Application of Ed Tech in Corporate Training

Through the lens of my corporate training development role, I have found significant relevance and some conflict between my experiences and the developing educational technologies discussed in Weller’s book. In this blog post, I will discuss the relevance and application of video technologies in corporate training and some conflict I found in the discussion surrounding e-learning and cost savings. For context, I am the Training Development Manager for a transportation corporation that operates four separate lines of business, each with its own in-house training department. I provide support for the development of online learning specifically.

The use of video in corporate training goes back many years, as you can see in this 1960’s era training video or this video produced by my company well over a decade ago. Videos have been an effective way to present information to learners in corporate training programs however prior to the evolution of personal recording devices and streaming services such as YouTube, their use was limited due to the expense and intensive work effort required to produce. These developments have mitigated the high cost of producing videos and made them a viable solution for training departments to use more often. Professional video productions took a long time to develop and quickly became outdated making them difficult to keep current and effective. Now, with the availability of publicly shared videos on YouTube, a video produced by a Manufacturer demonstrating a task such as using a certain wheelchair securement system can be embedded in e-learning or presented in a facilitated training course. When a company-specific training need is identified, trainers can use their smartphones to record videos. For example, our student transportation business line recently changed their school bus backing procedure and was able to promptly record a video of the new procedure to easily share with drivers. Using a smartphone, video quality may not be as impressive as what is produced by professional videographers however if presented appropriately, it can effectively support meeting the desired learning outcomes.

Weller (2020) states, “The arrival of e-learning, then, did not present a drastic reduction in the costs of higher education…” (p.47) In my experience, e-learning has provided drastic cost reduction in certain corporate training contexts. I will not claim that it always will, or always has but when used appropriately, it can. There are several reasons for corporate training needs including skills development, policy awareness, and compliance training. Some industries have heavily regulated training requirements, such as my previous experience in the oil and gas industry, and this creates high training costs. Employees are compensated for attending training, travel, meals, hotels, and then there are course material, venue, and instructor costs as well. In my experience, travel cost for employees and instructors has been a significant cost factor that is directly mitigated by e-learning. Also, those training costs are amplified by the high employee turnover rates in my previous and current industries.

With the arrival of e-learning, and even more impactful a few years later, the arrival of user-friendly e-learning development software, it has been my experience that in-house e-learning development has proven to have positive Return on Investment (ROI). If this was not the case I do not think I would have been gainfully employed for the past 8 years providing this service. However, a company has many factors to consider such as number of employees, specific training needs, and learner demographics to determine when e-learning is the best solution. I will not claim that e-learning should be considered the ‘end all be all’ for corporate training but it does have its benefits and cost is one of them. It is important that responsible assessment and analysis is carried out to ensure that e-learning is being used only when the content is suitable to an e-learning format. The potential cost savings of e-learning can be lost if courses are being created that are not effectively meeting the intended outcomes or training departments are not being conservative or realistic with production work effort and budgets.

References

 

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

16 thoughts on “Application of Ed Tech in Corporate Training

  1. Hi Melissa,

    We work in similar environments so I find your reflection on video use in corporate training interesting. I know where I work, we have chosen not to use video content produced on iPhones by field staff unless it is highly edited by myself or another peer with editing tools, with our leadership stating that video quality that is poor may distract from the content, messaging, or information contained within. I am not 100 percent sure that I agree with that sentiment, but I don’t fully disagree either.

    What we find specifically challenging is having employees film activities in the field (such as backing up a bus for example), and then trying to show it in a different context ( say, rural environment and urban environment) and the quality or clarity differing so much that people have a hard time connecting the two concepts/reels together. With that said… I understand not all organizations have the ability to spend extensive time or resources on video content.

    What is your opinion or experience? Can video quality that is sub-par detract from its informational value?

    1. Good question, Paula. I’m curious to hear what Melissa thinks. What I do want to point out however as some of you may be thinking of your research or thesis, is that this is a question that can be answered empirically. For instance, we can assess learning/performance outcomes from two groups trainees in order to examine if there differences between them: a high-quality video group and a low-quality video group. However, there are a myriad of variables that would influence whether trainees perform well following viewing of a video that, as you hint towards, we wouldn’t necessarily anticipate field staff to consider. Many of these are described here: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/effective-educational-videos/

    2. Hi Paula,

      Thanks for your response, you make some great points.

      To elaborate on my example, it was a video recorded by a Driver Trainer intended for a very specific group of drivers and shared directly with them and not to be re-used outside of its context. In that case, I would definitely agree with you that could be confusing/detrimental. This was also a very simple change to the procedure and the video was about 30 seconds in length. The other option was to send out a text bulletin however with drivers it is usually most effective to have a visual component. If this video was to be shared with a larger audience in one of our corporate e-learning courses it would hit my desk and could be edited or improved if needed. Using an agile approach to our training, being purposeful, effective, and accurate can be considered more important than being perfect.
      In response to the video quality being subpar and detracting from value, I feel less concerned about the picture and audio quality than I would be about the message. For example, if during the video an employee walked across the yard not wearing the appropriate PPE. In that case the video should not be shared, and this is something that the Training Department sharing it would be very cognizant of.
      All of that being said, a low quality video would not be appropriate for something like our Company Orientation where we want to present a polished and professional message or for a lengthy and complex procedure. Maybe it’s a case of being “good enough” when time and resources are limited? Maybe sometimes, “good enough” is better than not at all? Your thoughts? However, I do agree that that we need to be careful about providing subpar materials and would consider this appropriate only in certain contexts.

      I would be very interested to look at some research on this as George mentions in his comment on your reply post.

      Melissa

      1. Thanks for such a great and detailed response Melissa. I tend to agree with you, there is a time and place for everything. Like George mentioned, it would be interesting to see empirical evidence (if that was the outcome) about the quality of recorded/video content and the satiety of the information being delivered, but there are so, so many variables that would make this sort of research extremely hard to perform.

        I am interested in how you use your employees to create content, and hopefully we can chat about this throughout the duration of the course. One of my main focuses or passions (I think, I may change my mind the more I learn, haha) is employee generated content. I think that employee generated content, specifically in industries like ours, could be used so beneficially for topics such as hazard identification, safe work environments, etc. However, with that said, there are many issues with giving control to employees to curate what they feel is appropriate content… Now here I am discussing another issue that Weller discussed, instructor or designer apprehension about “appropriate” or “approved” content in the learning process….

        1. Hi Paula,

          Using employees to help generate content is really something I want to dive into a little deeper. Last year when Covid hit and we created an e-learning program for our drivers that had never been part of our online training yet, we received a lot of feedback. I was amazed at how many drivers wanted to comment and provide additional advice from their experiences. I remember at the time wanting to harness their enthusiasm and information and find ways to use it in our program. Of course, it was a busy time and it is something I have not followed up on.
          I look forward to chatting with you more, it sounds like we are on a similar crusade!

  2. Great point, Melissa: While it may be true that e-learning has been costly in higher, and has not lowered costs in the ways that many have expected, this may not necessarily hold true in corporate training. Has you company done assessments of the cost of transitioning to e-learning? Or ROI investigations pertaining to some of these efforts? Granted, ROI is a broad term, and even though a business may want to see higher ROIs, regulatory requirements may drive implementation.

  3. Hi George,

    Yes, that has been my experience, regulatory requirements and immediate benefits have driven the use of e-learning and as a result the company has not felt the need to thoroughly assess costs and ROI on e-learning specifically and we are absorbed into the overall training costs.
    Our resources for e-learning are limited and we operate on a conservative budget that keeps us in a position for positive ROI. However, I have seen other companies spend tens of thousands on e-learning projects that fail to provide ROI for several reasons such as, failing to meet objectives, number of employees or, becoming outdated in a short period of time. I believe that there are cost savings to be had in Corporate Training however it is not always the case.

    Thank you for your thoughts,

    Melissa

  4. Thanks for this Melissa! I’m struck once again by how similar our lives are. Here’s a course that I developed more than a decade ago and have since sold my interest in. It’s very dated to me now, but was expensive to build and well-received by industry at the time and is (unbelievably to me) still sold in much the same state now as when I developed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl9gx_XL58Y

    I also agree that the cost has come down significantly and wonder if Weller was speaking from the point of view of 1999 in your quote that “The arrival of e-learning, then, did not present a drastic reduction in the costs of higher education”. In 1999, I absolutely think that the cost had not yet come down. The difference in cost to produce a course or a video today versus 10 years ago versus 20 years ago are logarithmically different from each other.

    You hit the nail on the head when you say that the cost to travel is a huge barrier to many. In my previous life as a consultant/trainer, the cost of travel as you’ve described is easily double the cost of registration for the course. E-learning continues to have that going for it.

    You mention user-friendly e-learning software. Which are your favorites and why?

    1. Hi Corie,

      Thanks for sharing and yes we have had some very similar experiences! It is nice to see a course standing the test of time. I hear that some of the courses I developed back in my Oil & Gas Industry role are still being used and look to be of a similar era as the one you shared.
      You are exactly right, when e-learning first arrived it was very expensive, requiring coding and developers with a lot of tech skills and then professional videography on top of that. A combination of things including access to less expensive video production has driven the cost down in my experience. Not saying that you can’t create some expensive, amazing e-learning courses today!
      I have used Adobe Captivate a little and Articulate 360 a lot. Articulate is my favorite and go to however that is likely just because it is what I know. I chose Articulate in the beginning because of the extensive online community that they created, there almost isn’t an issue or task you can’t find advice for through their resources and forums.

      Melissa

      1. Thanks Melissa – I totally agree that programs like Articulate have built up online communities where practitioners can learn from each other as they create learning. It’s a really cool use of tech that in-class instructional designers wouldn’t have had access to.

        Have you used Rise at all? How do you find its limitations as compared to the full version of Articulate?

        1. Hi Corie,

          That is a really good point about the in-class IDs!

          I have played around with Rise but haven’t found an application in my wokr for it yet. I like the clean and modern look and feel. I thought about using it for one of our Company’s Orientation just didn’t end up going that way. I think you might be limited for grading and tracking functions if that was important for your context.

          Melissa

  5. Thank you so much for the link to that information on effective videos George. So often, at my place of employment those of us in L&D look at videos that we are asked to edit and unwittingly take place in lots of “weeding” ( but I’ve never heard it referred to as that!). I am fascinated that much of what we are learning I have put in to practice in my career. It’s also interesting to think about the cognitive load of the materials that we develop, something that prior to the research that MALAT has introduced, I would not have considered in my work. I will definitely share some of this research with my peers, and ask more probing and well intentioned questions about the materials we develop.

  6. Hi Melissa,

    I was drawn to your post because of the similarity in our working context.

    In experimenting with user generated content, we had employees bring forward authentic member- experiences ( members of the credit union are its customers) into the learning environment for discussion. Unfortunately, using videos was not an option here. However, it did establish intriguing members- to-employees back to members knowledge loops.

    Working in financial services, we are so limited by our ability to use devices and have employees upload videos. We are also limited in the use of YouTube.

    I was intrigued by your statement “It is important that responsible assessment and analysis is carried out to ensure that e-learning is being used only when the content is suitable to an e-learning format. ” Completely concur with that. Also recognize that being in transport, like being in financial services probably comes with a large share of compliance and regulatory learning requirements.

    Given the contexts of our work environments, what do you see as an employee’s responsibility when learning is delivered through e-learning modules amidst budget constraints?

    How does monitoring completion, ROI and other learning data contribute to increasing or decreasing employee ownership and accountability? I have often wondered about learner ownership and accountability and how it correlates with ownership and accountability on-the-job. This has also made me question learning rewards.. like paid lunches etc.

    Is it possible for us to arrive at a space where learning is it’s own reward and employees recognize that? Where transferring learning to the job is organic and learning ceases to be a process that requires moderation or record keeping?

    Thoughts, questions and more thoughts. Thank you for an inspiring post.

    Sharmila

    1. In addition to my response, I have a question for you. In your experience have there been differences in attitudes toward e-learning vs face to face?

  7. Hi Sharmila,

    You bring up some great points. I see how in your industry confidentiality and corporate policy might strongly impact your development and compliance and regulatory requirements are more impactful in mine.
    I too struggle with the issue of employees taking on their responsibility in learning. The idea of providing incentives for completing training might seem like a good idea, but should we be setting that precedent when perhaps taking responsibility and accountability for their own learning should be looked at as part of the job requirements and an expectation of the role.
    Last year we assigned training for drivers who were off work due to Covid, it was very interesting looking at the responses. The majority were engaged and enjoyed the courses and like you mentioned, looked at the learning as the reward. Others were more concerned with how they would be compensated, if it was mandatory or didn’t think they needed to do it at all. Depending on the province, a number of these employees were being paid their regular wage and not going to work and still did not complete the training. I struggle to find an answer to your question as well, when should employees take the ownership and accountability for training as a requirement of their job? It is really interesting to see how differently individuals respond. I would be interested in looking at the research about this but in my opinion as you mention there might be a correlation here and how the employee responds to their learning and development might be indicative of their attitudes on the job.

    Melissa

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