The term ‘e-learning’ was first coined in the mid-1990s. Before that, it was ‘computer based training. Over the last 20 years or so, if the idea has been to harvest the promise of e-learning in every aspect of corporate learning, what has obscured that reality?’


If you ask an engineer to build a bridge which everyone knows to be unsafe, the engineer will say ‘no’ – even if you offer him a large amount of money to build it. But if you ask an e-learning provider to produce an unreliable programme – especially for a lot of money and even more especially in the current economic climate – he might do it!


If this industry is to be taken seriously, then suppliers need the courage of their convictions to say ‘no’ when asked to do things with e-learning – and its more modern derivative, mobile (m-) learning – that won’t produce a successful outcome.


Some people have bought e-learning and aren’t using it. Others are buying it, using it and then not benefiting from it. And any number of surveys and studies continue to say that ‘traditional’ learning methods are still preferred to technology-delivered learning.


There are the barriers of cost, a lack of interest in e-learning from senior staff, employees’ reluctance to engage in e-learning and a lack of high quality e-learning content. Moreover, while a small majority of organisations in the UK claim to train their managers to support learners, there’s no data on the quality of the training these people receive. In addition, very few organisations claim to reward their managers for developing and improving the skills of their staff – and, when it comes to the reasons for not supporting learning and development, most organisations cite competing business pressures. So – regardless of the learning delivery mechanism used – the environment continues to discourage encourage line managers from becoming involved in, or committed to, developing their staff’s skills.


For e-learning to succeed, you must:

  • Sell it to the business
    • Think and talk ‘business’, not ‘training’ or ‘learning’
    • Under-promise and over-deliver
    • Market it
    • Be active in sales and marketing activities
  • Follow through
    • Initiate change management strategies
    • Engage with learners and remain with them throughout
    • Don’t force e-learning on those who are resistant to it; instead, you must convince them that they want to participate in e-learning
  • Keep control
    • Keep tabs on the project
    • Keep close to managers
    • Tackle problems
    • Share credit tactically to lay a solid foundation for future support
  • Use and share information
    • Evaluate results
    • Make the outcomes public


While you need tools to help you do all this – tools such as instructional design, learning styles and preferences inventories, Myers Briggs, change management and so on – it’s possible to become so absorbed with the process of learning that you lose sight of the product, You need to keep looking at the product and asking ‘what value is it adding?’ Of course, the answer to that question may suggest that you may not be using the right tools.


To quote a line from ‘The Hollow Men’, one of TS Eliot’s poems: ‘Between the idea and the reality… falls the Shadow.’

T S Eliot.