The human-resources profession, contrary to reports, is not slow in adopting e-learning. By Dick McCann and Nikki Mead
Several trade publications around the world report that the human-resources profession has been slow to “e-adapt”. We have found that the situation is not as grim as described. There is some hesitation, as there would be with any new development. However, this is due to the way e-learning is often portrayed: not just an alternative to conventional learning but a total solution.
Concern about this “replacement” scenario is easily understood. E-learning, by itself, is unlikely ever to meet the complete training and development needs of human-resource development (HRD). Team development, for example, is one area in which face-to-face discussion is essential for developing respect, understanding and trust among members; therefore, e-learning alone is unlikely to be effective in this area.
The HRD training profession is ready to accept e-learning as part of the solution. This has led to the use of a new term, “blended learning”, which means simply the integration of different learning methods. In reality, the notion of blended learning has been around for a long time: for example, classroom training sessions combined with related outdoor experiences.
With e-products, learning can take place at any time, anywhere; all that is needed is a computer and internet access. People learn at different rates and in different ways and are often embarrassed to ask questions in front of others. Facilitators are usually working to a tight schedule and find it difficult to proceed at a pace to cater for the slower learners. With e-learning, individuals can proceed at their own pace.
The flexibility of place allows for unpressured, reflective learning. For many, the self-appraisal and individual application of feedback can be difficult to accomplish in a group because of personal preferences and different learning styles. If individuals do not feel comfortable in a group environment, the self-appraisal and application to their own job are not likely to be done well. Individual learning lends itself to a completely honest and open self-appraisal without influence from external interpretation or group pressures that can be present during a group session. A blended-learning environment allows individuals to benefit from both learning styles.
E-learning also allows for flexibility of content: a well-designed e-module will have layered content into which learners can delve to whatever depth they require in order to feel that their learning needs have been satisfied.
Twenty years ago, week-long training programs were common. These days, clients expect the same training to be compressed into one or two days. Blended learning has a great contribution to make here. Much of the theory can be shifted to “e-prep” by delivering models and common language frameworks in the learner’s own time and place. This frees up the consultants’ time so that they can use face-to-face sessions for focusing on applications.
In a knowledge economy, it is important that employers and employees take charge of performance management. An important part of this is ensuring that participants take an active role in their own development. Through self-paced e-learning, individuals can be accountable for their learning progress.
Blended solutions are highly popular. Their flexibility, plus the savings in time and money, are compelling for training and development managers.
How not to
No show to go
This month’s award for the worst performance-measurement system goes to the National Land Agency in Indonesia. The agency had on its books a worker who has called in sick for the past six years. Under government regulations, civil servants may be absent from work for up to two years on sick leave. Thereafter, they forfeit their jobs. The unidentified employee reportedly received four years of medical treatment. He then switched to a traditional healer for another two years of treatment. Government officials are investigating the case. the Minister of Administrative Reforms, M. Feisal Tamin, said: “I am surprised the office was not aware or pretended that they did not know.”
Dunking good research
Scientists at the University of Bristol take the award for the most bizarre R&D effort: they spent two months researching the perfect way of dunking a biscuit. Knowing that people have long endured lumpy tea when their favorite bickie disintegrates into sludge at the bottom of the mug, the biscuit manufacturer McVitie’s funded the research. The scientists found that different biscuits have different dunking times. They also discovered that people dunk biscuits because it seems that more of the flavor of the biscuit is released into the mouth if it has first been dunked in a hot drink. They calculated that up to 10 times more flavor is released this way than if the biscuit is eaten dry. They even published a mathematical formula for the process: the average pore diameter in a biscuit is equal to four times the viscosity of the tea, multiplied by the height the liquid rises squared, divided by the surface tension of the tea, multiplied by the length of time the biscuit is dunked. McVitie’s will print the advice on its packaging.
When running around the room in ever tightening circles, it is not good to lead yourself by the nose, as you won’t see yourself coming up from behind. That’s the lesson Slithershanks got from Who’s Steering Your Boat? by Mick Cope. The conclusion: stay put, doing as little as possible, and hope that your boat comes in: “This is leadership where the whole you is aligned, centred and able to build relationships with anyone you live or work with.” And: “Only after I turned 38 did I really start to question what my driving goal was … I had to grab hold of the rudder while the boat was flailing around in a force-eight gale with water leaking over the sides.”
(Slithershanks (v): to talk jargon)
Home buyer’s unwelcome bonus
Winners of the worst risk analysis prize goes to the Warminster Police in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In what must be one of the world’s worst real estate deals, a man who bought a home, sight unseen, at a sheriff’s sale walked in to find a corpse lying in the middle of the living room. More than three years’ worth of mail was found just inside the door. Police believe the badly decomposed corpse was that of the condominium’s 49-year-old former owner. Neighbors described him as a hermit who kept the apartment dark with plastic taped over the insides of the windows. They said they had called police two years ago to tell them that they thought there might be a corpse inside the condo. The Bucks County district attorney’s office said police were reviewing their incident-reporting procedures to work out how the case slipped through the cracks.