This CQ Dossier focuses on effective e-learning and how organizations can initiate an effective e-learning program that trains and develops talent within the organization. The dossier describes the features and stages of an effective e-learning system and provides brief suggestions on how organizations can create an effective system. The objective of an effective e-learning system is to provide training to employees through web-based instruction for them to be effective in their jobs. Many of the traditional theories of training and development still apply to developing and implementing an effective e-learning system. However, there are also theories that are unique to an e-learning environment. The dossier provides recommendations on how organizations can implement an e-learning system that is based on scientific principles.
Since the digital revolution, there has been an increase in the number of courses that are offered on-line, resulting in organizations implementing technology-driven instruction models for training. Technology-driven instruction (TDI) refers to training in which content is communicated electronically (Towler et al., 2008) such as computer-based training and web-based training. Although traditional forms of instruction are still popular, TDI is increasing due to the ease and accessibility of training for learners. However, there are key differences between instructor-led courses and TDI so new models have been proposed and implemented to provide effective e-learning instruction (e.g., Brown & Ford, 2002).
Implementing an Effective E-Learning System
One of the key features of contemporary e-learning models is that they emphasize the role of the trainee in the learning process (from training to learning). It is important for trainees to be able to have control over the learning environment through allowing them to control their level of interest and focus. Self-regulation refers to motivational and behavioral techniques by learners to control the learning processes (Eom & Reiser, 2000). These self-regulation strategies including setting goals for knowledge acquisition, selecting effective learning strategies and being proactive in adjusting strategies when learning becomes difficult (Towler et al., 2008) It is important to remember that self-regulation requires the learner to be fully engaged; however, this can lead to greater learning during training because the learner allocates greater cognitive resources to learning (Sitzmann, 2006).
Conduct a training needs analysis to assess feasibility of an e-learning system
First, before implementation of an e-learning system, it is necessary for an organization to conduct a training needs analysis at three levels – organizational, person, and task (Noe, 2016). It is important that the organization determines whether an e-learning system is appropriate for training given the company’s business strategy and resources.
For example, an organization might decide to provide online training to staff regarding new codes and protocols within the organization. However, a needs analysis might determine that it is too costly to implement training and that staff can learn about the new codes and protocols through an updated version of the company handbook.
A person analysis determines the gap between a person’s current lack of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) and what is needed for a current or new position. A person analysis can determine whether the gap in the KSAs can be met through e-learning or whether traditional classroom instruction is the right option.
The task analysis identifies the important tasks and knowledge, skills and behaviors that need to be conducted in training for employees to be effective in their positions. An organization can determine whether the knowledge and skills that are required can be delivered most effectively through an E-learning system.
Proper Implementation of an E-Learning system
When implementing an e-learning system, it is important to adopt a systems perspective to understand whether the system will effectively administer on-line training and development. A training system involves (Baldwin & Ford, 1988):
effective instructional design and training methods;
understanding trainee characteristics such as learner ability and
the work environment in which employees do their jobs.
Assess Conditions for e-learning
During consideration of implementation of an effective e–learning model it is important to assess how conditions before and after a learning event influence trainee motivation, transfer and training effectiveness (Bell et al., 2017). Research has shown that a variety of factors, including individual differences such as IQ and self-efficacy, influence how much employees learn during technology-driven instruction (Bell et al., 2017). It is important to gauge whether an employee is ready to embark on an e-learning course. For example, someone with low self-efficacy for technology use might be best suited to a more traditional class.
Ensure that TDI pedagogical features are effective for learning
Previous research finds that although technology can often reduce time, technology-driven instruction is comparable to traditional modes of instruction. However, research shows that comparing traditional with TDI learning courses is ineffective. It is more appropriate to identify those pedagogical or teaching features that influence the effective of TDI and how other factors play a role in driving trainee performance. Recent research in this area suggests that learner control is effective under ideal situations and when the learner is ready to learn, such as having high self-efficacy and IQ (Bell et al., 2017).
Evaluate the effectiveness of TDI
One of the most important stages of employee training is to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. This is also true of TDI because it allows for revisions of features of TDI instruction and an evaluation of whether TDI is appropriate for the learner. Evaluation of training should focus on changes in cognitive learning such as declarative knowledge, motivation change such as self-efficacy, and behavioral change such as ability to perform tasks (Kraiger et al., 1993).
In conclusion, this paper describes the components of an effective e-learning system. These elements are important in creating an e-learning system that accounts for factors that lead to successful performance. An effective e-learning system acknowledges both the trainee and those instructional features that are conducive for learning.
Give trainees control over their learning during TDI
Allow trainees to set goals and to be proactive
To determine whether an e-learning system is appropriate, conduct a training needs analysis
Use a systems perspective to implement an E-learning system
Incorporate effective instructional design and training methods
Assess the conditions for e-learning
Evaluate the effectiveness of e-learning
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Baldwin, T. T., & Ford, J. K. (1988). Transfer of training: A review and directions for future research. Personnel Psychology, 41, 63–105. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.1988.tb00632.x
Bell, B. S., Tannenbaum, S. I., Ford, J. K., Noe, R. A., & Kraiger, K. (2017). 100 years of training and development research: What we know and where we should go. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(3), 305-323. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/apl0000142
Brown, K. G., & Ford, J. K. (2002). Using computer technology in training: Building an infrastructure for active learning. In K. Kraiger (Ed.), Creating, implementing, and managing effective training and development (pp. 192–233). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Eom, W., & Reiser, R. (2000). The effects of self-regulation and instructional control on performance and motivation in computer-based instruction. International Journal of Instructional Media, 27, 247–257.
Kraiger, K. J., Ford, K. J., & Salas, E. (1993). Application of cognitive, skill-based, and affective theories of learning outcomes to new methods of training evaluation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 311-328.
Noe, R. (2016). Employee Training and Development. McGraw-Hill Education.
Sitzmann, T. M. (2006). Prompting self-regulation to improve learning outcomes in learner-controlled online training. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Dallas, TX.
Towler, A. J., Kraiger, K., Sitzmann, T., Van Overberghe, C., Cruz, J., Ronen, E., & Stewart, D. (2007). The seductive details effect in technology‐delivered instruction. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 21(2), 65-86.
Annette was born in England and now lives in the United States. She has a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and has taught at several institutions. Annette has published in several journals, including Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Human Resource Development Quarterly, and Organizational Research Methods. She worked in the public and private sector for many years, primarily as a management trainer.