Make Your E-Learning Click! (The Essential
Questions and Where to Find the Answers!) is a non-technical,
visionary and practical look at e-Learning that teaches the
managers and educators how to bring greater success to their
e-programs immediately independent of their experience, budget
is expected in 2005. Here's an excerpt.
2 Who Cares?
approached by clients to help them analyze their e-courses,
the first question I ask is: ‘Who cares?'
dart around the room. Isn't it obvious? Of course, the assembled
managers ‘care' about their investments. What could be more
I really mean by asking: ‘Who cares?' is more specifically:
'Who thinks this e-course is extremely valuable?'
THINKS THIS COURSE IS EXTREMELY VALUABLE?
too often, the answer I hear is "Well, it is most important
to the person who sponsored the course." Is that a problem?
You bet it is. Because if the e-training is not primarily
of value to the trainees, then the chances of them actually
learning and absorbing the material is extremely diminished.
And, no, the problem cannot be solved by threats or penalties.
me give you an example: A major technology company was introducing
the latest version of a strategically important product. Since
time was short (as it always is with product introductions)
management needed to bring the worldwide sales force up-to-date
quickly, consistently and simultaneously. Implementation fell
to a senior manager with some in-person training expertise.
on the budget, he threw together a very 'affordable' solution.
He appropriated volumes of ‘free' technical information from
product engineering and automated all of it into a text intense
e-learning program. You know the kind. Thousands and thousands
of text based screens filled with teeny, tiny type concluded
by a long, tedious multiple choice test. Given its design,
this particular e-course took about sixteen dedicated hours
to complete. For each sales person, that translated into a
two full days out of touch and out of the field.
that the course may be a trifle long, too technical and that
there might be some resistance to the final exam, this manager
knew that something would have to be done to enforce completion.
What did he do? He made submission of the final exam mandatory.
Each student's results were submitted electronically to management
and test scores were included in each employee's profile.
the sales product e-training was implemented worldwide, over
a one week period with a budget investment of just a few thousand
dollars (Just a few dollars per person! What a bargain!) Close
to one hundred percent of the sales force submitted final
exams electronically. And, of course, our senior manager was
very proud of achieving nearly 100% compliance. End of story?
That's not the end of the story. The new version of the product
was introduced and time goes by. Months later, there were
tremendous problems with sales of the new version. In fact,
worldwide research showed disturbing results. Sales of the
new version were simply not happening. In fact, among the
field sales force, knowledge about the upgrade was close to
non-existent. How could that be? They were all trained via
that e-learning course, right? And everyone passed the final,
right? It was a mystery I was asked to help solve.
I interviewed a representative sample of the trainees, who,
you may remember, were all sales people. They were very candid
with me. What I discovered was that there were two reasons
their e-training was not effective.
the technical product information supplied by engineering
was of little or no value to the audience. Sure, it may have
been ‘free' but it was not even remotely close to what they
needed to do their jobs.
they needed for an effective product introduction was information
such as the added value of the product to their customers,
a solid description of the marketing strategy and some insight
into the market vision such as a high level product overview
and competitive information. If they had been offered more
customer focused information, they gladly would have reviewed
that. Information such as a description of target markets,
prospective customers and alternative products would also
have been welcome.
engineering design specs? These sales people did not need
technical information (at least not in that detail and volume)
to open doors and create new customers. In fact, in the course
of the entire sales cycle, they would never have needed such
technically intense data. They had plenty of field resources
they could rely upon to supply the bits and bytes once an
opportunity was identified.
second reason for failure of this e-course was that the sales
people saw virtually no value in taking two ‘revenue generating'
days out of the field to read a bunch of product specifications.
Unlike other professions where the salaried trainees are actually
paid to sit in front of the monitor, every minute out of the
field had real costs in time, money and momentum to each sales
yourself in the place of a sales rep. Imagine you are sitting
in your office taking an e-course. Every 15 minutes someone
comes in, opens your wallet and pulls out a $20 bill. That
distance course would have to be pretty darn good for you
to sit there very long. This is what it was like to be one
of those sales reps trying to click through e-training event
of no value. They didn't sit very long, either.
cared and consequently, nobody learned
a little more digging during my interviews, I discovered another
interesting detail. I bet you have already guessed it. What
do you think happens when you take a group of very busy adults,
deliver a course that has little value to them and costs them
money every minute they sit there and make the final exam
They cheated. I found out that very few of the trainees had
actually taken the e-course. The first few reps,
who endured what they considered to be irrelevant text-based
torture, did a philanthropic service for their colleagues.
They recorded their answers to the final exam and then shared
them with their peers, electronically (well, it was a technology
company and they were on their computers!). These ‘kind' individuals
saved everyone time and money and become heroes in the process.
Sure, the entire organization submitted their final answers
and ‘compliance' was nearly 100%. But, nobody cared and consequently,
nobody learned. 100% compliance. 0% learning.
what was the real cost of the bargain e-course? Was just a
few thousand budget dollars wasted. Not by a long shot.
the opportunity costs. First, a critical product missed a
unique and powerful window of opportunity. As it turned out,
an invaluable opportunity for market visibility, press momentum
and customer mind share that could never be regained.
at least a two full quarters of sales were lost resulting
in literally millions of dollars in revenue was missing from
the bottom line worldwide. And the future sales which should
have been leveraged from this product would also be forfeited.
That company is still feeling the repercussions from the bottom
line from this single e-training mistake.
In reality, the e-course
that no one cared about did not cost just a few dollars trainee
but millions of dollars in the short term and innumerable
profit and market share damage in the long term.