If your friend were to give you a sugar pill for your headache, but tell you it was paracetamol, it’d be more than likely that upon taking this dishonest medicine, your pain would disappear. Commonly recognised as the placebo effect, this is a theory not everyone believes in, but for which is supported by convincing evidence.
eLearning also demonstrates the placebo effect; the main reason being it is not presented in a way which mimics traditional learning structures. There are no students in a classroom, there’s not even a teacher to spoon feed you information or have you copying lines out of a book (thankfully!). Learners are learning mostly without actually realising it, as it is structured so as not to disrupt precious, time-allotted daily routines.
There are however, eLearning paradigms which [correct verb for what we’re trying to communicate?] perpetuate the belief that eLearning is an invaluable practice for any organisation to have in place. These should not be taken at face-value when investing in eLearning and instead, with a pinch of salt.
Paradigm #1: eLearning will save money.
Savings come in the form of travel, food and accommodation expenses, only when these were budgeted to begin with. The real economic advantages of eLearning only apply if you meet certain conditions:
- Enough learners must participate to generate a good return on investment.
- Learners are geographically dispersed. eLearning comes in handy as it prevents travelling to training centres and the expenses this incurs.
- The method of eLearning offers an impact level that equates to its development efforts, for example, a podcast or video.
Paradigm #2: eLearning is not for soft skills.
Incorrect. Soft skills such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork are invaluable to a company’s progress and can also be developed through effective eLearning strategies. Often, many are under the impression that this can’t be the case due to eLearning’s perception as a faceless medium. However, the fact that it’s an ongoing process which offers scenario-based training as well as the opportunity to problem solve within a team is sadly overlooked. Conversely, some argue that eLearning alone is not enough to build these skills, and that it must be combined with in-class training and on the job application to really have an impact.
Paradigm #3: eLearning can replace in-person training.
Considering the fact that eLearning can save money, time and human effort, many companies have leaned towards this type of training to replace that which requires a tutor. However, its ability to carry out the same job to the same level as in-person training is questionable in some scenarios. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Some larger concepts and activities may need to be facilitated by a trainer, and eLearning simply does not have the interpersonal approach, nor the ability to create a rapport between teacher and student. As a result, many organisations are in favour of a blended learning strategy to yield the best results.
Noting these paradigms is of considerable importance in order to avoid eLearning failures, as it is all too easy to expect eLearning to be an omnipotent creation; able to recite Shakespeare backwards whilst cartwheeling, then to make you a cup of tea after the show. Keep in mind that learning is a journey and that the more varied elements included, the better the learning results will be.