Learning online

The second most important attribute that Peter Honey and I discovered was the ability to learn online. For most of us today, this is an inescapable element of our business lives. It is a subject where there is very little research into what works well and what does not.

In The Future of Corporate Learning, a survey for the UK's Department of Trade and Industry in 2000 that I co-wrote, we described the ways in which e-learning is becoming significant in almost all of the large organizations we looked at. Many of these had opted to create corporate universities, often largely virtual. Many are increasingly interested in how people actually learn. The British company BAE Systems is a good example of this. With over 100,000 employees across nine home markets throughout the world, it has not surprisingly decided to create a virtual university. It is significant that BAE has a faculty of learning alongside its international business school, its benchmarking and best practice center, and its more predictable engineering, research, and technology centers.

In 2000, the UK University for Industry (Ufi), the first government-backed e-university available to people of all educational backgrounds, was launched. Through a network of learning centers in businesses and community groups, Ufi seeks to make learning available in short courses online. And, of course, there are many corporate universities based in the US and elsewhere that have begun to offer electronic learning over the last decade.

To try to find out more about this aspect of learning to learn, the Campaign for Learning, management consultants KPMG, Ufi, and Peter Honey Learning recently collaborated on a survey of attitudes to e-learning.

Almost all of the people in our sample had participated in some kind of e-learning in the previous year. Their overall reactions toward e-learning were largely positive, with 90 percent feeling that it has been useful to them. These were the kinds of activities they undertook:

Involvement with e-learning in last 12 months


Surfed the internet for information


Updated knowledge by reading e-zines or electronic bulletins


Deliberately tried to develop new computer skills on your own,

without being enrolled on a course


Been trained or helped in new computer skills on-the-job by a

colleague or manager


Participated in email discussion group


None of these


Is this similar to your own patterns of behavior? A

What tips do you have for effective surfing and searching? What skills have you learned online?

How do you use email? Do you find email a positive or negative tool? How can you get others to use email in ways that are helpful to you?

How can you use discussion groups to help you learn?

While the majority of people are positive about e-learning, the words they associate with it are interesting:

Words best describing e-learning experienced %

Convenient 56

Fast access to information 50

Working at my own pace 42

Impersonal 30

Frustrating 29

Lonely 16

Effective 14

Challenging 8

High quality 7

Tailored to my needs 7

Low quality 6

Stressful 5

Threatening 0

All positive comments 86

All negative comments 57

The data about how e-learning can be unhelpful gives a number of clues as to how you can learn more effectively online:

Ways e-learning can be unhelpful—Top 8

It's easy to waste time Computer crashes

It's difficult to find relevant e-learning material Learning programs or software are poor quality Learning programs or software are too gimmicky Learning programs or software are difficult to access Takes up too much time Impossible to learn without other people

46 32 30 26 20 20 17

A Does this data accord with your own experience of online learning?

What does the data in the chart above suggest to you about ways in which you could improve your own online learning?

How much e-learning are you already doing?

There are many new e-learning providers: have you considered trying some?

To be an effective learner you need to be prepared to try new things and always be trying to extend your range. This is specifically stated in the skills that Peter Honey and I identified: "Constantly adding new techniques to your repertoire from all possible sources" and "experimenting, on a trial-and-error basis, with different ways of learning."

The truth is that we all have our learning comfort zones and that most of us move out of these too rarely. Taking part in an action learning set—exploring real business issues in a team—or being mentored may be within the existing range of one person, but they may be new to somebody else. Only you will know what is new for you!

This is as true for those at the bottom of organizations as it is at the top, as the following example shows.

The Campaign for Learning hosted a breakfast meeting for chief executives of large companies. Our purpose was to interest them in the issue of learning. Our main way of doing this was through the inspirational speaking of Charles Handy, who kindly gave his time to help us do this.

We could have simply enjoyed what a man of his insights wanted to say, had some conversations over our coffee, and then gone our

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave several of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment