SAVE costs and time, and have engaged participants -- these are advantages enjoyed by companies that employ electronic learning (or e-learning) programs.

Most workplace learning occurs through informal learning processes: workers find the information they need to do their jobs. A smaller percentage usually takes place through formal learning programmes driven by employers.

This means that formal training, where most money and effort are spent, only addresses a small portion of learning whereas most

learning occurs in the workplace, where the least support is available.

Cost-effective way to learn

To maximise value at the point of demand, organisations should adopt a multi-channel learning strategy. One of the most cost-effective ways is engagement through e-learning.

Successful e-learning is based on active participation in problem-solving and critical thinking. Some of the benefits of an e-learning program include:

* Instructionally sound courses with current and relevant content that can be customised;

* Convenient access to a wide range of course and reading content;

* Rapid content assembly to support the fast delivery of blended learning; and

* Capability to track, report and measure learning results.

Solutions to training issues

High costs for instructor-led training, a globally dispersed workforce, differing schedules and logistical issues at times hinder actual training.

The use of e-learning overcomes many of these issues as it is Web-based and provides access anytime and from anywhere. Participants may even view relevant courses in their native languages.

The right learning model

The ideal blended learning model integrates a wide range of functions that empower learners to participate in several formal and informal learning activities.

High-quality blended learning establishes a balance between the instructional advantages for the learner and the learning objective. It

allows learners to pick and choose how they want to learn and affords them the flexibility and convenience of when they want to do it.

A true blended solution includes online courses, online access to reference materials (such as books and white papers), instructor-led training, mentoring by seasoned experts and other information resources. These resources should be readily available by utilising a search function to quickly allow access to the learning asset at the moment of need.

Set learning goals

Well-designed e-learning content does a good job of addressing technical and business skills. However, it is important to set learning goals that are mapped to your strategic corporate goals to ensure that what you teach your workforce will benefit your company.

Content should ideally apply to all levels and all functions within the employee base, ensuring that your learning investment is directly correlated to desired business outcomes.

It is important to think about informal learning resources and to find a learning partner that has the depth of informal content to meet your needs. This includes access to unabridged online books on a range of subjects including information technology, business skills, desktop skills and other targeted subjects; live mentors to assist learners with questions; and concise articles that learners can take with them to use as refreshers of previous learned skills or even as idea starters.

Learning made effective

There are many important components to the technology (for example, learning management systems, courseware, simulations, job aids, virtual meeting and rapid design tools) that delivers your e-learning courses and helps you manage your learning programs, including finding what you need easily, tracking or reporting on what learners have accomplished, compatibility with standards and customisation of the user interface.

A powerful search engine will enable learners to find what they need quickly and easily, whether it is a course, a book or another informal learning asset. Additionally, the search should have the ability to return your custom content within the same integrated search result.

Tracking and reporting on learner progress and course completion is a critical part of the technology requirements. It is important to find comprehensive reporting options to allow administrators to easily monitor learning progress and to export the results for use in external reporting.

Ensuring success

It is not enough to buy courses and provide them to your work force. There are many aspects of the learning program that need to be managed and implemented to increase the success rate of your initiative. These include:

* Good program design;

* Establishing program objectives and strategy and defining success criteria;

* Curriculum design, based on competency and training initiatives;

* Technical planning, developing a deployment strategy; and

* Marketing and communication: determining target audiences, launching the program and promoting it.

A good e-learning partner should offer assistance in all of these areas, in addition to other administrative tasks.

Measuring success

There are a few areas that your company can and should measure - cost savings measured against your current training program, and the value measurement process that measures the operational or business improvements resulting from training that is strategically aligned with business goals.

Business impact may be measured as monetary return on investment, process improvement or both. It is through these measurements that your company can gauge the success of your learning program as a whole and more notably, how it measures against strategic corporate goals.