One of the biggest benefits of eLearning is its flexibility. It’s adaptable to any number of situations, audiences, and technological limitations.
Companies that need to train a small number of employees might take advantage of some of the simpler technologies of eLearning, such as slideshows, videos, quizzes, or simulations. While those that need to train an influx of thousands of diverse workers might rely on more complex digital modules, mobile applications, or even games.
More than 41.7% of global Fortune 500 companies already use some form of technology to train their employees, and while there’s no hard and fast rule about which technology has the most benefit, there are certain types of eLearning that may be more beneficial for your employees.
But how do you know which will work best when it comes to training your team? It comes down to knowing which technology is available to you and how it stacks up to your audience’s’ needs.
Types of eLearning Technology
There are several considerations when it comes to choosing the right technology for training your teams. Each has its own advantages and limitations.
Digital resources. Digital resources encompass a wide range of technology, like blogs, PDF documents, eBooks, wikis, slideshows, or any reading material that can be shared, read, or downloaded from the Internet. They can be created on any number of programs or sites and require the least amount of technological savvy to build, distribute, and access. If push came to shove, you could print out a copy of these resources, if needed.
Video and audio. This is the second most common technology used in eLearning. In fact, by 2019, video will be responsible for 80% of the Internet traffic in the world and in a 2016 survey, 98% of organizations said they would implement video as part of their digital learning strategy. Video and audio resources can include things like YouTube, other forms of embedded video, or even downloadable audio files that learners can access at their own pace. They may be coupled with digital resources or other forms of tech on this list.
CBTs and WBTs. In this type of learning, eLearning courses are made available to the learners in the form of a CD or a computer-based training program (CBT), which can be run on the learner’s system. It could also consist of a more robust learning system available through Web-based training (WBT), which utilizes the Internet as a platform like a learning management system. Courses are typically self-paced and the learner has no interaction with an instructor or fellow learners. This works very well for adult learners who are more motivated to learn new skills, update their resumes, and attain professional excellence.
Mobile applications. The demand for mobile apps in eLearning is increasing (the mobile learning market is predicted to be a $37.6 billion market by 2020), but it hasn’t quite reached the levels of other forms of technology on this list. At least 67% of organizations now offer mobile learning in some form (typically digital resources or videos that are non-apps). Building an app can be costly and time consuming, but many organizations may consider it a great resource for reaching broad, diverse audiences, especially of younger generations.
Forums, chats and social media. Social media, especially forum-based sites such as sites like Quora or Reddit, can be excellent resources for eLearning as they allow learners to access knowledge from leaders around the world via a desktop or mobile platform. Social collaboration platforms can also be built into CBTs and WBTs or coded into a website landing page. Socially oriented learners can benefit from the interaction created through this form of technology.
Simulations. Simulation eLearning is highly interactive and relies heavily on a variety of different technology, including graphics, videos, and audio options. Simulations can also combine more robust forms of technology, like games, apps, or even 3D components. They could also be as simple as an online quiz or downloadable PDF. This makes them highly customizable to the needs of the audience as well as the financial and time considerations of the company creating them.
Games. Learning games (not to be confused with gamification, which is simply including game-like features into regular learning lessons) can also be included in a variety of ways. Mobile gaming apps are probably the most common, but there are several online games that can be built as a part of your CBT or WBT as well.Recently, 80% of learners claimed learning would be more productive if it were more game-oriented.
Factors That Will Influence Your Choice
Which technology will be right for you? Each type of technology has its strengths and weaknesses for different learning styles. Older generations may find less benefit from a mobile gaming app than a Millennial. Here are a few things that may impact your choice:
Learning styles. Some learners need self-paced coursework and others need something more structured. While any type of course can be turned into something self-paced, some technology is easier to utilize with this learning style than others. For instance, videos and digital resources can be used at any time, while social collaboration tools might require a specific timeline for completion.
Access. Not all of your employees will have access to all forms of technology. You may have some learners who don’t use mobile phones for much more than communication, in which case having a mobile app or game may not be the best choice for your team. Slow or poor Internet connections may also impact your decision, especially if you’re training teams from around the globe.
Diversity. Culture, age, and other demographics may also come into play when choosing technology. If you need to create multiple courses or update them regularly to reflect a variety of cultural considerations, you may not want to create a robust CBT that will only need to be changed later on. A simple PDF course or slideshow may be enough. On the other hand, some CBTs or WBTs may come with translation software that makes learning easier for a diverse audience (you might not want to translate a PDF into several languages).
Adaptability. How often will your courses need to be updated and changed? While PDF and slideshows are easier and cheaper to create, they also may not be as adaptable if course materials need to be updated as an online form, quiz, or blog. CBTs may or may not be adaptable depending on what needs to be changed and who you have supporting your system. It’s important to think ahead before committing to one specific type of technology.
Cost. Cost is another factor that may prevent some companies from engaging in certain technologies for their eLearning courses. A mobile app will be significantly more expensive than producing a video, and in most cases, producing a video will be more expensive than creating a PDF. Again, in some instances having a mobile app or video may be more beneficial for your audience, which may offset concerns about the cost.
ROI. Along the same lines as cost, you also have to consider the overall impact of your technology over the course of your business’s lifespan. Will your employees really gain that much more knowledge from a mobile app than a video? In some cases, it might be worth it (social learning approaches have a 75:1 ROI ratio over web-based training), but thoughts and research should be done when considering the right approach.
Choosing the right technology is important to the overall impact on those participating in your eLearning courses. Consider your audience first – what learning styles do they have? What technology are they already using? Do they have a preference?
Then consider other factors like cost, time to implement, and adaptability. You will most likely need your eLearning courses to last for a certain amount of time, so you want to make sure you’re making the right investment for your team.