The expectations placed on managers are increasing as organizations need to pace and compete against the global market. Increasing awareness and linear growth patterns have increased the complexity of work, job requirements and skills required by people. Employees have to continuously adjust to organizational needs, consumer demands and environmental pressures. Recent professional demands have required people to develop and maintain a knowledge base and skills, leading organizations to spend money on training and development of their employees (Bassi, Ludwig, McMurrer, & Buren, 2000). Organizations have made it a priority for managers to master techniques and skills, to be more efficient to help cope with time constraints, and to help delegate work in the best possible manner.
United Kingdom has seen a great industrial change as their market has gone from service based to knowledge/information based. Industrial change, global competition and the introduction of new technology has created the need for skills, knowledge and training. Companies have started budgeting to train their employees to meet corporate challenges. One of the ways to meet these challenges of training for soft and hard skills is through technology (Acheive Global, 2009). Online e-learning is not only tailored to an individual's pace and style of learning but also offers the possibility of continuous learning. E -learning has its pros and cons, but from the corporate perspective, training through technology can be cost effective, less time consuming allowing minimal human interaction. E-learning courses are being used by organizations to help cater to various problems related to learning and research shows that e-learning provides increase learner convenience, worldwide training and lower expenses (Welsh, Wanberg, Brown, & Simmering, 2003). E-learning can be more effective than the traditional classroom face-to-face experience. Web-based learning is 6% more effective than classroom training (Traci, Kurt, David, & Robert, 2006). This form of learning can help improve the level and variety of competencies implementing learning objectives.
This essay will discuss the training cycle of the training package. As assessed by the company, effective delegation skills need to be trained through this package. The training plan would include content - Gagne's taxonomy of learning would be used to design the basic structure. Trainee characteristics - would include different learning styles and Honey and Mumford's theory would be discussed in detail. Methods would include ideas of structure like learning goals, collaborative blog, live chat etc. Methods of feedback and evaluation would also be discussed in detail. Objectives and training goals would follow the theory of SMART objectives. Purpose and intended outcomes will be discussed briefly. Positives and negatives of e-learning will be discussed.
As mentioned above, e-learning has many positives and has become very popular in the 21st century. Many trainers have realized that learning can take place in different forms and different ways. Sitzmann et. al (2006) found that learning does not always have to take place in the traditional classroom setting. Virtual or e-learning can be personalized for the individual who has full control on the learning experience. The learner assumes a proactive role and learning is conveyed through a question and discovery process (Brady, Conlan, O'Keeffe, & Wade, 2007). At an average eighty percent of the workforce uses computers in their workplace. Technical difficulties like knowledge of softwares, bandwidths etc are becoming a trivial issue as technology is progressing. E-learning provides organizations the chance to train multiple people at the same time, anywhere around the globe. E-learning is cost effective has it caters to multiple people in multiple locations at the same time. Companies save between fifty to seventy percent when classroom style learning is replaced by e-learning and virtual learning environments (Gregory.M, 2002 as mentioned in (Kenney, 2005)). It can be cost-effective for companies as travel costs reduce along with many others. Along with being cost effective, e-learning grant room for individual learning styles and differences. It can allow simulation that can be tailored to every individual style. Having more control over learning leads to a sixty percent faster learning curve (Karen.L.Jones). As the learning content is concise and broken down into organized steps it is easy for the brain to pick up and make mental constructs. George Kelly (1955) mentions in her theory that people analyze, absorb and understand information by making mental constructs to related concepts to one another. The more information is structured and broken down into chunks the better people will understand and therefore learn faster. E-learning provides a forum for collaboration and interactivity. Online courses compared to formal training can be less intimidating and less confident workers learn more comfortably. E- Learning has its drawbacks. Unmotivated learners may find it difficult to keep attention and focus. Unfamiliar technology, structure or design may confuse people. Some individuals may feel the lack of social interaction and the constant 'push' there is to learn in traditional training environments.
E-learning being beneficial for companies would prove to be a good method of teaching delegation skills in managers. Below would follow techniques and theory which would help create an online training course which would include streamed videos, chat rooms, e-mail correspondence, simulations, case studies, discussion groups etc so employees can take the best from this program. Aim to satisfy employer and financial backers to help increase clients along with effectively teaching delegation skills through this package.
This package aims to cater individual differences and acknowledges the fact that people learn differently. Various methods to help appeal learning styles can be incorporated within this package to make learning delegation skills fun. First and foremost, imagery, videos, interaction and feedback would help gain attention of the learners. The content would include images, sounds in the background reading the text would help build memory and better retention. Activities , games and pop-up quizzes would help learners apply what they have learned. These games and quizzes would reveal correct answers after the first try to help people get immediate feedback so they can catch up on anything they have misunderstood or missed in the material provided. Through a membership process to the server website employees can engage with one another in live chat rooms, post ideas and thoughts on blogs to create a discussion room where it is easy to share information, perceptions and ideas.
Learning styles theory by Honey and Mumford (1986) is detailed, simple and categorizes people into four different types of learners. According to Honey and Mumford 'activists' are learners who understand and absorb better by physically completing a task and are open to new ideas and new experiences. 'Theorists' are people who learn by analyzing the theory which results in the action and have a systematic approach towards new information. 'Pragmatists' are similar to activists but they prefer to apply their theories to everyday life as compared to the activists who prefer to test their learning in a controlled environment such as workshops. 'Reflectors' are similar to theorists but they prefer to observe and absorb information and view experiences from alternating angles and collect data before they reach a conclusion whereas theorists prefer reviewing theories. They can also be considered as a mix of theorists and activists (Dunham, 1995).
The design being used to make this e-learning course is Gagne's taxonomy of learning (Gagne, 1972). The reason I have chosen his one is due to its prolonged use and effectiveness as it was designed to cater to people from various backgrounds as is the case for military personnel. I will be using Honey and Mumford's style of learning because the learner is categorized into a learning style before learning is begun and provides a very in-depth analysis of the learner. I will initiate the e-learning package with an activity to gain attention such as a small interactive program that tests the learner's basic delegation skills in a simple everyday environment to familiarize them with the kind of learning that is about to take place or to shift their thinking process into a more suitable direction to allow easier absorption of information. Study shows that prior introduction to the learning material positively relates to learning (Simmering, Posey, & Piccoli, January 2009). After the learner has gone through the introduction I will have them fill out an online questionnaire so as to profile them into a category, namely activist, theorist, pragmatist and reflector. The introduction would include information about the four types of learning styles by Honey and Mumford which would interest them to know about themselves. The Learning Style Questionnaire (LSQ) developed by Honey and Mumford (1986) would be probably used to best fit the employees into categories so the main e-learning package can be altered for these four groups. When the questionnaire has been filled out the learner will then be given the objectives of the course.
The objectives will be used to convey the training goals, to provide the framework required and will be used to assess performance at the end of the course. The objectives will be conveyed through the S.M.A.R.T objectives methods (1981) by Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham. Which stands for specific - the objectives will be specific about what the required achievement is such as increasing profits or reducing costs, measurable - the objectives will be measurable, achievable - whether the objectives defined above are attainable, realistic - whether the objectives can be reached with the current resources and the last one which is time which will refer to the time frame that the objectives are supposed to be achieved in. Other models for conveying objectives can also be used such as Mager's tips on instructional objectives which say that useful objectives should contain an audience which means in this case the learner who is taking the course; performance (or behavior) which in this case should be the change in the learner after the course is finished, 'standard' which defines what the quality or required achievement is at the end of the course and 'condition' which determines the conditions under which the task must be performed. The reason the objectives have been made S.M.A.R.T is that the S.M.A.R.T formula provides a greater space for detail than Mager's tips which makes them better suited for this course when objectives are just fresh and not properly thought through they lose focus. After an objective is smartly (S.M.A.R.T ) thought through a person has a very clear target which has a defined deadline and clear method of achieving that target.
After the objectives the course will have a brief overview of the kind of training that the managers have gone through before taking this course or if it is not group specific then a brief overview of conventional training methods to improve delegation of tasks will be given so that if the learner has received training prior to this course it will refresh their memory before the course moves onto the stimulus and learning guidance.
There will be a wide variety of stimuli used depending on the category that the learner belongs to in Honey and Mumford's learning style mentioned earlier. For activists, who prefer activity rather than observing the stimuli used will be puzzles, competition and role-playing. The learning guidance available to activists will be brainstorming, problem solving, group discussion and interactive learning. For theorists who prefer to understand theory is a systematic manner the stimuli will be models, statistics, quotes, stories and background information and the learning guidance will be discussion groups which could result in a more in-depth debate regarding the theories rather than seminars with limited time. For pragmatists the stimuli will be time which will be given in order for them to consider the possibilities of applying it to reality, case studies to see examples of how other people have managed to integrate delegation skills into their lives and discuss with each other their findings. The learning guidance for them will be problem based learning in which the course will provide them with real life scenarios in which their newly acquired skills can be integrated. For the last type which is reflectors, the stimuli will be paired discussions so that the participants can share experiences and help gain and retain more.
Trainee characteristics to be noted are motivational factors, cognitive ability and personality in managers. To keep people motivated, the included games, images and audio would help create curiosity and interest. The fact that this learning package can be in the comfort of one's home can increase motivation as there would be no fatigue of travelling. Memory plays a vital part in learning and to help employees learn better I would focus on using colors, sounds, multiple types of media and different layouts with the natural movement of the eye so people can remember better and all audio, visual and kinesthetic people can absorb information.
A six-month follow up would be done by checking the appraisal records to provide an electronic feedback and measure change over time. This change would then be presented by using Kirkpatrick's model (1987) by explaining the reactions of learner, the learning they attained, any recorded change in behavior and lastly results on the organization. This report would not only help the organization understand the training outcomes better but would also allow me to improve.
To enhance retention and transfer an email of related case-studies and short stories to read would be sent to the employees so interested learners can gain more and more.
This training package would be designed on the basis of Honey and Mumford's learning styles and how individual differences can be catered to in a virtual environment. The objectives and aims for this course are thoroughly thought over by using the S.M.A.R.T method. It is a very detailed process in which goals and targets are analyzed to reach maximum results. The content of the course would include images, games, sounds and videos to help different personalities, learning styles absorb information quicker in a simpler way. E- Learning due to its ability to be accessed anywhere helps learns learn at their own pace. A process of feedback correspondence would follow to help evaluate the program along with sending case-studies to help retain interest.