Training - Not Just a Value-Added Service

The 10 Myths of Deploying e-Learning

Myth #1: It is too expensive
{mosimage}This is simply not true. An accounting of the expenses related to classroom training such as travel, and employee down time can quickly justify an e-Learning initiative. And corporate trainers do justify the launching of an e-Learning program with a ROI analysis, detailing the savings achieved through distance learning. (A sample ROI spreadsheet can be obtained through Marketing Concepts, Inc.) However, if one considers the Internet as a tool for delivering successful training, the cost of e-Learning is further reduced.

Today, trainers are convinced that multiple delivery methods, including the classroom, are necessary to accomplish successful training. E-mail can be utilized in a systematic way to expose recipients to training content. MS Outlook can be used as a low-cost learning management system to track student assignments. Local web developers can be employed to create html portals that provide a "home" for company MS PowerPoint presentations and other training materials. With the vast number of contact points within the food industry, be it sales staff, brokers, or customers, e-Learning can provide a more efficient and economical means of delivering education.

Myth #2: e-Learning takes a long time to develop
Web Content Management Systems can reduce the development of a web course from months to weeks. Content is always king. The majority of e-Course development resources usually are in the upfront costs of organizing the material. Trainers and marketers already know how to accomplish this pre-development phase.

Teaming up with developers who use templates and who follow a development process, can significantly speed e-Learning to market. Or if your content is already in PowerPoint format, simply use a product called Articulate to turn it into a web delivered file. Product fact sheets, videos, CDs, and DVDs can easily be converted to an e-Learning format. Consider too that the course you want to build might already be available for a small licensing fee.

Myth #3: It needs significant internal technology resources
Not true. Certainly, it would be advantageous if it were able to support e-Learning development, but most food companies do not have that resource and outsourcing is often the most cost-effective and fastest route. Hosting, development, and Learning Content Management System software (authoring & tracking tools) can be licensed via an application service provider model. The beauty of the Internet is you can outsource these services and software anywhere in the world. Fortunately there are many good LSP's (or should I say Learning Service Providers) specializing in e-Learning right here in the good old US of A.

Myth #4: It is limited by Internet bandwidth
High-speed Internet is available virtually everywhere! Cable modem and DSL have made significant increases in market share. Progressive employers will be funding home use high-speed access for employees at a probable annual cost of less than $500 per year. They have come to understand that, if an employee completes 25 hours of training in a year (for both company and personal development), at home, it pays for itself and they have offered another employee benefit. Lastly, the proliferation of web conferencing for corporate meetings is quickly making high-speed connections a given.

Myth #5: It puts trainers on the unemployment line
Blended e-Learning has become the standard today. Use of the Internet simply shortens the amount of face-to-face classroom time. Trainers are in high demand to provide instructional integrity for the e-Courses developed. Learning objectives, lesson topic structure and instructional games are necessary to keep teaching effective whatever the delivery method.

Myth #6: It is impersonal
Companies are finding new ways to use the Internet to touch their employees, partners and customers. Nationally recognized specialists and sales trainers are replacing live seminars with daily e-mail touches and assignments. Web-based threaded discussion boards enhance mentoring programs by allowing mentors to reach more students. Speakers on live web conferences are using innovative ways to engage desktop users and ensure their interest.

Myth #7: Employees will not accept it
Evaluation results have shown that employee acceptance runs high when a blended approach of web conferencing, classroom, and stand-alone web courses are utilized. Financial institution employees using e-Learning for compliance training appreciate the ease of use, and anywhere, anytime access to complete this yearly requirement. This is similar to folks employed in the food industry where training can be done at their own time and not loosing potential sales by taking staff off the street for the classroom experience.

Myth #8: It does not allow for human interaction
e-Learning can actually increase human interaction. Role-playing exercises can be simulated using Internet technologies. Proper branding of a training web portal can increase knowledge dissemination. Leadership mentoring programs can take on new emphasis. Sales managers are using game-based learning to encourage salespeople to acquire new product knowledge, while competing against each other in an online game of similar to Whack-a-mole.

Myth #9: It is too difficult to change
e-Learning is no more difficult to change than other electronic training media. The complexity of content change depends entirely on the quality of the original program. PowerPoint is frequently being used as a web course-authoring tool. Real-time web casts are being archived as learning nuggets associated with a curriculum. And a web-based content management system can make editing an e-Course as simple as "cut & paste." Compare this to the cost and difficulty of changing current food fact sheets, CDs, or DVDs when a new or improved product is being communicated. Also, with the changes in labeling requirements addressing health and nutritional concerns, having the ability to quickly address an issue through e-Learning is critical.

Myth# 10: Competitors will steal it
Yes they will, if the e-Learning is left unprotected. e-Learning should be endorsed and enabled by IT staff or the key supplier. A primary responsibly of IT, as with all proprietary knowledge, is to provide the proper data security through the use of firewalls and password protection.

Many distributors believe that the DSR's time is better spent selling products as opposed to taking classes. While being in front of the customer is indeed important, a DSR that is in front of a customer that has a better knowledge and understanding of processes and products will usually win the long term business of that operator customer.

Training and educational programs will be key to the success of not only specific products or services but may be important to the overall success of a company. Developing a training program that is both economical as well as efficient should be the goal of every company within the food industry.

With technology continuing to offer new alternatives over past training programs such as onsite sales meetings, videos or CDs, and handbooks, perhaps distance learning can be a viable option. Today, every distributor marketing plan offered to suppliers should contain some type of e-Learning initiative. This might be the ideal time to take a fresh look at e-Learning and to dispel the old myths that have been keeping your training or marketing department from fully utilizing the web to improve motivation and education at your organization.

Tom O'Connell is president of Marketing Concepts, Inc., and a member of the ID Editorial Advisory Board. O'Connell has 30 years of experience in the foodservice and food processing channels. Prior to starting Marketing Concepts more than 13 years ago, he was vice president of marketing for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, creating innovative marketing programs for generic promotion. Prior to that, O'Connell was service as vice president of sales for a major food processor. Through years of experience and hundreds of key contacts within the industry, he has gained an expertise in the food industry that has earned the respect of distributor, operators, and manufacturers alike. As president of Marketing Concepts, he is responsible for overseeing the management and execution of a unique firm that offers strategic direction, business development, market research, and marketing direction/execution. O'Connell, who coordinated the execution of ID Update 2003, has earned several awards from the industry for his unique programs, tactics, and overall thinking, has served in an advisory capacity to numerous foodservice associations.
Jon Aleckson is president of MPI and WebCourseworks

If you have marketing questions that you'd like to address to Tom O'connell, please send them to The Editor.


More from our partners