Net gains

E-learning options can give employees a broader selection of training opportunities with lower costs and more convenience, says a study from Development Dimensions International, a global human resource consulting firm.

The study, co-sponsored by Online Learning and Training magazine, surveyed individuals from 139 organizations in 15 countries.

“E-learning is making it much easier to develop talent,” said Pete Weaver, senior vice president of leadership solutions and chief technology officer for DDI. “Companies can offer training just in time, at reduced costs and on a worldwide scale.”

The study suggests e-learning, already a $10 billion-a-year industry, will continue to grow steadily, supplementing classroom instruction. Survey respondents indicated that in 1999, 87 percent of corporate soft-skills teaching was done in a classroom. Two years later, that had dropped to 77 percent. Survey results show it will drop another 20 percent, and nearly half of all soft-skills delivery will be done through e-learning.

Seventy-three percent of the organizations reported that e-learning made training more accessible to their work force; 53 percent reported that more employees participated in instructional activities. Some even reported a more active learning culture as individuals showed increased initiative in exploring new options.

E-learning may have an unexpected benefit, as well, the survey concluded. By introducing new ideas, the implementation of e-learning often forces HR professionals to re-examine their current programs and devise improvements.

It also may cut expenses. In the survey, 84 percent of respondents said they believed that in the long run, the costs of e-learning will be less than those of classroom training. Although the start-up costs include the expense of purchasing equipment and software, over time, e-learning can reduce other expenses, such as travel.

The study also identified some of the barriers to creating an effective e-learning program. It identified five major classes of barriers — content, resources, technology, employee participation and the impact on human resource staff.

“E-learning combines convenience with access for a customized education for employees,” Weaver says. “Companies should do their homework to find the package of options that will work best for them.” How to reach: Development Dimensions International,