How SMEs Can Make The Most Of Online Learning

Learning has never been easier, so don't miss the chance to increase the skills of your workforce.

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Learning has never been easier, so don't miss the chance to increase the skills of your workforce.


How SMEs Can Make The Most Of Online Learning

Learning has never been easier, so don't miss the chance to increase the skills of your workforce.

Share this article

The growth of digital infrastructure has opened a world of opportunity for entrepreneurs. Business owners are able to reach other continents and cultures from across their kitchen counter.

One of the greatest benefits is the pooling of resources and the ease of information access. This has meant that anyone, anywhere can get a question answered at the swipe of a finger.

The digital revolution has had a huge impact on learning within the workplace. Today there are interactive videos, short-form quizzes, easily digestible micro-content and engaging online courses that can be accessed without having to leave your chair.

Run a bakery but are looking for a new oven? There’s a blog comparing the latest models. Want to motivate your staff, but are not sure what to invest in? There’s a TED Talk on YouTube.

Online learning provides enormous flexibility for entrepreneurs. With days, and most likely evenings too, dedicated to servicing contracts and clients, business owners have to be mindful to set aside time to work on their own development.

Learning things digitally provides a quick and accessible way to continue personal development. You can pick up your learning on a myriad of devices, pause it and then come back to it at your convenience.

Companies that instil an ethos of learning are more fluid and are naturally better at adapting to new challenges. As Millennials and Generation Z continue to join the workplace, businesses risk losing their next pool of talent to rivals if they don’t provide adequate learning and growth opportunities.

A report by PWC revealed that 74% of Millennials place a great emphasis on learning new skills. In fact, over a quarter listed training and development programmes as the primary factor in making an organisation attractive to employees.

The benefits

One of the biggest benefits of online learning is accessibility. You can access learning anywhere, anytime, from your prefered device. However, an often overlooked benefit is the ability to track the progress of yourself or your staff.

Most online learning programmes, or even your own YouTube history, will show you what you have and haven’t covered. It’s easy to begin to build a learning portfolio, where you can easily revisit topics to refresh.

Another important benefit of online learning is efficiency, both in terms of time and cost. If you wish to train yourself or a member of staff, instead of having to send them away on a course, they can now engage with the learning programme from their desk in an afternoon.

For a more robust, long-term approach, working with a digital learning agency can help you put together an online training programme to meet your specific targets. Once created, you can easily scale its use across all members of staff.

The benefits of digital learning include individual programmes of learning, incentivised learning and nudges of achievement such as badges or markers, and performance tracking.

It helps keep learners up to date with their peers, as well as allowing them to communicate, share knowledge and get help from colleagues in the ways they have become accustomed to on social media - but within a professional learning context.

Many organisations get stuck after purchasing or creating an initial system, but then struggle to populate it or use it effectively, and that’s where a digital learning agency can be worth its weight in gold, to keep the content regularly updated, and design fresh programmes of training as new requirements surface..

The risks

As effective as online learning can be, there are some drawbacks compared to offline-learning. For example, online learning can’t really evaluate if you have performed a manual task correctly, or how you handled a delicate management issue.

There are ways to combat this, such as live webinars or video conferencing sessions with tutors. However, some issues are so complex that they need a trainer to be able to interact and guide learners through the learning.

A blended learning approach that combines online digital platforms with more traditional, individual and group training methods can help give learners the best of both worlds.

The resources

With so many resources out there, it can be hard to know what sources to trust. That’s why it's worth connecting to professional groups within your sector. Not only will many of these have already identified several good sources of learning, they are likely to be filled with people with shared interests.

These professional groups can be fantastic places to share and develop ideas, as there is a mutual benefit and motivation to learn and grow. It’s also worth looking for local groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, Slack and WhatsApp. Another good source of learning is connecting with real-world groups and meetups, many of which can be found online.

To make the most of these resources within an SME, a quick start is for business owners or managers to use cloud software, such as Google Docs or Outlook, to build live documents on topics. You can populate the files with links to well-researched content and useful videos, to create your own basic online learning programmes.

For larger organisations, it may be worth considering using learning and performance management systems, where courses can be developed in a more formal way. However, it’s important the content is regularly reviewed and updated.

As with most things, if you can afford to use a professional digital learning agency, you will benefit from an effective and engaging learning programme, built by people with years of experience.

The future

As with all things based in technology, today’s disruptor is tomorrow’s old hat - entrepreneurs have to keep moving forward if they are to stay ahead of the curve. Video is regularly breaking records when it comes to engagement - which is one of the key barriers to learning.

A particularly exciting facet is interactive video, where learners can actively engage with content. This is even moving into the entertainment industry with platforms like combining the interactive nature of video games, with the quality of high-end TV shows.

The more you can engage a learner with the content, the richer the learning experience and therefore the more effective it is. Interactive video is also an incredibly useful source of data for managers, as the choices made by the user can shed light on how they learn, and what types of topics the learner handles better.

Though the future may be hard to predict, by mindfully keeping engaged with news, articles and comments from learning experts - you can keep up with the tide.

Martyn Bull is the Senior Learning Designer at digital learning agency Insitu Digital.

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How SMEs Can Make The Most Of Online Learning

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