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Why trainers are paramount to e-learning success

The world is constantly evolving and as it does some jobs become obsolete. For example, you won’t see a father sit his son down and say “you’ve got to do good in school and learn an honest trade — one day you’re going to make a fine cobbler”. Shoe-repairing is not a big thing these days. Blacksmiths are also not as sought after as they were in Frontier days, and if you wanted to search for a chandler (the candle maker, not the character from Friends) your best chances would be in a Renaissance Fair.

The Industrial Revolution was probably the largest union breaker in history and since then people have had some degree of apprehension when it came to technological progress.

Corporate trainers, however, are not a category that should worry about going extinct any time soon. Just as the cinema did not transform theaters or books into things of the past, e-learning is only a new tool for learning & development, not a substitute for trainers.

E-learning is a tool of the modern trainer’s trade

If anything, e-learning has the capacity to make trainers’ lives and jobs significantly easier. A lot of subjects that used to be a bore can now be delivered in e-learning form. Take work safety instructions for example. It was never the delight of any trainer to stand in front of an adult crowd and, holding a straight face, tell them not to run down the stairs and to only enter an elevator cabin facing it.

Of course, the online version of animated Nancy tripping on a loose piece of carpet and of animated Bill trying to stand on an improvised ladder made out of cardboard boxes is equally hilarious but at least the audience is laughing at a screen – while at the same time completing their safety training. So everybody is happy.

Furthermore, since blended learning has already proved effective, having morsels of the learning material being delivered online is actually highly beneficial to all involved. Trainers can use this method to get rid of the boring bits while those involved with the online course design can make them more entertaining or interesting by way of presentation.

Trainers are not all show

For those who still hold the opinion that classroom trainers and e-learning do not go well together, I have but one question:

Who is behind the online courses anyway?

One answer is: computer savvy people; and it is a good one but truly they only put on the screen what somebody else tells them to.

Online training courses do not just pop up out of thin air. There is a long and complex process behind them. It all begins with investigating learning needs, goes on with selecting the important objectives and then there is the laborious task of designing the programs. Delivery is only the tip of the iceberg. Even if it’s decided for it to be in e-learning mode, the work behind it still needs to be done by educated professionals.

Furthermore, the trainer also acts as the content manager of all other reading materials to be given out to learners — before or after the training session. This way, the trainer is in charge with identifying all available learning materials within the company’s training structure and informing the learners of all appropriate courses for self-study.

More often than not there are prerequisites to e-learning courses as there is need of a background to the topic being taught. Once all the participants go through the online materials, refreshers and reinforcement materials are in order for better understanding and applying the information.

The trainer is able to identify and share resources beyond the content of the online course. These help learners get deeper knowledge; whether we are talking about web resources, research findings or scholarly articles, it takes an informed person to find and link them to the online materials.

Automated answers are fun but not necessarily right

Classic training sessions usually end with Q&A — it is only natural for the participants to miss some of the information or meaning or simply to be curious about some things. With e-learning, it is still the trainer who answers learner queries. Sometimes participants need to discuss certain aspects of the material, want to hear a different opinion or search for validation of their own.

Of course to some extent the Q&A part could be automated but, let’s face it, it would only lead to people asking the silliest things for fun. Just ask Siri.

While every online course contains tests and quizzes that the participants take, it is not enough to assess the efficiency of the unit. Businesses care about the impact learning has on their results and in order to measure that a few boxes checked correctly do not suffice.

Because employees find themselves at different levels of competency and have various learning styles it takes specialists to design learning paths, recommend courses and quantify learning results.

To sum up, since classroom trainers do a lot more than simply deliver content in front of an audience, e-learning is actually there to make their job easier and more interesting rather than obsolete.