Thursday, May 23, 2013

Public Sector E-Learning?

As an organization dedicated to  E-Learning and in particular Health Care E-Learning, we have a  considerable amount of experience  to offer our partners, dating back to the 80's when we were involved in a variety of innovative interactive learning projects. We worked with innovators such as Microsoft and IBM in creating interactive touch screen kiosks using laser disc technology. We then gradated to DVDs, web applications, online learning and now E-Learning.
 The interactive lessons and instructional design parameters haven't changed much in the over 30 years we have been working in the medium. We still have to make E-Learning interesting, engaging, personal,  story driven, intuitive, easy to use, flexible, accessible...well you get the point the list goes on and on!
I offer this background as proof of our experience and knowledge to add some weight to my thoughts in this blog because I am dismayed by the many organizations I have occasion to dialogue with about their approach to learning and the associated costs and responsibilities of learning and in particular, E-Learning.  In the face of ever increasing costs and the cries of budget cuts, traditional learning with all its additional costs, ranging from demands on time and effort, travel and inability to the validation of learning and comprehension or the lack of consistency of content, it seems to remain the medium of choice for middle management and senior administrators.
While many private sector organizations are beginning to understand the value of E-Learning , public sector organizations continue to support  a culture "old school" learning". Public sector organizations are either unwilling, unable or so unimaginative that they choose to remain moribund in a highly inefficient learning process. They continue to support the time honored process of workshops and seminars, that include travel time, paid absences from work, sandwich trays, high priced speakers, lack of accessibility by a diverse workforce, beverages and mingling with colleagues.
The truth is that one, all day work shop ( self-paced or blended learning) can be distilled into 2 hours of E-Learning and is available in perpetuity. The true savings really come in to effect when an organizations need not pay all the annual traditional training costs year after year. Unfortunately, there has been little oversight of public sector organizations and the drive to reduce costs through such tools as E-Learning. One can look at government public policy for almost any public sector organization and see  mission statement's that demand  the use of new technologies and E-Learning to help better train and reduce costs, but the lack of broader strategies in E-Learning has undermined these directives. 
Organizations have little internal expertise in this area and are bewildered at the decision making process and often choose to focus on technical solutions rather than implementation and content issues. The example I like to use is the phone, most people don't know how a phone works and don't care - they simply want to use it effectively. The same is true for E-Learning - too much attention is paid to the technology and the IT department and not enough to the administration and implementation issues that demand leadership and vision. E-Learning technology is relatively mature and you can select any number of solutions and be successful today, but success is not defined by the technology you implement but by the level of comprehension of the content and the change in behavior.
From 1997 to 1998 and 2006 to 2007, the federal government of Canada transferred $115.7 billion to the provinces for health care - 36 billion more than was needed to keep up with population growth and inflation during the same period. If the public sector is proclaiming there is no more money for health care then the only logical solution is that the public sector organizations and agencies partner with experienced private sector companies to help deliver more effective learning solutions.
Unfortunately many ( and I stress not all) senior administrators and middle managers spend their budgets in traditional fashion without doing serious cost analysis of current training strategies and the wide ranging effects training can have on an organization and its effectiveness.  We believe the time for  saying" Its not my job to train" is over, learning is pervasive in every part of an organization and it remains management's responsibility at all levels to ensure that policies, guidelines, protocols, requirements, procedures and the general pursuit of knowledge should be foremost in an organization, if its staff is to be effective and meet client expectations! 



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