Monday, May 05, 2008

Barriers to e-learning for business

The government funded Australian Flexible Learning Framework has released research on e-learning uptake by small business. They have:
The primary purpose of this study was to gain a comprehensive picture of the status of e-learning in small business in Australia and to highlight the barriers and impediments to increased use of e-learning solutions.
... The study involved three key components:
1. A review of published Australian and overseas research statistics and papers associated with training and e-learning in industry, particularly in small business.
2. A national telephone survey of 300 small businesses, selected at random in the property and business services; retail; and construction and manufacturing sectors. These sectors were chosen as they represent more than 60% of all small businesses in Australia and are the major contributors to employment and value added.
3. In-depth interviews with 10 typical small businesses in the target sectors in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide to gain further insights into training practices and business owner/managers’ perceptions of e-learning. ...

The research was conducted in the period September-November 2007. ...

E-learning enablers and barriers
Potential impediments to the uptake of e-learning by small business identified in the Framework’s Industry Engagement Projects and other studies in Australia and overseas include time and cost, technology limitations, workload pressures, lack of an e-learning ‘champion’ and the widespread preference for informal, hands-on, experiential learning.

This study has suggested that the now widespread use of the internet and broadband in the small business workplace facilitates the application of online and computer-based learning solutions. Furthermore, only a small proportion of surveyed businesses thought that their staff do not have the skills to use computer-assisted methods. Technology infrastructure and capability should no longer be a major impediment to the uptake of e-learning in many small business sectors, particularly those such as property and business services, retail and other services sectors where most employees have access to computers in the workplace.

Overall, around one-third of survey respondents saw nothing particular that would discourage them from considering the use of computer-assisted training in their business. Of the two-thirds that recorded one or more factors that would discourage them, the top four factors were time, cost, concerns about effectiveness, or that they thought e-learning was not applicable or relevant to their business.

Notably, many non-users of computer-assisted learning mentioned that they were unaware of suitable e-learning tools or that they had not considered e-learning as a viable means of learning. This would suggest that lack of awareness of e-learning solutions and their potential value to small business may be an important barrier to greater uptake.

Conclusions and recommendations
It may be concluded from this research that, whilst there remains a strong preference for hands-on, face-to-face training in many small businesses, using computers and online resources is widespread in the small business workplace and there is potential to increase the use of these technologies for training purposes in response to immediate business needs.

Of the four industry sectors surveyed, the construction and manufacturing sectors appear to pose the greater challenges and would represent the greater potential for e-learning, given the difficulties currently facing these sectors.

In order to stimulate greater awareness and uptake of appropriate e-learning and blended solutions in small business, the following recommendations are put forward:

• explore means of raising the awareness of flexible training and learning solutions amongst small business, by delivering information, tools and resources via online channels that are used by small business.
• the Framework should continue to engage with professional and industry
associations, business networks, franchise groups, etc to identify common training needs that can best be met through e-learning and promote collaborative initiatives between industry and training providers to demonstrate e-learning solutions
• explore ways to encourage, develop and strengthen relationships between the training sector and small business
• adopt and further develop proposed Good Practice Guidelines for engagement with small business on e-learning solutions, and promote the use of these guidelines to relevant government agencies and the training industry
• monitor the effectiveness of these initiatives through regular research in the small business sector. ...

From: An investigation of the enablers and barriers to industry uptake of
e-learning: Small business
, Executive Summary , Australian Flexible Learning Framework, December 2007

No comments: