Friday, 23 August 2013

E-learning: better than face-to-face?

blended learning > e-learning > face-to-face learning!

I recently discovered a three year old research report from the Department of Education in the United States.  A meta-analysis, encompassing studies covering a 12 year period from 1996 to 2008, it compares the effectiveness of e-learning and blended learning to face-to-face instruction.

Advocates of e-learning have argued for some time that it is at least as good as face-to-face methods, but this research appears to provide substantial supporting evidence.  In fact, the research shows blended learning (a mix of online and face-to-face) works best, purely online learning is second best, and face-to-face the least effective option of the three.

Barbara Means, an educational psychologist and the report’s lead author, has said “the study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing - it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction”.

Before we get too carried away, we should note that the scope of this research was schools, where the objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of learning.  In the world of work, we need also to take account of the transfer of learning to the workplace, and subsequent impacts on performance and business results.  But this still amounts to an emphatic endorsement of the use of digital technology in learning.
Report here.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Don’t waste your money on training!

Like most L&D practitioners, I regard learning as A Good Thing, something to be encouraged at all times, and a good habit to get into.  Learning, in its broadest sense, helps people get better at everything they do, and it helps organisations succeed.

But that doesn’t mean all learning is always good for organisations.  This is basic economics.  Organisations have scarce resources, and need to make difficult decisions about what to spend their money on – what activities will add most value?

Ignoring this basic economic principle is the reason why expenditure on training is often wasted.  I’m reminded of the marketing manager who knows half of his advertising budget is wasted – he just doesn’t know which half.  Organisations often undertake training as little more than a matter of faith – they know it ought to be good for them, but they’re not sure exactly why, or to what extent.  This means the organisation can’t tell whether they’re best spending money on training, or better spending it on something else that might impact more on performance and results.
This is one of the reasons why Dr Alasdair Rutherford and I set up Airthrey, the learning evaluation solutions business, two years ago.  We wanted to help organisations work out whether training is working for them, and what parts of their training budget might be wasted.  Thus the message not to waste money on training, but to find ways to measure (or otherwise accurately judge) the contribution training makes, and so target scarce resources for training more effectively.

Airthrey’s flagship programme, Learning Evaluation Action Development (LEAD), is a means for organisations to work this out, using the best techniques available, with support from their peers, with the best resources on the subject, and with tuition from Alasdair and me.  It’s not another training course, but a form of supported consultancy, by the participating HR/L&D professionals themselves.  It works really well, and I commend it to you.

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Seven Pillars of the Corporate University

Thanks to Business Annual for re-publishing my 2009 article, The Seven Pillars of the Corporate University, in July 2013, as part of a feature on corporate universities.

You can read the article here:

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