (if you are lucky)
  • Video, Classroom
  • And so on…

When you think of blended learning, does ILT always appear as part of it?  If you answered yes, you are not alone. You are in the vast majority.

My question is why?

Why in 2012, does ILT still play a big role in learning?

ILT whether it is in the educational setting or corporate setting has existed for hundreds of years. In that time, what has changed?


  • Still sit in chairs
  • Still use some form of a writing device
  • Still use some type of item to write on (the most common is paper)
  • Still look to the front of the room – and see at least one person talking (the most common, mind you)
  • Still raise their hand (and yes, I know many do not) to ask questions
  • Still follow a process

What then has changed?  You can swipe out paper to a tablet or a computer, but the structure as a whole has stayed the same.

Hundreds of years of the same methodology.  The same old, very old methodology.

You can argue that it works, but if is so awesome, then why CBT or even video come into existence? 

My guess is that you were seeking ways to enhance your training? To offer new ways to create scenarios, real life simulations using various forms of technology.  You knew that ILT as a standalone wasn’t the only solution to educate or train.

Let me ask you a question

How many of you have pulled ILT completely out of your training or learning approach?

How many of you use various forms of media or emerging technology and e-learning to create your blended learning solution?

How many of you are willing to move forward, rather than stand pat or go backwards?

Moving Forward

I know you have heard me say it before: “e-learning is superior to classroom based learning”.  And I know, that despite all the data, all the research, all the information out there on the net, in the library even on various social media channels that show this to be true, many people are not swayed.

They stay in their bubble.  They believe that having new employees sit in a room and watch a training video is an effective way to learn.  They believe that “OJT (on the job training) is equally a great way to learn.

Allow me to crush that notion. 


I’ve sat in plenty of these video training sessions, used often in new employee training or safety training and been bored to tears.

Typically when the door is shut and the person departs, you end up doing anything else, but watch the video (which is often beyond awful).

Then when the person returns they ask the new employee, “how was it”?  Response: Great.

Engagement factor: ZERO  Retention Factor: ZERO   Learning Factor: ZERO


The premise seems logical. You take your “A” employee in the department and assign the new employee (in that dept.) to follow that person and see what they do, and blah blah.

You assume that the “A” talent will show the newbie how do it the right way, and best of all answer any questions the newbie might have or inquire about.

What you tend to forget is:

  • “A” employee has their own job to do and if they are on some type of deadlines, the newbie just sits by them or somewhere in their cube and does nothing
  • “A” employee may not answer the questions newbie presents correctly
  • “A” employee may be having a horrible day, is mad at the boss or whatever – what do you think your newbie gets to hear?  Trust me, it is not positive vibes coming from your all-star talent
  • OJT is not very effective in short term, let alone long term learning

Engagement Factor:  Average – if it means that the person walking around with your new employee is talking to them about job related items, and how do to them and not talking about everything under the sun

Retention Factor: ZERO – how can you retain all this info in a few days?

Oh, wait, I remember. You stick them in a classroom

Why keep ILT at all?

Let me be the first one to tell you that I too was stuck in a rut. I used blended learning with the following combination

  • E-Learning (with its various genres)
  • ILT (on-site and at our company)
  • Paper based
  • DVD – including online video
  • MP3

I followed that approach for several years.  At some point, I ditched the ILT at went straight to the net, but added a few emerging technology capabilities. 

I did it, because I realized that ILT just wasn’t effective. Oh, it worked, but to enable true adaptive learning (IMO, the holy grail of learning), e-learning was the route to go.

I still stand by that believe (and yes, I know you are thinking “duh!”).

However, what I continue to notice is that others all over the world are changing their beliefs.

They are realizing that people who learn online are not wasting time online.

By the Numbers – Educational Side

Three pieces of data grabbed by attention this past week.

Granted they came from the educational side of the house, but when you think about ILT at the business level, where do you think it came from?

Exactly, Education.

  • A study conducted by Ithhake S+R found that online students take in information faster than those who attend only classroom based learning
  • As a result of their e-learning solution, one public school in Michigan reported that failure rates have dropped by 33 percent

If the educational sector has realized that e-learning is the route to go, and that data shows it effectively works better than ILT, why is the corporate mindset still stuck only on ILT or the ILT as primary, with e-learning secondary?

Emerging Technology and E-Learning

If you still need to hang-on to ILT, make it a minor part of your learning/training initiatives rather than equal or primary.  Paper can be effective as a quick reference guide, rather than a huge document that serves no purpose.

Why not offer:

  • Augmented Reality, E-Learning (various forms including mobile)
  • AR, Kinect (already starting to appear in educational environments) and e-learning
  • MP4, video streaming, e-learning
  • Some combination of the above
  • Future technologies (not yet defined), E-learning (various forms) and AR or Kinect

Basically pull ILT out of equation (Uh – I’m also talking to HR folks who provide training) and see what transpires.

What will transpire

Remember my engagement and retention levels above?

With effective online learning and various emerging technologies you will achieve

Very High Factors in

  • Comprehension
  • Retention
  • Engagement
  • Synthesis

Bottom Line

For hundreds of years, classroom learning (in some form of a class) was the best way to learn.

Hundreds of years.

Yet in less than 19 years since Jones International was launched (1st online university, 1993), e-learning is showing real positive results.

Better results in the educational setting than classroom alone.

Better results in the business setting than classroom alone.

Earlier in the post, I wondered how long will it take for the ILT masses to turn on the e-learning light and start extinguishing the ILT flame?

My forecast?

8 years.

E-Learning 24/7









  1. As a very experienced ILT practitioner…I agree with 99 % of your post. Although I still think that ILT will still has a place in practical skills training – but more from the “flipped classroom perspective” ( note my background is aviation and leadership development) .

    As for other skills and knowledge, the more elearning the better, just need the light to go from dim to bright!


  2. Hi Craig,
    I think the debate of classroom learning versus online learning is the wrong debate. You almost hit the nail on the head when you say that the problems relate to the fact that learning and teaching in the Corporate world hasn’t evolved sufficently and is due to a relatively strict process that says Corporate classroom learning involves people who
    Still sit in chairs
    Still use some form of a writing device
    Still use some type of item to write on (the most common is paper)
    Still look to the front of the room – and see at least one person talking (the most common, mind you)
    Still raise their hand (and yes, I know many do not) to ask questions
    Still follow a process

    This isn’t a technology problem, and in fact most Corporate learning needs actually requires group learning, soft skills and behavioural practice, and a host of other ‘rehearsal’ issues that are actually best done with groups of people interacting and learning from each other and a minimal touch from a learning facilitator. There’s no evidence this is done better with e-learning than with live groups – the issue is Corporates increasingly don’t want to spend money getting people together, and can be seduced by video courses or anything else that suggests ‘content’ can be poured into people quickly. Few Corporate training programmes really need this knowledge transfer – its skills application and behavioural change they need. The research on Rich Environments for Active Learning work for example essentially takes what works really well in group learning and applies it to e-learning.

    The issue is we need to improve the capability of those designing and leading Corporate training – they can then embrace the available options that technology can provide. Again good research suggests that that the time spent in any kind of off-the-job training opportunity is less impactful in a corporate setting than what happens before and after that training intevention.

    Now if we look at performance support and mobile learning then that’s a whole new area that technology can grab for itself …

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