by Geoff Allan

Is e-learning value for money?

E-learning packages are not cheap, but they can prove more cost effective than other learning methods.

Let’s suppose you’ve decided that, as part of encouraging staff to be more commercially minded, you want everyone to be able to read and understand your internal finance reports. These are quite straightforward profit-and-loss summaries, but the finance staff have neither the time nor the skills to run workshops, so you need an external trainer.

Bearing in mind the number of staff and the need to keep the business running, you decide to provide four half-day workshops. Your costs will include the trainer, staff time and, in some cases, travelling costs from those of your smaller branches that couldn’t justify their own workshops.

A disadvantage of this approach is that not every member of staff needs to learn everything, because some people already have some knowledge. Unfortunately, the workshop environment is not readily conducive to catering for individual learning needs, so some of the money is, effectively, wasted.

Packages tailored to your needs

Alternatively, you could obtain an e-learning package, tailored to your organisation finance reports. Your staff will be able to work on this in short periods during the working day. Because they will be learning individually, they will proceed at different rates and will concentrate only those things they don’t already know. Your costs will be the cost of the package, plus any time you need to pay for cover for those staff who have no free time to study.

Once you’ve decided the learning needs, and assuming the e-learning works out less expensive than providing workshops, then an e-learning package is obviously the answer. And provided the finance reports stay in the same format, the package will remain available, both for new members of staff and for updating people, making it even more cost-effective.

Apart from the costing process described above, in which you are choosing between e-learning and workshops, you need to bear in mind that the cost of the package itself will depend on the type of e-learning provided. A package specially designed and produced for an individual client will be vastly more expensive in absolute terms than a more generic off-the-shelf package.

Fortunately, there is also a range of software that trainers can use to produce their own e-learning packages though care should be taken that whoever is doing it has some knowledge of e-learning instructional design. Giving someone a tin of paint does not make them an artist. It comes back to considering your needs and the cost of alternative methods.