by Geoff Allan

Where should I start?

Don’t start with an e-learning package!

That would be a bit like buying something in a shop and then, when you get home, asking yourself, ‘what could I use this for?’

The best place to start is by identifying your learning need. This is really a whole subject on its own, so it will be dealt with only briefly here.

Crucial questions

There are three main reasons for providing training and development:

  • Your performance is below par
  • You want to be even better at what you do
  • You are anticipating new capabilities that your organisation will need.

In each case, the same questions need to be asked:

  • What change do we want?
  • How will we recognise it when it has happened?

Once you’ve answered those questions, then you are in a position to set the learning objective(s). Only then are you ready to decide what sort of learning method is appropriate.


Let’s look at a simple example. You have just found out that there are some new health and safety regulations and you think that, while you could just read the regulations, it would be a good idea to take a short course to keep up-to-date. The reason for training and development, then, is to provide new capabilities in your organisation.

So, what do you need? At the very least, you will need to learn the new regulations and then check that you understand them. An appropriate learning objective could be ‘to understand the implications of the new regulations for our business’. Ultimately, you will have succeeded when the new regulations are integrated into the organisation’s way of working. That’s your criterion of success.

Now that’s clear, what about a method of learning? A conventional course would offer you the advantage of being able to discuss the implications with other people. On the other hand, the pace would be determined either by the slowest learner or by the time the trainer had allowed, and probably the shortest course would be half a day, which might mean it was padded out with other stuff.

You have found an e-learning module that would do, but then you might have to find someone else in the organisation to do it as well, so that you can talk about it. In fact, this might be a good way to make sure that the new regulations are adopted: gather those who have some responsibility in that area, get them all to use the module and then arrange a meeting to decide what needs to be done next. This way, the discussions can take place and the new regulations can be implemented.

In this case, it seems that the e-learning approach might be the best way forward. Remember, we started off by determining the learning objectives and only then looked at the pros and cons of the various possible approaches.