E-learning, as well as spending on corporate training overall, had atrophied during the recession. That's reversing as the economy improves and companies reevaluate employee-development programs, especially compliance training related to newer government regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Blended training--including traditional and virtual-classroom methods--will still be preferred by many companies, says IDC senior research analyst Peter McStravick. "E-learning is one tool in the training toolbox," he says.
However, E-learning is particularly suited for training that requires employees to become knowledgeable on topics quickly, and that also requires companies to record training results. Both requirements are synonymous with most of the new government-imposed compliance regulations.
IDC forecasts that the E-learning market, which was about $6.5 billion in 2003, will increase to more than $21 billion by 2008.
Much of E-learning's growth will come from wider availability of related services; lower cost of services due to the adoption of hosted software models and learning-management platforms; and growing acceptance of and dependence on E-learning as training, the IDC report says.
E-learning is still more attractive to some industries more than others, says Marianne Hedin, IDC analyst and co-author of the report. Technology companies will continue to be "much more open to E-learning," Hedin says. E-learning also is used most commonly for tech-related learning, such as teaching new PC skills as well as technical training to IT staff. E-learning is an increasingly popular platform for product-knowledge training of sales and other employees at tech and nontechnology companies.
Geisinger Health System, which serves 2 million patients in rural Pennsylvania, has been using E-learning products from Pathlore Software Corp. for nearly two years for compliance and safety training.
Geisinger assistant director of education services Jack Latshaw says all 8,500 Geisinger employees will use Pathlore's learning-management apps.
Pathlore's E-learning apps cut not only the cost of bringing employees to classrooms, but also eliminate the need for doctors to leave busy practices for training. "HIPAA will never end," there will always be a need for Geisinger to train new and existing employees on the company's privacy and other HIPAA-related practices and policies, he says.
Others at Geisinger are using it for fire and other safety education, while lab workers will use it for certification training, and HR personnel will use it for policy learning. Each Geisinger employee is assigned course lists based on their job, and the software helps Geisinger keep track of progress, he says. Latshaw expects the Pathlore products, which cost "in the six figures" to pay back their costs in three years.
At Geisinger, training modules run about 15 minutes and feature still-slides presented on streaming video, which lets employees fit learning into the workday or after work hours via the Web.