Cheri Thompson

Article Summary:

Successful eLearning solution implementations are not only possible; they can be very rewarding by putting some best practices in place.

Successfully Implimenting an eLearning Solution

While the rewards of a successful eLearning solution implementation certainly outweigh all the challenges, we must be aware of (and develop contingency plans for) the common obstacles to be encountered. The most common challenges we have observed with implementing eLearning have been:

  1. Failure to Conduct a Cost to Benefit Analysis (CBA)

  2. Not Implementing Change Management Simultaneously

  3. Not Compensating for the Lack of Human Contact

  4. Not Developing Contingency Plans

The Cost to Benefit Analysis (CBA)
The CBA should be one of the initial steps taken. Most organizations are shocked at the initial costs to implement eLearning, particularly if they lack the basic technical infrastructure (dedicated servers, highspeed bandwidth). However, upon comparing the time, expenses and resources needed to conduct ILT, the initial costs to implement eLearning shows a positive ROI. And remember, once eLearning is implemented, the course can be taken anywhere, anytime and as many times as desired. ASTD addressed Implementing ROI in eLearning at their ROI Network Conference this year, and they have a good template that can be used to realize the costs of the initial investment.

Implement Change Management Simultaneously
The second most common culprit we've learned organizations fail to do is implement change management - simultaneously. This is particularly necessary in organizations with strong ILT cultures and employee resistance. We learned this important lesson "on the job" during our first eLearning project. To be honest, we hadn't thought about the employee resistance. After all, the client had retained us to recommend and implement a training strategy so why would anyone be opposed? Turned out almost everyone was opposed, and we were our own enemy in this regard. We previously delivered ILT to the end users and they liked coming together in a warm atmosphere, as well as being away from their work locations. From our focus groups we learned the end users liked having their "hands held" and were not receptive to a self-study method. Fortunately, we were able to bring on a change agent early enough in the project to address these concerns.

Lack of Human Contact
The loss of human contact is still one of the greatest challenges to eLearning, and can actually be addressed with the change management strategy. Let's face it, we have been coming together in a classroom setting since kindergarten and old habits die hard. Although we can't give the face-to-face interaction of the classroom, there are techniques we can implement to compensate for the lack of human contact. Web cameras provide a nice visual focus during synchronous training and developing online communities is a huge plus towards increased interaction. We successfully foster long-distance relationships in our personal life through the phone and email and the same can be done in our professional lives.

Another strategy we've successfully implemented was having open lab days post the eLearning implementation. These open labs are facilitated by superusers. End users can come to the lab (during specified hours), practice and get immediate answers to the questions or problems they've encountered. This is very useful for strong ILT cultures and the superuser is someone in the location--so again no travel or additional expenses are incurred.

Develop Contingency Plans
Generally, if it can happen, it will happen - one day. Just like any other implementation, have a contingency plan for eLearning too. Here are some common challenges during synchronous training.

  • Not scheduling enough time: I always reserve 30 minutes more than the conference is scheduled to last - sometimes the Q & A sessions run over.

  • Technical challenges: We've actually lost a server during a webconference. Fortunately, we had emailed the participants the presentation so we were able to continue utilizing the audio portion.

  • Users who can't access the webconference: Although you send out setup instructions prior to the conference, some users won't follow them. Have a designated person they can call to get access help (generally just the click of a link to get access, but some email servers might distort the link and the user may need to copy/paste the address into the browser).

  • New users to eLearning who just don't get it: I've actually had to disconnect a user from the conference: however, this was done only as a last resort (3 other users unmuted their phones to explain what I had said twice already). To minimize others being frustrated, I politely asked him to hang up and one of us would call to assist him. Again, have a designated person available to make these calls.
Successful implementations are not only possible; they can be very rewarding by putting some best practices in place.

Cheri Thompson is President of, an Education, Training and Coaching firm. has been customizing learning solutions for individuals, schools, corporations and government agencies for over 15 years. We specialize in designing creative solutions that are economical, interactive and engaging. Visit us online at

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