What Is the Business Value of Online Learning?
Is online training for businesses worth the investment?
You’ve heard a lot about online learning, but how do you know it’s the best solution for your organization? Many businesses have ample need for more efficient training, whether it be for new hires, continued learning, or leadership development. However, it’s not always clear to these organizations how they should address this need. Should they invest in online learning, finance courses at an outside institution, or hire a specialist to conduct traditional classroom learning?
Each of these solutions has a time and place. For some organizations, outsourcing training to a community college or special seminar course may be the best option. For others, a specialist may provide the personal training learners need to grasp a complex scenario. It may even be most effective to adopt a blended learning approach, where the a specialist uses online learning as a way to support learners remotely.
However, there’s a good reason why online learning has proven to be such a popular choice with many businesses. As a mobile, flexible, and cost-effective tool, it not only supports in-person training, it makes effective training courses available to smaller businesses that might not otherwise be able to afford a specialist instructor. Moreover, in a world where remote offices are more and more common, remote learning is the only practical solution to employee training needs.
Online learning provides a wide range of benefits for businesses willing to invest in it—and in their organizational talent. Here are just a few of them.
1. Stay ahead in a fast-changing industry.
In almost every industry, businesses need to stay on their toes if they aren’t going to fall behind. Retailers must respond to online competition, IT companies need to stay ahead of security threats, restaurants need to keep an eye out for new culinary trends. And, of course, educators must consider new instructional design methods.
Professionals in these industries often want to stay abreast of new developments, but they often fall behind as the day-to-day demands of their job keep them occupied. Online education offers a more flexible way for businesses to keep employees at the cutting edge of their industry.
2. Mitigate the learning curve for new hires.
Every new hire—even those with years of experience—faces a learning curve on a new job. Whether it’s adjusting to the culture of their new company or learning the new processes and procedures for their work, they will need time to settle in.
For many organizations, that settling in can take a full year. Many times, this is because new hires don’t receive enough orientation training, and are left to work out their tasks and duties on the fly. Online training not only provides additional support, it also offers a standardized process that doesn’t depend on the instructional ability of an individual.
3. Retain skilled workers through ongoing education.
A few decades ago, employees were happy to stay with an organization for life in exchange for pensions and job security. It’s no secret that times have changed. Nowadays, almost no one thinks of the company they currently work at as a place where they plan to spend their entire career.
Unfortunately for businesses, it’s expensive to have to constantly hire new employees, and doubly so when those who leave are highly trained workers. Many businesses are therefore looking for ways to retain their most talented workers, and ongoing education is a part of that. Show your workers that their best opportunities are with your organization, and they won’t want to look elsewhere.
4. Keep up with compliance regulations.
Safety and compliance regulations commonly undergo adjustments and updates. Failing to maintain these compliance protocols can be costly to businesses. However, making sure every employee is up to date on all relevant compliance can be costly and hard to measure.
Online training can provide an effective means of maintaining compliance standards year after year. It’s also relatively easy to update the courses with new standards information as necessary.
5. Close the talent gap.
Businesses around the country are struggling to fill skilled labor positions due to talent gaps among the workforce. Online courses can help reduce this need both by providing new hires with additional training, and by helping other workers advance into more skilled positions.
While many organizations prefer to hire workers who are already skilled, those that are able to take on certain training responsibilities can find their programs paying off long-term.
6. Online learning is budget-friendly and sustainable.
Online learning may seem like a significant investment up-front, but it’s often a more affordable option than any other. The cost of a skilled instructor may be more manageable for a year or two, but that cost never goes away, whereas developing an online course is one up-front fee.
Furthermore, online courses have a long shelf-life, provided they are updated and maintained as necessary. That means the courses you develop for your learners will last, and may even grow better over time.
Calculating the ROI of online learning requires specific goals and measures.
These are all great reasons for businesses to invest in online education, but a key question remains: How do they know whether the investment paid off? Fortunately, that’s yet another ace online education has up its sleeve. Because online courses provide more tracking data, businesses have better measures to determine how effective they are, and can analyze ways to improve them.
However, businesses still need to start with the right set of metrics if they are going to make the most of their online courses, and that means asking the right questions, such as:
- How much will your training program cost to develop and deploy? How much do you currently budget for employee training? How long will you use your new program?
- What does success mean for your business? Increased revenues? Reduced errors? Greater on-the-job efficiency? Lower customer service complains?
- How will you measure your success? Can you tie a rise in revenues to your training program? Can you evaluate customer satisfaction after a service call?
Identify the answers to these questions, then find the right metrics to track them, and your business will have an excellent picture of the value supplied by your online learning course.