As a training platform, e-learning has plenty of advantages. But that doesn’t mean it has a 100% success rate. For example, both the quality of content and the implementation strategy can vary greatly from organization to organization – and those factors can make or break an e-learning program.
So what factors have the greatest impact on the success of an e-learning program?
A recent study out of Israel looked to uncover the success factors for workplace e-learning. To get answers, researchers interviewed workplace e-learning experts – training leaders across various industries. The leaders were selected because they had all launched and managed successful e-learning programs at large, prominent companies.
The interviews revealed common factors that led to a smooth adoption of the e-learning program and sustained success over the years that followed. The top four success factors were deemed by the researchers as “must have” factors, meaning they are, according to the study, “undisputed to learning success.”
1. Usefulness and ease of use.
The researchers defined usefulness as “the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance.” Essentially, usefulness can be seen as providing content that is beneficial to employees’ daily work life. If e-learning content doesn’t appear relevant to learners, they will not meaningfully engage with it.
Ease of use is more about the presentation of the content rather than the content itself. The e-learning system should be easy for learners to use and designed to simplify and enhance the learners’ experience. If using the e-learning platform feels relatively “free of effort,” learners will be more willing to use it. In short: Lower the barriers to entry. An important piece of this strategy, the researchers stated, was to keep e-learning courses short.
This first success factor is about the what – the e-learning platform, its design and its content. The remaining three factors are about the how – how an organization implements and supports their workplace learning program. They illustrate just how important the organization and its management is to the health of an e-learning program.
2. Internal marketing.
Marketing the training to employees was crucial to an e-learning program’s success. Effective outreach often focused on a variety of goals, including: the rationale behind why the organization has adopted the training program and what its goals are; spreading awareness of the e-learning tool and the available content; and increasing adoption by building the user base, which can help counteract user resistance and make the e-learning platform an organizational norm.
The study suggests that it’s important to use an intensive marketing strategy targeting employees that continually promotes e-learning’s benefits and content. Among the suggested marketing materials are email blasts, e-brochures, video teasers and orientation conferences to help employees get comfortable with the program and the platform itself.
3. Management support.
Management support was found to be critical to e-learning implementation. This was true on two levels: top leadership and direct managers.
As the ones who help set the tone and influence the culture of an organization, it’s important for top leadership to communicate their support for the e-learning program. That leadership is especially important if workplace learning is relatively new to the organization.
With direct managers, you need more than “buy in.” You also need their participation, because they can and should coach their employees throughout the learning process. Managers can help employees carve out time for training, help them through challenges and reinforce new learning topics while on the job. For workplace learning to succeed, the importance of a manager’s coaching responsibilities cannot be overstated. As the study states, “The role of the manager as an overt champion of the learner’s development must be extended to e-learning…”
4. Organizational culture.
This success factor boils down to creating a learning culture within the organization. The study suggests several ways to go about it.
First, celebrate the positive outcomes of workplace learning. For example, if sales went up 5% after a few months of sales team training, the organization should publicize this information across the company. Similarly, success stories that illustrate how the e-learning program helped an individual employee achieve his or her goals are also powerful. Through promoting success stories, the organization demonstrates that learning is part of the fabric of the organization.
Another recommendation from the study is to use individualized learning goals for employees. Similar to performance goals, learning goals are well-defined learning objectives for employees to accomplish within a set time frame. When learning becomes a measurable part of employees’ work life, it communicates the organization’s commitment to learning and motivates employees to take training seriously and see learning as part of their job.
Sela, E. & Sivan, Y. Y. (2009). Enterprise e-learning success factors: An analysis of practitioners’ perspective. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects 2(1), 23-34.
Subscribe to Rapid Learning Insights
Get the latest research on workplace learning with weekly posts delivered to your inbox