Canada Association of Tourism Employees

Will The Pandemic Drive eLearning’s Renaissance?

Will the pandemic fuel the eLearning renaissance?

There is a saying, “When the opportunity knocks, open the door (rewritten).” For eLearning practitioners, opportunities are knocking on their door and should not be ignored. It can be a long time before such an opportunity arises again. If you are wondering what I am talking about, then with all due respect you have buried your head in the sand. This pandemic is the opportunity every learner dreams of: stepping up and being the valued member that every stakeholder expects of them. This is your opportunity to deliver on your eLearning promise that you made.

What makes this moment different? First, the pandemic has physically separated us. We no longer communicate in a workspace and are not allowed to, at least for the foreseeable future. Second, when we finally leave this tragic event behind, our collective new work environment and reality will most likely be very different from what we once knew. But work still needs to be done and learning still needs to take place, be it for compliance or improvement of performance. But you know for sure that if not mixed, much of it will be some distance away.

Unfortunately, learners are often forgotten. For most of those involved, training is an afterthought. This leads many practitioners to question the relevance and value of their organizational existence. This is how I analogize it: One of my favorite films is Office Space. In the film, an employee named Milton is repeatedly asked by the boss to make one compromise after the other. Eventually, Milton finds himself in a corner of the basement, forgotten and with a broken spirit trying to do his job. Surely many of you can identify with him and empathize with him. Like Milton, you are figuratively the “basement dweller” and only called when training comes to your stakeholders’ minds. And then do you know what is happening? They demand one compromise after another.

Now the pandemic is certainly tragic. But with the tragedy comes major changes; and with changes come new opportunities and your time to shine. More than just the expected training you need to deliver, learning needs to be stepped up to meet the many new and very different job demands in the future. It may sound overwhelming, but it’s all really good news. In a few months you will move up from being a basement dweller to being a “center stager”. How to use this unique opportunity:

The light shines bright … and hot!

We’ll probably all agree that everything changes in how we work and where we work. If you disagree with that, let’s just say you are out of contact, but I digress. With this or any change, everything is new and unknown. The pandemic did this well and many, if not all, of those involved have had their heads scratched wondering what the next step is. The pandemic is leading you into uncharted territory, and guess what? With every decision they have to make for better or for worse, they learn something new.

This is not the time to wait for the stakeholders to come to you. They need you! Even if they are not aware of it. Learning is your bread and butter; it is your superpower and the reason you exist. The spotlight is on your knowledge and expertise, which will help your stakeholders make more informed decisions and manage change more effectively.

This light shines brightly, but it also shines hot! It is unacceptable to approach their needs and challenges with the same (pre-pandemic) mindset. This outdated reactionary approach didn’t give you credibility before the pandemic and certainly won’t help you gain their confidence in the future. While you are not expected to guide them to their final decisions, they (subconsciously) expect you to help them facilitate the learning needed to make informed change decisions.

Look for new ways to deliver learning

Again (and I don’t want to be a nag), while the stakeholders seem desperate to return to some semblance of normalcy, this is not your cue to take advantage of their desperation. The pandemic is not a blank check to take on the e-learning (or learning) initiative you want. However, it offers you the opportunity to design and develop innovative learning and, above all, performance-oriented approaches in our rapidly developing work environment. As a result, you may find that your stakeholders are more conducive to proactive learning efforts and the acquisition of the eLearning technology you crave. Note, however, that you still need to create a proper business case.

Being innovative is never a bad thing, but it’s more welcome now. You probably have more freedom to innovate by taking advantage of the leading eLearning tools and technologies you own. And I’m pretty sure that you’ve likely convinced your stakeholders of the miracles and promises that eLearning can provide to the organization. But pandemic or not, whatever you’re suggesting is a business decision with operational implications. When building your case, keep the following in mind:

  • Stop developing eLearning that focuses on staff learning (they don’t care). Focus eLearning on what is actually being done. This means people apply what they learn.
  • Use the eLearning effort and technology to minimize production downtime, or find ways to leverage existing production downtime.
  • Develop learning objectives that adapt in real time and connect directly to reporting performance results and metrics. Remember that things will continue to flow for a while, even after a pandemic, so it is important to be adaptable.
  • Be creative with your eLearning, but don’t be extreme with your creativity. Your eLearning innovation ability should deliver results, not be innovative for the sake of innovation.
  • And always get the technology you have before you buy any more. Just be resourceful.

CREATE is a quick acronym cheat that you can use to show that your eLearning endeavors have innovative value. Create e-learning, that is:

  • C.reative: Show your out-of-the-box approach.
  • R.resourceful: use what you have and what people know.
  • E.ngaging: Make the learning event something they want. Get them to pull it, don’t push it on (read: Training Staff Want? What A New Idea!).
  • Aadaptable: change with needs and time and try to use them in new ways.
  • Targeted: Learn what users need to improve and develop (not adopt).
  • E.mpowering: Employees don’t need training to learn; they expect training to get them better at what they do. It’s never about learning; it’s always about doing.

Get into their heads!

While the pandemic is your chance to meet the needs of your stakeholders, there is one major obstacle you can avoid: it’s no longer about when to do it, but more about how to do it.

You have the chance to present real eLearning! Do you know the things you have been preaching about, how can they be used to address specific learning needs or work problems? How can it limit workflow interruptions? How can employees access what they need, when and where they need it? How are the overall development costs reduced? How are relocation costs for employees eliminated? How are infrastructure costs reduced? How does it integrate seamlessly with existing performance KPIs (read: 5 questions learners need to answer)?

Should I continue?

Stop living in your silo

Learners are often accused of being disconnected from the business issues they are supposed to address. This is because the conventional approach to learning they use doesn’t work for the most part. It does not respond to immediate needs and / or there is a lack of correlation between business needs and learning design.

It is time to change and change the perception of stakeholders. eLearning is now at the center of the minds of your stakeholders, so you no longer have to convince them otherwise. There are numerous reasons they appear to be being sold through eLearning now, but primarily it’s because they:

  • Use learning in remote and flexible work environments;
  • Use new knowledge quickly and precisely;
  • Reduce costs due to lower revenue and profitability; and,
  • Make knowledge easily accessible to make informed decisions that result from continuous change.

This is your moment and opportunity to become the proactive operational partners they have come to expect from you (read: Don’t take business; start being an operational partner!). Find ways your eLearning efforts will address their (pandemic) concerns and help them cope with the pressures they are currently facing. Focus your efforts on helping your operational customers meet their performance expectations. Your eLearning activities are just a vehicle to get you and employees where they need to go.

Please share your thoughts and feedback with us. We look forward to hearing from your efforts. And who knows, maybe it will be the topic of our next article in the eLearning industry. Also, check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about how to build your business credibility for your learning endeavors. Please share your thoughts and remember #alwaysbeearning!

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