Delivering E-Learning: A Complete Strategy for Design, Application and Assessment

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 4 October 2011


Wilson, J.P. (2011), "Delivering E-Learning: A Complete Strategy for Design, Application and Assessment", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 43 No. 7.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Delivering E-Learning: A Complete Strategy for Design, Application and Assessment

Article Type: Bookshelf From: Industrial and Commercial Training, Volume 43, Issue 7

Kenneth Fee,Kogan Page,London,2009,180 pp.,ISBN 9780749453978,

The first use of the term “e-learning” was in 1997 and since then there has been a rapid growth in the application of e-learning. Moreover, the CIPD’s annual Learning and Talent Development Survey 2011 shows that the economic downturn has resulted in a greater number of organizations using e-learning to reduce costs. However, the growth of the early years has flattened and is now relatively steady.

One of the reasons for this leveling off in the use of e-learning is that it has limited attractiveness. In comparison to the sophisticated computer programs and games that are readily available e-learning often appears cheap and boring. Moreover, the cost of developing e-learning can often be much more expensive than traditional forms of delivery unless there are large economies of scale.

There is no question that e-learning is important with it now accounting for about 10 percent of all training. However, I cannot be the only one who is frustrated by the extravagant claims that I sometimes read about in magazines such as People Management. Companies issue press releases proudly stating that they have saved 50 percent of their training budget by introducing an e-learning program. It may be true that they have saved 50 percent of the training budget but to what extent is the impact on quality of learning? There is much less long-term evaluation of the impact of these interventions and rhetoric would appear to be much more valued than reality.

This book is a welcome pragmatic consideration of the practicalities of delivering e-learning and is intended to be read from start to finish although it is also possible to dip into using the contents and index pages. There is a summary of key points at the end of each chapter and also a bibliography for further reading. There are also a series of glimpses of a learning and development manager applying the book’s ideas about e-learning for the first time. Also, a virtual round table provides insights from interviews the author held with leading representatives of the e-learning community.

There are eight chapters with the first examining why e-learning is widely misunderstood and making suggestions about how to understand it better. Kenneth Fee, the author, comments that:

Rarely has a new concept, the subject of so much attention, been so muddled.

He continues:

Good e-learning is therefore a combination of technology that works, meaningful content and effective learning design.

Fee also identifies five models of e-learning: online courses; integrated online and offline learning; self-managed learning; live e-learning; and, electronic performance support.

The second chapter explores why so many initiatives have failed referring to the UK e-university which collapsed and even companies such as McGraw-Hill which have exited e-learning. Fee gives examples of where e-learning is not appropriate, i.e. where face-to-face involvement is necessary; where it is important to be in situ; and, where learners need to be exposed to a new situation. Chapter 3 discusses how to develop an e-learning strategy from scratch and which is aligned with business strategy. Chapter 4 examines the role of suppliers and resources and attempts to demystify digital learning technologies. In particular it considers virtual learning environments and the use of wikis and blogs. There is a good section “Twenty things to be wary of vendors” which includes: e-learning is not different from learning; and, vendors tend to exaggerate the importance of their products and services.

The fifth chapter considers learning design and distinguishes between the “stuff” of learning – the content, from the “stir” – the way the learning is shaped and delivered to the learner. Fee proposes five general principles for e-learning design: it should be a managed program; it should be an effective learning experience; it should be a learning process, not just e-reading; it should use technology to enhance learning; and it should take advantage of the strengths of the web.

As with all interventions there should be some form of evaluation and chapter 6 looks at measurement and results, whether it works, and how it should be linked to strategy development. In particular, he looks at Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation and return on investment. The penultimate chapter describes sources for e-learning support and for self-development. Finally, the book concludes with some thoughts, speculation, forecasts and predictions. Fee concludes that e-learning is here to stay and therefore needs to be seriously considered and applied in appropriate ways.

Kenneth Fee is an e-learning champion and by this he does not express extravagant claims about e-learning. Instead, he presents a down-to-earth and practical approach for e-learning. He does not consider it the elixir of learning but one of the means for encouraging learning. He concludes with a few predictions for e-learning regarding the growth in virtual reality; mobile learning; new interfaces; and personalized learning environments. One suspects that he will be relatively accurate.

John P. Wilson