Organization’s Readiness to Adopt E-Learning

An Introduction to Electronic Learning

E-Learning or computer-enhanced learning is defined as the implementation of IT into the study process (Anderson, 2002).

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In view of the extent of this definition, there is a part of forms of E-Learning by stage namely:

Stages of E-Learning

  1. Informative Stage

This stage deals with the provision of information (administrative), program specification, module manuals, schedules, reading lists, exam questions, and links to peripheral resources.

  1. Integrative Stages

This stage deals with more forceful communication and interaction replacing some personal activity, including handling of online datasets, group debates, video instructions, e-tutoring, online training, decisive and cumulative evaluation.

  1. Transformation Stage

This stage provides a web learning community, using resources and IT equipment in new and mutual ways, such as multimedia simulators, online conferences with invited professionals. (Clark & Mayer, 2003)

E-Learning in Non-Educational Sector

Businesses enterprises of various magnitudes are using E-Learning technologies even much more often their schools and universities for staff training. Both external resources and programs for staff home training, developed on the basis of company internal computer nets are used. (Anderson, 2002)

Benefits

  • Information can be kept up to date by updating the home web page, designed by the company. The staff has the perfect opportunity to be coached in order to modernize their education without the necessity to arrange training courses. The time problem for staff training is resolved automatically. It is regarded as the best way for staff to maintain and advance their professional skills.
  • It enables ‘just in time learning. When facing any routine problem, an employee can instantly pass the necessary training a specific skill, and then start solving the problem.
  • To simplify the training process, employees are allowed to divide the course into sections and study each at any point in time, thus forming their own work and study schedules.
  • The company is not obliged to employ trainers. Staff is released from their desks for a minimum amount of time necessary to get the training course passed (Anderson, 2002)

Possible problems

  • Staff feels offended being obliged to do the training during their free time. In other words, employees do not express any desire to spend the lunch breaks for training or devote the non-working time to issues related to direct work responsibilities
  • It is usually not so easy to determine whether or not the staff is, in fact, completing the training
  • The staff might be primarily taught to use IT
  • Organization of online training takes time and often involves large-scale capital investment, requires detailed long-term and short-term planning with further maintenance and implementation expenditures (Minton, 2000)

Organizations Readiness to Adopt E-Learning: An Analysis

E-Learning, which is termed as instructional content or learning experiences delivered or enabled by electronic technology (The Commission on Technology and Adult Learning, 2001), mainly computer networks and unrelated computers, is one of the major developments that are ever more disseminating in business environments. As stated by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the global market for E-Learning will develop to reach $23B by 2004 (cited in Barron, 2002). Gartner Group quotes that 42 percent of all business E-Learning initiatives in the U.S. will be directed at consumers by 2003, up from 7 percent in 2002 (Shea-Shultz & Fogarty, 2002). The E-Learning market numbers in Europe also show steady growth. In accordance with studies, the European E-Learning market has grown around 120% in 2002, and continues to grow, despite the fact that it slowed in 2002 compared with 2001 (Massy et al, 2002). The corporate E-Learning market in Asia/Pacific countries is expected to be worth almost $233 million by 2005, growing 25 percent. Nevertheless, some decline in this increased figure is expected in the Asia/Pacific region as a result of the change of their softening economy (Sim, 2001). These figures show that the number of E-Learning initiatives in corporate training environments is increasingly increasing.

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There are many reasons behind this growth in E-Learning implementations. One of the most major reasons is related to the cost of training. The literature is filled with reports about how much money companies saved by implementing E-Learning. As a case in point, Shea-Shultz and Fogarty (2002) quote that IBM’s E-Learning initiative Basic Blue helped the company save $16 million in 2000 and PricewaterhouseCoopers reduced the cost of training per person by just about 87 percent due to its E-Learning initiative. These authors state that “E-Learning is saving 33 to 50 percent from the cost of training while cutting 50 percent off the time invested and allowing better results.” Besides cost benefits, ‘organizations prefer E-Learning for its promises to increase employee retention, rapidly develop, deploy and update courses; provide effective training, available anytime and anywhere (Minton, 2000); improve worker output; expand training opportunities; stay viable; improve drive and morale; and apply strategic initiatives (Bonk, 2002).

As well as the advantages of applying E-Learning, experts such as Anderson (2002), Bean (2003), Chapnick (2000), Clark and Mayer (2003), Gold et al. (2001) advise managers to be cautious in the process of adopting E-Learning for their organizations. They draw attention to that adapting E-Learning without prudent planning most likely ends with cost overruns, unattractive training products, and disappointment. They also state that like any other major advance, E-Learning strategies need substantial frank analysis, development time, money, technological infrastructure, and leadership support to be successful. Consequently, managers should evaluate their companies’ readiness for E-Learning before adopting this innovation.

The literature on organizational readiness for E-Learning provides managers with questions, strategies, tactics, models, and instruments for evaluating the readiness of their companies for E-Learning. Chapnick (2000) has worked out a device for assessing organizational readiness for E-Learning. Nevertheless, Rogers (2003) identifies that every system has its own norms that can be successful in diffusing an improvement in its system. From this viewpoint, it can be said that these instruments may not work for organizations of other countries. The human resources development field in many of the emerging countries in addition to some developed ones has shown improvement, and thus, most of the terms and strategies for implementation that are generally used in western companies have not been adopted as yet.

The E-Learning readiness evaluation instruments readily available in the field usually ask questions that include some terms and implementations that are not known or are not being used by many human resources departments. Learning style, for instance, is a term that has caught the attention of the human resources departments of the companies. Using an E-Learning readiness assessment tool, a question regarding the learning styles of a company’s employees may not have an answer. Besides, users may not understand, or even get the wrong impression, the question since they do not have a context in which to place it. Nearly all the available assessment instruments contain items related to learning style or similar terms/implementations that may manipulate the efficiency of the assessment processes and results. Consequently, the results of the assessment may very well be illogical for respondents from other countries than western (Massy, Harrison & Ward, 2002).

The Implementation of E-Learning Program

Bringing into life the E-Learning program requires teamwork between the IT and training sections. These relations could be absolutely new to both departments; however, the need for setting standards for working together is obvious. The standards should be elaborated on the basis of mutual cooperation by both departments with the agreement of both parties upon mutual expectations and roles. A number of companies have already well-staffed IT sectors and contact centers to make technical support for computers and software available. Nevertheless, the mentioned centers are not organized properly, staffed, and qualified to have a deal with the complex issues appearing while working with E-Learning systems. The claims for the service level of user support should be defined adequately to avoid misunderstandings between employees and training staff. The E-Learning support should be operational and skilled enough to solve the issues involving a wide range of hardware, internet, and web delivery technologies problems. The end result for users must be high enough to improve system stability and reliability, encourage the subsequent E-Trainings, and successful knowledge management (Bean, 2003).

Conclusions

E-Learning readiness is a concern that interests many organizations regarding E-Learning as a solution to their problems. Generally, it is useful to every organization that wants to join E-Learning, so as to decrease the risk of failure. It also refers to large organizations with dispersed employees, which spend a lot of resources to work out a solution that provides a broad range of trainees. In addition, it is useful for knowledge-intensive organizations, which find E-Learning standards for teaching cognitive skills. Lastly, E-Learning readiness components seem to be motivating for companies that have to offer personalized training to their employees quickly and on a continuous basis (Bean, 2003).

References

  1. Anderson, T. (2002), Is E-Learning right for your organization? Learning Circuits: ASTD’s Online Magazine All About E-Learning.
  2. Barron, T. (2002), Evolving business models in E-Learning : Summary white paper. A Learning on Demand (LoD) Report.
  3. Bean, M. (2003), Are you ready for E-Learning ? Assessing E-Learning readiness. MediaPro Newsletter: Tips and tricks of the trade.
  4. Bonk, C. J. (2002). Online training in an online world, Bloomington, IN: CourseShare.com.
  5. Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2003), E-Learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for customers and designers of multimedia learning, San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
  6. Commission on Technology and Adult Learning (2001), A vision of E-Learning for America’s workforce.
  7. Massy, J., Harrison, T., and Ward, T. (2002), The European E-Learning market: Summary report 2002.
  8. Minton, M. C. (2000), Is your organization ready for E-Learning ? Seven key questions you need to answer. Communication Project Magazine, 3 (1).
  9. Rogers, E. M. (2003), Diffusion of innovations (5th Ed.), New York, NY: Free.
  10. Shea-Shultz, H., & Fogarty, J. (2002), Online learning today: Strategies that work, San Francisco, CA: Barrett-Koehler.
  11. Sim, C. (2001), eLearning in the Asia/Pacific: Barriers and accelerators. Report number AP-AP22901H, Singapore: International Data Cooperation (IDC).
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