Research optimistic about e-learning in SA

The uptake of e-learning in this country is set to rise. This is according to a new benchmark study into the status of e-learning and training in South Africa (SA).

Although e-learning implementation currently lags behind that of facilitator-led training, there are indications that this may be set to change over the next few years, research says.

The study was initiated and undertaken by people effectiveness specialist, Learning Resources, with the aim of creating a better understanding of the trends and dynamics of local e-learning, within the broader context of training in the country.

56 respondents representative of a range of industries, sectors, designation and size of organization were interviewed. Industries included ranged from financial services, manufacturing, mining and retail to telecoms, education and entertainment.

Facilitator-led training was found to be the most dominant in terms of frequency of use, but 51 percent of respondents interviewed said that the use of facilitator-led training would decrease over the next few years, making space for other forms of training methodologies.

Primary reasons given for this were the high cost of training time, as well as the need to conduct training across geographical areas.

Other reasons cited included the need for a blended approach to learning, the introduction of e-learning -- in line with the direction that global organizations are taking -- the logistics of facilitator-led training, as well as the fact that it is not self-paced.

The investment in training in SA is in line with global benchmarks, with 51 percent of organizations spending between 0 and 2 percent of their payroll on training.

A further 49 percent spend in excess of 2 percent, with 11 percent of these respondents spending 7 percent and above of payroll on training per year.

Larger organizations were found to invest more on training per individual per year but there is no significant correlation between industry and training investment per individual.

Findings further showed that, for the majority of respondents, the most senior decision-maker on training and development decisions is an executive committee member.

90 percent of respondents say that training decisions are made by more than one individual in their organizations.

Commenting on the significance of the study for e-learning, Dr Beatrice Hofmeyr, Director, LR Learning Solutions, says, "Although many organizations in SA have yet to adopt a formal e-learning strategy, there are indications of an upward trend in the implementation of e-learning. A major contributor to the successful adoption of e-learning will be the formulation of an integrated e-learning strategy, as well as the effective execution of this strategy within the parameters of organizational culture and business strategy."

Findings show a decline in implementation of e-learning between 2000 and 2002, with an increase in 2003. Implementations for 2004 are already at 25 percent, pointing to the possibility of a high uptake this year.

Major applications for e-learning are currently in the areas of ICT/computer skills and leadership and management skills.

"It is further encouraging to note that 25 percent of respondents interviewed intend to implement e-learning within a 6 or 12-month horizon," says Hofmeyr.

She says access to PCs was not generally found to be a barrier to e-learning, as 70 percent of employees in the respondent organizations have access to PCs for learning.

"Factors in favor of e-learning implementations are the self-paced nature of the learning experience, empowerment of the employee, the cost-effectiveness of e-learning and the delivery of training across geographically diverse sites.

The biggest obstacle to e-learning implementation currently is the lack of, or poor, e-learning strategy," Hofmeyr concludes.

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