The world’s present economic woes are opening up new opportunities for innovative forms of education and training such as informal learning, e-learning and blended learning. Faced with shrinking budgets, businesses find the use of learning technologies to be increasingly attractive: This was the appraisal articulated by the consultants and training professionals who responded to an impromptu survey undertaken by Online Educa Berlin.
Many enterprises definitely intend to drive down training costs, according to Sue Martin, Global Certification Portfolio Manager at SAP, but employee qualification nevertheless remains a key factor in enhancing the ability to compete. “Against this background, e-learning could see its greatest upswing in years,” the SAP manager asserts. “In times of tight or zero travel budgets and increasing environmental awareness, the importance of learning technologies has to be given a second look.”
Charles Jennings, Global Head of Learning at the media concern Thomson Reuters, says: ” ‘Do more with less’ is today’s corporate byword. The path is leading away from resource-hungry approaches such as face-to-face teaching with its lack of scalability.” According to Jennings, the main threat for training departments is that if they do not adapt to “smarter” approaches and the increased focus on working to improve business performance, they will be marginalised and downsized.
“Only the most business-critical training will remain unscathed,” confirms the British e-learning consultant Clive Shepherd. The opportunity will be greater than the threat, he adds. Many organisations will increase the amount of e-learning in order to reduce costs. There will be a downward pressure on budgets, favouring those developers who can provide rapid, low-cost services. “We may also see more organisations deciding to create and manage their own e-learning in-house.”
Christophe Binot, E-Learning Manager at the French oil firm Total, adds: “The newest solutions make it possible to turn a PowerPoint presentation into a course for a thousand employees within two hours using a simple editing program. The ROI outperfoms training in a classroom.”
Sustainability and Individuality Count
Laura Overton, Managing Director of Towards Maturity, a non-profit organisation fostering learning technologies in the workplace, points towards the sustainability of e-learning solutions. Those businesses and organisations that are investing in learning technologies are looking at achieving a range of benefits to help them adapt, according to Overton. And it is not all about cost-cutting and efficiency. The top drivers for organisations investing in learning technologies in the present period include the opportunity to deliver improved productivity as well as establishing customer loyalty and improved staff satisfaction, and they see learning technologies as a means of responding faster to changing business conditions, she says. These organisations clearly see the climate as an opportunity rather than a threat and are looking at ways of transforming learning which include emphasis on supporting informal learning opportunities for individuals looking to perform.
Ton Zijlstra, E-Learning Consultant from the Netherlands, says: “People redefine themselves as learners, look at what is valuable to themselves as professionals right now, and what their own scope of influence is regarding their learning. Starting to own their learning path like that, leads to choosing modes for learning and development that lie within your own sphere of influence. So that you can make sure your learning questions actually get answered. That is where I see the opportunity for alternate modes of learning and development against the back drop of the current economic downturn.”
The current and future effects of the economic situation on education and training will be a topic at Online Educa Berlin.