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Factoring in Organizational Culture in E-Learning

815492_computer_frustration.jpgRecently, I was speaking to a colleague who was just about ready to throw in the E-learning towel.

They had, in their own words, done everything “right.”  Meaning that their initiative was well thought out, carefully planned in coordination with proven adult learning theories and executed perfectly.

The only problem was that it wasn’t working.   Hence the whole “throw in the towel” portion of the conversation.

Why aren’t they getting it?“  “Why isn’t it working?“  And, my personal favorite, “what did I do wrong?”

All good questions.  But, as we soon found out, none of them directly addressed the issue at hand. I started by asking this frustrated facilitator to tell me a little more about what we going on.  It turns out they had been asked to develop and deliver a 6 module leadership training course for use in a mid-sized organization.  They had the topics all lined up, the modules were well executed and the course schedule had been checked and rechecked by both the management and the facilitator.

So why wasn’t it working?

My next question surprised my friend more than a little bit.  “Tell me about the participants.”  The participants?  Why on earth would I need to know that!

It turned out that this class was for a group of young employees who had been recognized as potential future leaders.  The point of the course being to develop those skills and see who rose to the top of the pack.   I then learned that my friend had set up the classes as facilitator lead modules where everyone logged in at the same time to work together as a group.

1294192_small_salad_with_lime.jpgThis sounds all well and good until you took into account that this company was spread out over three states and an equal number of time zones.  So their 11:30 EST start time landing right in the middle of lunch time for one group and smack in the meat of the busiest time of day for another.

How were the participants supposed to focus when the timing wouldn’t and couldn’t work for the group as a whole?

The culture of this group was one of movement and time management and convenience.  So having to stop what they were doing at an inconvenient time and stare at a computer screen for two hours wasn’t helping them to accomplish anything.

And thus, the training wasn’t working.

1172265_clock_1.jpgAfter our discussion my friend changed the class model to include stand along recorded lectures and presentations that the participants could log into at their leisure.  Then, once a month, they would schedule a group session to talk through any questions or issues that might arise.

This plan has only been in effect for a few weeks, but the change in attitude has already been noticed by the participants themselves as well as upper management.

Why? Because it’s working.

Understanding organizational culture is crucial to finding success with E-Learning.  We have talked and talked and talked about how none of us can afford to sit back and rely on the one size fits all approaches of the past, and now its time to realize that this can even be true of different groups within a single organization.

The truth is that it is up to you as the E-Learning professional to decide what your participants need and then find a creative way to give them just that.  Doing so will make your learning initiatives both memorable and effective.  Offering the initiative is only half the battle.  Offering the right initiative to the right participant group is an entirely different reality.

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