What Makes A Successful International E-Learning Project?

By the 1 August 2017

According to former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch:

“An organisation’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action is the ultimate competitive advantage”

This is what Learning & Development (L&D) is all about.

E-learning today sits comfortably alongside other L&D delivery methods as a highly effective and popular tool, having restored its reputation since the dark days of the early 2000’s when it almost exclusively focused on the technology. The need to squeeze every drop of value out of training, while ensuring staff remain productive, has helped to solidify this comeback.

Now is no time for complacency, however. Over the last couple of years, I have come across many examples where international e-learning implementation hasn’t worked, and identified the key elements that lead to e-learning success.

Illustration - global business

I would separate these into the following areas: the user experience, localisation, communication, and how to deal effectively with resistance.

1/ User Experience

Firstly, e-learning programmes need to be attractive. This might sound superficial but there’s nothing worse for the user than passive and turgid e-learning scripts where the only user activity is pressing the ‘next’ button. Look through the average user manual for a new computer or piece of software and you will know what I mean.

It’s up to us as L&D professionals to make the user experience more attractive, engaging and easier on the eye. With technology and design so clearly able to deliver on this front, there’s really no excuse for it and yet a surprising large number of programmes fall at this first hurdle.

2/ Localisation

I am constantly amazed at how many global organisations roll out ‘one-size-fits-all’ e-learning programmes. This requires much more than differentiating the language. Employees across the globe learn differently, which should be reflected in each package. For example, there are some cultures that tend to have more visual learners who focus on the software and the graphics, whereas other cultures are more interested in different ways of navigating a module.

While culture should not be prioritised over each user’s individual learning style (hence the need for flexibility in the modules), e-learning should reflect the different elements of a corporate culture.

3/ Communication

If organisations gave as much thought to marketing e-learning programmes internally as they do to launching new products externally, then the e-learning success rate would rise dramatically.

Proper communication plans need to be put in place. Internal champions, who can explain to others the importance of the e-learning strategy, should be mobilised. These people should be conversant with the technology rather than individuals who are more comfortable with traditional classroom teaching. They need to be able to explain why it will help employees with their career and progression and how it can be accessed, often through other technology-based tools such as learning portals.

Look also for opportunities to place e-learning as a component of other strategic initiatives, such as performance and appraisal systems or professional certification requirements, and communicate accordingly.

4/ Resistance

Even with good communications, however, there will be resistance from time to time. The best advice is to recognise and anticipate such roadblocks and put in place procedures for dealing with them.

For example, if a user says that the e-learning is of no use to them, work with their line manager to see how it can add value or introduce more customised tools. For those who say they just don’t have enough time, look to break down the modules into even smaller chunks. And for those who say that it’s not relevant, make sure it aligns more closely with the skills required for that person and departmental goals.

Another way of dealing with resistance is to listen as closely as possible to the end user, which is why we at Cegos conduct so many surveys. One of the surveys we ran back in 2015 asked both end-users and training managers if they believe training within their company is becoming increasingly digitalised. 84% agreed this was the case.

You can view this survey in full by following this link.

Seymour Papert, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, said:

“You can’t teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them where they can find what they need to know and when they need to know it.”

With the need for cost effectiveness, flexibility and productivity in L&D, e-learning is in pole position to realise this vision.  It’s up to us to make sure that e-learning delivers by creating successful international e-learning projects.

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