The Move to Online Learning in the Banking and Finance Industry: If You Work in a Financial Institution, the Chances Are You Are Either Using Online Learning, or Will Be Shortly. Have You Have Ever Wondered What Online Learning Really Is, Why It Is More Prevalent and What the Real Benefits Are?

Article excerpt

Online learning in its various forms has been around for over ten years; however it is only recently that organisations (especially heavily regulated companies such as financial institutions) have embraced the medium as an answer to their training and development problems.

Certainly, not every organisation gets it right the first time. Online learning is not just simply about putting a couple of courses on the internet. Far from it. I think of online learning as a blend of strategy and technology, which allows for across-the-board access to training and development.

My definition of online learning, based on years of experience, is: "access to--and management of--training and development using an online medium". If your organisation takes a simplistic view of what online learning is, it is likely to face implementation difficulties.

The elements of online learning

Whilst the term is broad, online learning usually consists of these elements:

* Courses (content): This usually refers to a course accessed via the web, but can include CD-ROMs and paper-based and facilitator led courses (if the student enrols in them via the internet), as well as assessments.

* Learning Management System (LMS): This is the system (or application) that a user accesses to search for course content, or else to enrol in the course. Normally the LMS is accessible via the web, intranet or both.

* Learning Content Management System (LCMS): Some LMS applications only allow users to carry out course enrolments, completions etc, rather than manage content. In order to maintain courses (including changes and author assessments), a LCMS is required. Good full featured LMS applications provide both LMS and LCMS functions.

* Content authoring tools: These are applications that allow a content developer to create online content, including online assessments.

* Performance management, analytics and reporting: This may be part of the LMS or separate components. These applications provide the student and the organisation's management with a way to measure training effectiveness and return on investment, amongst other things. It is especially useful for risk managers to determine how widely risk training is taking place across the organisation.

* Learning support: This oft-forgotten component is a help centre which provides first level queries from learners; and may assist with learning vendor and venue management.

* Communications: A good communications strategy is essential to ensuring that all users are kept informed and key stakeholders are supporting online learning.

* Governance and process: The most important part of online learning success. This deals with processes that govern how the system is used, from the way business units present training requests, right through to how a user interacts with the online learning systems.

This is the "people part". It's by far the most complex part of online learning, and generally the most neglected.

Why use online learning?

I would be the first to admit that you can't beat a good face-to-face training event in terms of changing behaviours and encouraging participants to retain skills and information. But such learning is costly to create, deliver and manage. When did you last attend a face-to-face session? The answer probably is a while ago and the reason is cost, resources and time.

The biggest benefits for financial institutions choosing online can be summarised as follows:

* Reduced cost of training large numbers of staff, particularly geographically dispersed staff

* Improved "speed to market"--with online learning you can train more people faster

* Improved ability to manage training information, including completion rates, demographic penetration, performance, compliance and competency management analytics

* Increased access to training and development opportunities for staff

* Consistency of delivery of training to staff--all staff know how to access and manage training on a self-service basis. …