Research shows online learning set to come of age

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 1 July 2000




(2000), "Research shows online learning set to come of age", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 32 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Research shows online learning set to come of age

Research shows online learning set to come of age

Keywords Internet, Online, Learning, Market research

A market research study commissioned by British Telecommunications plc and Futuremedia plc for Solstra, the integrated learning solution, shows that the overall growth of Internet and intranet use is encouraging HR managers to take a closer look at online learning, with nearly 40 per cent of companies either using or planning to use online learning in the near future.

The research follows on from a similar study commissioned for Solstra 12 months earlier. The project was designed to track the changes in awareness, use and attitudes towards online learning amongst HR and training managers in organizations with over 500 employees.

The 1999 study revealed that currently 21 per cent of companies are using or implementing online learning (that is training and job support information delivered over the Internet or corporate intranet direct to an employee's desktop) with a further 18 per cent planning to do so within the next 12 months. Out of those companies already using online learning, over 30 per cent said they had seen a fairly significant return on their investment yet the majority (53 per cent) believe that it is still too early to tell.

The growth in awareness and use of online learning has been facilitated by the general acceptance of Internet technology as a whole. For example, the number of companies using intranets has soared by 21 per cent from only 51 per cent in 1998 to 72 per cent in 1999, whilst the numbers with access to the Internet have remained constant at around 86 per cent.

The survey also found evidence to support the argument that more and more people are living a "Web lifestyle" where they instinctively turn to the Net for information. Forty per cent of HR managers said they would go to the Internet to find out more information on online learning products. In fact, general awareness of the Internet as a means of delivering online learning has tripled over the past year from only 8 per cent in 1998 to 24 per cent in 1999, with 43 per cent of HR managers actually having seen online learning in action.

The growth in this Internet awareness, coupled with the fact that more and more companies are using intranets, is enabling HR managers to re-evaluate their approach to the delivery of learning and allowing them to integrate both traditional and online methods. Given the fact that the Internet is widely accepted in the workplace, 62 per cent of HR managers now think that their staff would be receptive to online learning with 79 per cent believing that IT managers would also be in favour.

The benefits of being able to learn online as and when it suits you, the business and the customer continue to be well understood. The study found that 99 per cent of respondents, a slight increase on 1998 figures, agreed that online systems let employees learn at their own pace. Almost nine out of ten people, the same as in 1998, acknowledged that such systems allow the online learner to access training and job support information when- and wherever they choose. This year, 82 per cent (78 per cent in 1998) of those questioned recognised the fact that this technology is an excellent means of delivering information tailored to meet specific business needs.

However, although the awareness of the benefits of online learning remains high, there is still a strong perception that online learning would leave staff feeling isolated. Sixty-one per cent voiced concerns over this compared with 65 per cent in 1998 but the feeling that online learning would be unsuitable for group work has been overcome with 52 per cent now seeing the collaborative benefits that online learning can bring.

Further information on Solstra is available on the Internet at

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