Pretty much everyone knows about the rise of eBooks. According to the Pew Research Center’s most recent survey, 28% of adult Americans read at least one eBook in the previous year. And for Millennials and Gen-Xers, the figures were even higher — 37% for those aged 18-29 and 32% for those between 30 and 49.
So how are HR and others tasked with organizational learning approaching eBooks (defined as PDFs or as material designed for readers like iPads and Kindles) as a way of helping employees learn?
Another survey, this one from the Masie Center, a think tank specializing in learning and technology, gives some answers.
Technical and leadership training
When Masie surveyed 445 organizations, 69% expressed either strong or moderate interest in using eBooks to enhance organizational learning. The main applications included technical training (20.9%), leadership training (20.1%) and business process training (16.9%). Other uses, including onboarding, compliance and sales training, came in between 10% and 15%.
If you’re wondering what specific benefits eBooks can provide within organizational learning, the Masie survey addressed that point, too.
The most cited benefit — by 71.6% of respondents — was eBooks’ ability to link to other material. Another 65% of respondents said they were looking to reduce printing costs, while 64.8% said the ease of issuing updates to eBooks, so as to keep material current, was a big plus. Other benefits that respondents mentioned included eBooks’ interactivity and potential for comprising audio and/or video elements.
Pre-, during, and post-course
Masie also asked survey respondents how exactly they used, or planned to use, eBooks in learning.
The biggest chunk — 58.3% — said they saw eBooks as reference materials. But large numbers also saw eBooks as preparation for a learning course (45.6%), part of specific courses (43.4%) or materials for learners to read after they had finished a course (31.4%).
This all sounds very nice, but how are eBooks doing among those organizations that are actually using them in employee learning?
Well, there the record appears somewhat mixed. More respondents to the survey reported themselves as NOT satisfied (21.2%) than satisfied (13.2%). Another 27.3% were “partially” satisfied. (More than one third of those surveyed had not used eBooks at all in learning.)
Are they right for you?
In deciding whether you want to use eBooks — or use them more — you probably want to look at the demographics of your workforce. According to Pew, women are more likely to read eBooks than men, college attendees or graduates are much more likely to do so than those with high school educations, and, as we already noted, younger workers are more likely to read them than the over-50s.
Also, your organization’s interest in eBooks will depend a lot on how much and what kinds of employee training you do.
Of course, eBooks will likely never account for more than a portion of your learning mix. Nobody is going to dump everything else — other kinds of eLearning, instructor-led training, etc. — in favor of eBooks. But they might represent an opportunity for you.
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