eLearning Is Dead! Long Live Lean Learning!

eLearning Is Dead! Long Live Lean Learning!
Summary: Why eLearning fails and what learning practitioners must do with eLearning to deliver business value.

Why Lean Learning Is What We Need In Learning And Development

Dearly beloved learning practitioners. We’re here to commemorate the past utility of eLearning. Regretfully, eLearning became useless before it could realize its full potential. This is how the eulogy of eLearning should begin if it were a living person. Before you jump all over on us about this dramatic statement, there’s good news. eLearning is reborn. And it’s better than it was initially... it’s pretty much unrecognizable. But learning practitioners continue to long for what eLearning once was and having trouble letting go of this dated memory. This is because they’re always looking for solutions that’ll save them from themselves. By “save them” we mean getting their business peers to take them seriously. And “from themselves” we mean finding something that will not further undermine an already fragile credibility. eLearning is the one innovative tool that stands out among the rest and has the capability of "saving" practitioners. Let us talk about Lean Learning.

eLearning And Instructor-Led Training

In its early days, eLearning was meant to simplify traditional instructor-led courses by getting people to learn the same content using a computer. eLearning was to be learning’s savior leading it to the promised land of business credibility. Brilliant! Think about the savings? No paying for trainers every time you run a course. No facilities cost. No sending employees to a course. No work disruption. No additional travel expenses. For learning practitioners, this was a no brainer!

Naturally, learning practitioners believed these points would get business leaders to take learning seriously. In theory, yes. The promise of having an “e” preceding “learning” implies certain realizable efficiencies not available with traditional instructor-led sessions. So, it’s easy to conclude that business leaders would welcome this innovative approach to employee training.

In reality, this never happened. After all the big talk, Learning failed to capitalize on eLearning’s efficiency promise. Rather than creating “e” learning to minimize costs and disruptions, practitioners simply replicated classroom sessions on computer. This didn't fulfill eLearning's promise.

But an eLearning renaissance is happening. The first hint is how practitioners are beginning to harness and leverage eLearning’s true benefits. We’re not sure if this is a self-realization or more facilitated by technological advancements. Whatever the reason, it’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

Where The "e" Comes In

Practitioners are discovering the “e” in eLearning is no longer only synonymous with an “e-course” as it once did. It now implies leveraging learning interactions through a variety of learning technology vehicles (hardware, software, web-based, etc.).

The main issues is that Learning practitioners can’t shake old habits even though a new purpose for “eLearning” is here. What hasn’t changed is the meaning behind the “e”. It’s still implies gaining efficiencies. But now those efficiencies are not simply about transforming an instructor-led course into a computer-based one. It’s broader than that. It’s about leveraging learning technologies to realize business efficiencies.

But what does that exactly mean? It means there are two areas practitioners must focus:

  1. Reconceptualizing and redefining eLearning technology environments.
  2. Gaining efficiencies for the business through the learning process.

Let’s begin with reconceptualizing eLearning technologies. Practitioners are no longer handcuffed to building a ‘course’. Learning now can occur in various ways and creativity and innovation is starting to show. If you used, or thought about using, microlearning, gamification, web-based tools, informal learning, cloud-based networks, and social media, you’ve entered the “reinvention of eLearning” era.

And that’s not all! Modern eLearning also involves non-integrated learning management tools requiring the active deployment and management of a myriad of learning resources. Leaders expect you to ensure that the right learning happens to the right people at the right time. You must do this rapidly and creatively while gathering relevant evidence to justify the effort in the first place.

The second area practitioners avoid like the plague is the business efficiencies leaders expect from learning. Again, the “e” in anything implies gaining efficiencies within a business framework. Simply put, this translates to doing more with less, faster, and better. Practitioners fail to grasp this idea even though eLearning can contribute to the solution.

Lean Learning: Reconceptualizing eLearning

This reconceptualised eLearning perspective offers opportunities to capitalize on the business methodology leaders refer to as “Lean”. Since leaders expect to do more with less, better, and faster, they also expect learning to deliver impactful results while minimizing disruptions to business processes. This is not an unusual or unreasonable expectation. Regretfully, learning efforts continue to disrupt business processes and demand resources. Practitioners must leverage what a modern eLearning ecosystem offers.

Today’s eLearning offers aligns and integrates well into the Lean Learning methodology. Leading companies, for example those seen as a learning organization, never isolate or differentiate learning or eLearning. These Business and Learning leaders collaborate to seamlessly integrate learning into existing Lean business processes. Doing so minimizes disruptions, increases productivity, lowers costs, and captures learning opportunities immediately improving business performance. eLearning easily offers practitioners the opportunity to participate in the Lean process.

Learning practitioners need to pull their heads out of the sand and stop holding on to dated eLearning perceptions. eLearning is no longer an event and learning is no longer an external support process. Furthermore, today’s eLearning is about creating value for the business not to develop more or repackage existing learning solutions.

eLearning is evolving into a disparate compilation of learning processes facilitated using a variety of technologically. Additionally, leaders don’t care about the learning method or type of learning tool. They expect improving performance, not more effective learning. It’s time for you to rethink eLearning .

The old eLearning is dead and gone, may it rest in peace. You are entering a brave new elearning world full of creativity and opportunities to drive integrative business value. This may be the time your business leaders takes you seriously and dare we say, a valued business partner. eLearning is dead! Long live Lean Learning!