What would happen if digital learning were more expensive than face-to-face training?

Posted by on 23 November 2016

What would happen if digital learning main

This blog post is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek thought experiment.        

Most digital learning is sold as being more efficient than face-to-face training. Some of its major selling points are:    

  • it’s faster for learners to complete

  • learners can access online modules whenever they like

  • it doesn't require travel

  • it's repeatable

  • it can be recorded.

What concerns me is that I've seen a number of organisations that now have massive quality problems because of a focus on digital learning being inexpensive. The cheapest way to make eLearning is for the subject matter expert to grab a rapid-development tool and copy the approach they have seen other people do, which is normally an information dump with voiceover and a knowledge quiz at the end. They are basically online lectures. These approaches are not performance focused and generally don’t have a business impact. The only good thing about them is that the learner can often get what is a horrible experience done faster.

What would happen if digital learning were actually more expensive than face to face? The value proposition is no longer about it being cheap. It would just be seen as another ‘eLearn’ that is focused on getting compliance training done as quickly as possible.    

The digital learning industry would have to figure out some other benefits to adopting learning technologies. The focus would need to move to how digital learning might become more effective.

Things that would need to change

Digital learning would have to focus more on impact

Digital learning designers would have to move to focusing on IMPACT first and foremost. Instead of just recording completions, digital learning would need to focus on real business outcomes. This also means we would need more sophisticated ways of measuring the impact that learning has on business outcome.

Digital learning would become more performance focused

Part of the move to focusing on impact means digital learning would need to move to being more focused on developing and improving learner performance.

Digital learning would have to focus more on activating learning in the workplace

We would need to rethink what happens before and after a digital learning program. There would be a great focus on managers’ involvement in transferring learning into the workplace. The 70-20-10 model is a great way to think about more integrated programs.  

We would see more 70-20-10 learning ecosystems being developed

There would be more focus on using the right learning mode at the right time. I would expect we would see more focus on using social learning and learning while working.  

Digital learning would need to be more engaging

The focus would move to how it can be more interactive. We would see more high-end interactive experiences that are more simulation like.

Only learning experts would produce digital learning

If digital learning were more expensive than face-to-face learning then organisations wouldn’t allow their subject matters experts to waste time developing online learning, and would just leave them to run face-to-face training sessions.    

Digital learning would be used more to rapidly develop expertise

Developing real expertise takes more than a single face-to-face classroom session or a 30-minute eLearning course. The skills, knowledge and mindset to become an expert takes deliberate practice that involves reflection and feedback. Digital learning’s ability to give instant feedback and adapt to learner capability makes it perfect for rapidly enabling deliberate practice. 

Digital learning would include more media and be more interactive   

A side effect of digital learning being more expensive is that budgets for projects would increase, which means most digital learning projects could be more interactive and more media could be used, both of which lead to a greater level of impact.

In reality digital learning could be what I’ve outlined, while also being more effective than face-to-face training. We need a shift in mindset to focus on how digital learning can become more effective.  


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