By Daniel Hunter

Three-quarters (74%) of organisations currently use e-learning, but only 15% report that it is one of the most effective learning practices available to them. This gap will need to be closed if UK businesses are to keep up with the impact of globalisation and capitalise on the benefits of e-learning, such as improved connectivity and more flexibility in their ability to develop staff.

This is according to the latest CIPD/Cornerstone OnDemand Learning and Talent Development survey 2013, which tracks changes in workplace learning and development (L&D) practices.

Although the perception of e-learning (which includes methods such as online virtual learning, serious games and webinars) has improved over the past five years (up from 7% of organisations ranking it in their top three methods in 2009), there is some way to go before it is considered as effective as face-to-face training methods such as coaching by line managers (39%) or in-house development programmes (48%).

And, despite widespread expectations in the 2011 Learning and Talent Development survey that e-learning would account for an increasing proportion of training time, the 2013 findings suggest e-learning has changed very little over the past two years. Approximately two-fifths of organisations report that e-learning makes up less than 10% of their total training time and just one in ten reports it makes up more than half of their total training time.

“The globalisation of many businesses and the need for an agile and highly skilled workforce means that e-learning should be embraced as a vital tool for developing talent and capability across organisations," Dr John McGurk, Learning and Development Adviser at CIPD and author of the report, commented.

"However, our research data suggests that UK businesses are not taking full advantage of the flexibility of e-learning and the networking opportunities it affords.

“Disappointing completion rates highlight that organisations need to do more to encourage their employees to take-up and finish existing e-learning courses. Low rates in the use of mobile learning packages and serious games also suggest that businesses could be doing more to keep up to date with the latest developments and remain relevant for today’s workforce, many of whom embrace modern technology at home.”

Vincent Belliveau, Senior Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand, comments: “People learn and absorb information in different ways and at different speeds. E-learning provides the flexibility to facilitate different learning needs and therefore it is surprising that more organisations are not embracing it.

"A misconception of e-learning is that it only suits training on compliance issues, such as health and safety regulations, data protection and financial regulations. However, this is not the case. We know it can support much wider forms of learning, such as leadership development and crisis management.

“My advice to HR professionals is to consider how e-learning methods could be exploited to support your employees in terms of engagement, productivity and efficiency. Newer technologies offer a great number of opportunities, so take advantage of these to upskill your workforce.”

Further findings:

- Nearly three quarters (72%) of organisations that use e-learning reported that they offer it to the majority of their employees, but just 31% of organisations reported that most employees completed the course. This has improved since 2011, when 23% of organisations reported that the majority of their employees completed the course.

- The use of mobile learning packages designed for smart phones has had very little take-up to date (with only 14% of organisations reporting that they have used them regularly, frequently or occasionally). The use of serious games, for example games designed to test and develop learning through game scenarios, has also had low take up (with only 24% of organisations reporting that they have used them regularly, frequently or occasionally) whereas older methods, such as podcasts and webinars have been more popular (49% and 75% respectively have used them regularly, frequently or occasionally).

- The use of e-learning is particularly common in the public sector, where 90% of respondents report using it.

- The vast majority of respondents (91%) stated that they believe e-learning is more effective when it is combined with other types of learning and almost three quarters (72%) agree that it is not a substitute for face to face or classroom learning.

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