For decades, lifelong learning has been a fixture in our lives. From Franklin Covey to Rosetta Stone, there has been no shortage of ways for adults to pursue education outside of the classrooms of their youth. Now with an online connection available virtually everywhere people are, e-learning has begun to dominate the landscape of lifelong learning.
E-learning has also become a fixture in the modern workplace, with internal training modules being used widely across industries. Along with these proprietary tools, e-learning for the general public has exploded, presenting an opportunity for organizations to use a third party to supplement their training.
For those of you considering adding e-learning to your workplace, let’s look at how you might approach such an integration.
How Should I Approach e-Learning?
The great thing about e-learning is how easy it is to adapt to your organization’s needs. E-learning courses can be recommended as a supplement to employee training or can be included as a part of your onboarding. Some companies and colleges even have their own subscriptions with e-learning providers to accommodate a larger number of learners.
With the variety of resources online, it pays to plan out how you will use e-learning within your organization. Some questions you may want to ask yourself when planning out your organization’s path to e-learning are:
- Do I want to make this required learning?
- Do I want this to be supplementary material or a centerpiece of training?
- How are my employees going to access these materials?
- Am I willing to invest money in e-learning?
Ultimately, you will want to be as results oriented as possible in your planning. If your workers are going to be spending time, and potentially your organization’s money, on e-learning, the material should provide noticeable value. They do not all have to be hard skills like coding and design, but your workers should be able to do their job better/more efficiently as a result of their learning.
Whichever way you wish to approach e-learning, make sure you clearly outline what is mandatory and what is an optional resource. As with any other form of training, mandatory e-learning should be covered by your organization.
A Word of Caution
Make sure that the source of your e-learning is reputable. With the explosion of apps and websites providing online learning, along with the heavy marketing around many of these providers, you do not want to fall victim to unreliable information or even scams. Consider the following criteria for potential e-learning providers:
- Partnerships with accredited institutions of higher learning
- Partnerships with prominent companies within the industry
- Affiliation with the Government of Canada
You may also want to prioritize providers with a long and reliable history over brand new providers, as the former will have had more time in the public eye.
Now that we have looked at why you may want to include e-learning in your organization, let’s look at a few real-world examples of e-learning providers.
I would like to note beforehand that this list is meant to give a snapshot of these resources and is not meant to be a definitive review/recommendation. Each resource has different functions and price points, and it is up to you to decide what works best for your organization.
Coursera is one of the most prominent examples online learning. Coursera collaborates with tech companies and prominent learning institutions to provide courses on disciplines ranging from data science to the humanities. This catalogue includes treasure trove of business courses including:
- Project Management: The Basics for Success,
- Marketing in a Digital World, and
- Applications of Everyday Leadership.
Coursera also packages courses in specializations; these specializations give learners a course path to learn a specific skillset. An example of this is the Career Success specialization, which bundles project and time management courses with communications and finance courses to create a rounded foundation for career growth.
The courses follow a schedule with specific enrolment dates and week-by-week subjects and activities. While this provides structure, learners will have to commit some time in their weekly schedules to completing the modules and exercises.
As said before, courses can be accessed and audited for free. With the auditing option, learners can follow along with the learning modules and access some learning materials, but they will not have their work graded and will not receive a certificate.
For those looking for less regimented learning experiences, LinkedIn learning is a more flexible alternative. Like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning offers a catalog of courses. These courses, however, are much more career-focused, and the courses are grouped under business, creative and technology categories.
The courses are based around video lessons and exercise files, but do not follow a schedule and are not graded. This trade-off in methods makes it easier for learners work around their schedules.
LinkedIn Learning also offers its own form of specializations called Learning Paths. Like specializations, they are a series of courses grouped together to build a specialization. Learning paths are named in a more occupation/task-focused way, with names like:
- Advance Your Data Science Skills in Health Sciences
- Become a Video Editor, and
- Become a Sales Representative.
With LinkedIn Learning, you can either buy individual courses or sign up for a monthly subscription for full access. Fortunately, you can browse the catalogue beforehand to determine if there is enough material to justify a monthly cost.
This final example is much more localized and serves as a resource for health and safety for Canadian workplaces. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has a list of courses (both free and paid) that cover the various aspects of workplace health and safety. Some examples include:
The Take Home
If correctly integrated into your organization, e-learning can boost your organization’s productivity and give your employees the tools they need to excel. Remember when scrutinizing e-learning providers to look for reputable sources, to plan how you will be using their resources and to always weigh the benefits vs costs (both time and money) of every option you have.