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Man (or woman) cannot learn by computer alone. While e-learning has its place in acquiring knowledge, real changes in behavior require old-fashioned human contact. You can’t expect to stick employees in front of a PC to learn human behaviors (or to change them). They have to be with humans to do that. But, e-learning provides a good way to introduce them to new information or to develop specific skills. Human beings are hard-wired to interact in order to learn, grow and evolve. The quality of these interactions determines the quality of our outcomes in business and anywhere else where learning takes place. The real learning occurs after any session, no matter how it’s delivered, when the person reflects and then puts information into action. Based on my experience training thousands of employees I have compiled a list of myths related to e-learning. These especially relate to training that involves changes in attitudes and human behavior. MYTH #1: E-TRAINING COSTS LESS Fact: Upper management often thinks that e-learning will replace other types of learning and thus costs less. It doesn’t work that way. The best way to use it is to augment other types of learning, not replace them. If an organization is looking for a behavioral transformation, e-learning alone won’t do the trick. They will either fail to achieve the desired results or go over their planned spending to get them. MYTH #2: E-LEARNING IS FASTER Fact: Most people can’t sustain their interest and motivation through an entire e-learning course. Even in the best e-learning system, there’s a lack of interaction and that results in loss of concentration on the part of the participant. In addition, research tells us that a great percentage of people who start e-learning courses don’t even finish them. MYTH #3: EVERYONE’S TRAINED EQUALLY Fact: Human beings have different learning styles. So something that works for one won’t necessarily work for others. We also know that real learning takes place when people delve into the material. This is especially true when you’re trying to teach them to do things like relating in new ways, coaching others or intercommunicating. MYTH #4: THEY LEARN AT HOME Fact: Employees resent the idea that they have to train for the job during their free time. Many believe their employers are already infringing on their life/work balance. I don’t mean to imply that e-learning doesn’t have its place. It does. E-learning can be a good tool in three situations. First, as a way to get large amounts of information to a person in preparation for an interactive (human) training session. Second, to provide everyone coming into an interactive session with the same base of knowledge. And, third, as a tool to review, reminder, or refresh. Essentially, it is a great support for pre- and post-learning. So, how does a company train a large number of people to change their attitudes or behaviors in the most effective way? The most valuable approach is what’s called “Blended Learning.” Here’s how it works: You start the learning experience with e-learning to get what we call “level setting.” It puts everyone on the same page. Then, participants are given outside readings, classroom sessions, interactions, learning partners and coaching. By blending all these techniques together, you end up with one complete learning experience. It provides the tools they need to live their newfound knowledge and change their behaviors for the benefit of the organization. Good e-learning programs and good classroom experiences work hand-in-hand. The e-learning helps the participants make the most of the classroom experience. And a good classroom experience will help them learn how to use their e-learning to reinforce their classroom experience. Then the real learning occurs when they think about it and put it into practice on the job. The blended learning experience teaches people how to critically reflect on the knowledge they’ve been exposed to and put it to work on the job. It works especially well when you build in after-class interaction through things like coaching, partner dialogs or even learning groups. These efforts encourage the person to put into practice the ideas they have been exposed to during the training. Without it, employees get so caught up in getting back to the day-to-day elements of their jobs, that they can’t think about what they’ve learned. If you build the reflection into the program you are forcing them to have dialog around questions. PATIENCE REWARDED The challenge for executives who must justify the time and expense of all training programs is that they report to very impatient managers. We’re all in a hurry these days. Companies that invest money in training expect that it will allow the employees to change their behaviors overnight. They expect to send their employees to courses that will make them instant leaders or changed individuals. But basic changes are really transformations, and real transformations occur over time. That means companies have to be patient. They can’t expect training to show up on the bottom line immediately. It will, but only after people can relate their new knowledge to a variety of experiences. Transformation is a journey. Students should be encouraged to enjoy it while it’s happening, and the changes will come. Deb Clifford is the founder and president of Inspired People in Simsbury, Conn.

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