A report of the Learning 2009 event in Florida, USA – freely available from www.learninglight.com – written by a team of UK learning technology specialists, including Learning Light’s David Patterson, along with UKTI’s Nigel Goddard, Assessment 21’s Gerard Lennox and Sean Gilligan of Webanywhere, outlines a presentation given by Sarah Lindsell, Andrew Wolff and Helen Gibson, of PwC.


Apparently – in order to cut the costs of learning and development delivery – PwC elected to deliver 80% of its learning and training virtually. This has meant the PwC team delivering 1.5m hours of e-learning, having 70,000 virtual classroom participants, replicating 7,000 events and delivering four huge virtual conferences. The four virtual conferences have involved some 4,000 delegates – and the challenge to the PwC team was to reduce the costs of all this learning by between 30% and 40%.


Lindsell, Wolff and Gibson reported that the PwC uptake of e-learning as a delivery method is now at 80%. However, PwC recognises that this was born out of economic necessity, and is probably too high a percentage.


Interestingly, though, PwC now requires an ROI case to be done by the business for courses being delivered in a non virtual/e-learning environment. So it looks certain that PwC will never again deliver between 70% and 80% of its learning and development activities via classrooms.


Comment: Of course, needs must when the Devil – or in this case, PwC – drives, as the saying goes. It’s all very well to justify e-learning purely in terms of cost savings on the balance sheet in the short term – but there are other issues to take into consideration in the longer term. These include the effectiveness of using ‘pure e-learning’ to impart ‘soft’ skills; the adverse effects on building networks through not meeting people face-to-face, the abilities of the e-learning materials to adapt to each learner’s particular learning needs/ learning context, and so on.


It’s nice to know that e-learning can have a significant positive effect on a balance sheet and, so, can force accountants to take notice of it. As with the rest of life, reducing everything to figures does not tell the whole story. Some things are too important to be trusted to those who merely run our organisations.