A recent study by KfW on the topic of “Digital Competencies in SMEs” confirms the high demand among SMEs in Germany for further training in the area of digital competencies. More than 80% of the companies surveyed confirm a great or very great need for digital skills.
“For many SMEs, the costs and the lack of suitable training offers act as further training hurdles.
Expanding in-company and individual training activities would strengthen productivity and competitiveness even in the short term.”, KfW Study No. 346, September 16, 2021.
E-learning courses for companies can be an important building block for in-company learning and development concepts: In particular, it is necessary to qualify the company’s own workforce, since new hires are often not a solution due to the lack of skilled personnel and are usually much more costly than qualifying the company’s own workforce. For this, suitable offers must be created and the workforce must show a willingness to engage in lifelong learning.
“In this context, the digitalisation of learning has the potential to strongly increase CET activity in Germany. The fundamental advantage of digital learning formats such as online seminars, learning videos, adaptive learning apps, etc. is that they enable learning independent of time and place.”, KfW Study No. 346, 16 September 2021
In a recent study, the University of St. Gallen identified five trends for the future of continuing education and e-learning courses for companies:
- Fewer face-to-face events, more extended training (blended learning) with online components and shortened attendance times.
- Greater flexibility with a higher proportion of modular training offers
- Greater personalisation within the framework of longer qualification measures
- More hybrid learning offers, especially for high-priced offers or in management development
- More purely online offerings as a supplement, especially for technical qualifications
When deciding between analogue face-to-face training or digital learning formats, the methodological-didactic issues should be in the foreground.
Methodological-didactic issues for e-learning courses in companies
Face-to-face learning (or “analogue learning”) will continue to be important in the future, especially when it comes to expert-level training. However, Corona has shown and sustainably strengthened the importance of digital learning methods in companies. The spatial and temporal flexibility is significantly higher than with analogue face-to-face events. Content can be delivered at the “moment of need” and is not tied to a rigid training calendar. Multilingual learning offers in the local language of the employees can actually only be implemented with digital learning formats.
At the beginning there is the needs analysis and the definition of the learning goals, only from this does the choice of the appropriate learning format result. In the case of digital learning formats, for example, a choice must be made between a pure e-learning course, virtual classrooms and blended learning. Virtual classrooms enable a group of learners to learn together but not simultaneously (“asynchronously”), in blended learning, for example, the theoretical basics are taught digitally while practical exercises are carried out in analogue form.
Creating e-learning courses for companies
A “make or buy” decision is often the first step in the creation of e-learning courses for companies. For standardised topics from the areas of compliance, workplace safety or IT security, solutions from external providers are a good choice. These are usually of high quality in terms of content, quickly available and can usually be adapted to the corporate design.
For company-specific content, such as product training for sales, both internal and external creation is possible. External production usually requires intensive cooperation with the agency and several correction loops. But internal production also ties up resources and not every specialist has the didactic knowledge to create learning content. When converting existing content from classroom training, e.g. from a PowerPoint presentation, into digital learning formats, adaptation is usually necessary. If the content is to be used on smartphones, for example, the font size must be adapted to the smaller screen.
A positive learning experience for the participants should be in the foreground. While analogue face-to-face events are “produced” anew by the trainer for each individual training session, a digital learning format is only created once. It is therefore worthwhile to plan for a little more effort when creating digital learning content. The didactically meaningful presentation of the content, but also the possibility to determine one’s own learning speed, the user-friendliness of the learning platform (Learning Management System, LMS) and the self-learning competence of the employees contribute to a positive learning experience.
Corporate culture – learning culture
The role of continuing education in the corporate culture is of central importance.
Only if employees are given enough time and space for continuing education can a digital learning concept be successfully implemented in a company. Leaders must set a positive example of self-directed and independent learning through their own behaviour.