Last year, University of Toyota provided more than 63,000 e-learning module sessions for Scion, Lexus and Toyota. It has become an accepted educational tool in the dealerships today, but that wasnï¿½t so just a few years ago. The biggest draw for e-learning may be in the way it engages students in the act of learning. In terms of the business case, itï¿½s quick, cost-effective and can reach a broader audience than traditional classroom education.
There are four basic areas in which e-learning excels:
- Increasing knowledge or awareness (e.g., learning procedures).
- Reinforcing concepts and knowledge the learner has already acquired.
- Developing new cognitive skills (those that are easily practiced on a computer, like writing or math calculations, for example).
- Adjusting attitudes or changing motivational levels.
E-learning is great for just-in-time training and as a supplement to classroom training. However, it probably isnï¿½t the best solution for developing some skills like listening, negotiating, presenting or improving your golf swing. These things require real-life interaction or physical practice to perfect.
At University of Toyota we use technology that is user-friendly and easy to navigate in our e-learning modules, including Web-based tools like VuePoint Learning Systems, Macromedia Flash and streaming audio/video.
One recent e-learning success at Toyota has been an Internet-delivered series of interactive multimedia simulations on diversity in the workplace. This is an example of using e-learning to create awareness and adjust attitudes. The series is comprised of three 10- to 15-minute scenarios, each reflecting real-life issues of diversity and inclusion that employees might encounter in the workplace. Each scenario provides a safe, risk-free environment in which associates can test their assumptions and decisions about diversity. Each module links to an online discussion forum that allows participants to post and respond to comments.
The approach Toyota has used in these modules is much like a television show, telling an interesting story using audio and video streaming. By carrying a story line with a beginning, middle and end, the learnersï¿½ interest is engaged and the retention for the lesson is increased.
These diversity simulation modules have been well received by Toyota associates. For example, close to 30 percent of Toyota associates accessed the first module, compared to a typical rate of less than 20 percent for other non-mandatory learning. This positive response has prompted the development of additional simulations.
When considering whether or not to use e-learning, it is important to listen to your audience and understand its tolerance level. Sometimes you know an e-learning solution can teach a particular cognitive skill or knowledge set, but your audience is not receptive to the idea. Itï¿½s best to listen to learners and find a different way to provide the training. Sometimes one more e-learning module is just too much.
Formal measurement is essential for developing effective e-learning solutions. Since learners are dispersed and face-to-face feedback doesnï¿½t exist, the learning design must include ways to measure learning and participant engagement. Use measurement during the development stages to adjust learning modules, and after-the-fact you can use what you learn from measurement for the continual improvement of future modules.
Remember to consider e-learning as another delivery tool in your learning toolbox, but donï¿½t try to make it fit every objective. By using it for what it does best, you will reap the benefits of e-learningï¿½s speed, reach and cost-effectiveness, while creating effective and engaging modules for your participants.
Chuck Oï¿½Keefe is national manager, associate dean for the University of Toyota. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Filed under: Measurement, Technology