Employee training and development is essential in businesses large and small. This is becoming truer almost by the hour as new technologies are changing the way business is done. Training not only helps employees learn new skills and update their existing ones, but also it increases productivity and improves job satisfaction.
Elearning is a very powerful model for workplace training, but in the past elearning was out of reach for many small businesses—the software was expensive and most businesses just couldn’t devote the time to developing and administering computer-based courses. But that is all changing now. Over the past few years, a plethora of new low-cost and free elearning tools have become available that make it a cinch for small businesses to develop and deliver training online. Here are the essential tools you need to implement elearning in your small business:
Learning Management Systems
A learning management system (LMS) is a software package you can use to administer and track your organization’s learning efforts. Standalone LMSs used to cost in the range of $50,000 to $100,000, which is why many small businesses shied away from elearning, but today a variety of cloud-based LMSs are available on a low-cost subscription basis. Many LMSs, like ProProfs’ Training Maker, are also course authoring tools, so you can design courses, create quizzes, track learners’ progress, and more, all within a single easy-to-use interface, no programming knowledge required. Look for an LMS that provides mobile support so your employees can access their training materials at their convenience.
Now that you have an LMS, you can start loading content into it. If you already have an instructor-led or self-study training program in place, you can easily repurpose your content for elearning. Word documents and .pdfs, PowerPoint presentations, YouTube videos—anything you’ve got can be used to create online courses. You can upload these documents directly into your LMS or you can use a program like Metamorphosis to turn your Word documents and PowerPoint presentations into elearning courses.If you want to inject some pizzazz into your training, you can record free screencasts and tutorials using programs like Jing and CamStudio.
If you don’t have an existing training program, don’t despair. Many business training needs can be met using prepackaged courses. Check out Elearning Marketplace,Open Sesame, and Udemy for courses on everything from business writing, Microsoft Office, and sales skills to industry-specific topics. You might need to supplement the courses with personalized content, but at least you won’t have to start from scratch.
Social Media Tools
Social media tools greatly support workplace learning by providing virtual spaces for learners to interact and share resources. Most LMSs provide discussion forums as well as easy integration with social media tools like blogs, Twitter, and Pinterest. File-sharing applications like Dropbox and Google Drive make it easy for learners to share resources. For even more intense collaboration, check out Glasscubes, a collaboration and project management tool that allows users to share files, track tasks, chat in real time, and even participate in conference calls. The service is free for up to five users and is available on an affordable subscription basis after that.
Performance Support Tools
Performance support is crucial for employees to transfer what they learn during training to what they do on the job, and one of the main advantages of elearning and mobile learning is their performance support capabilities. Checklists and other job aids are easily accessible through learning management systems. These systems also make it easy for employees to access and edit user-contributed performance support tools like wikis and organizational knowledge bases.
The elearning tools available today enable small businesses to benefit from big-business-style training and development programs, and as a result employees are experiencing both increased job satisfaction and improved performance. Getting started is easy—pick a prepackaged course or repurpose your existing training materials for elearning using authoring tools and a learning management system, add some social elements and performance support, and you’re good to go.
David Miller is an educational researcher who has vast experience in the field of teaching, Online testing and training. He is associated with prestigious universities and many leading educational research organizations. He’s also an ed-tech veteran, currently pursuing research in new eLearning developments.