E-Learning and the Future of Professional Development
09 May 2022 2 mins read By Andrea Amato

Employees are ready to learn and close a widespread digital skills divide. 


Many of today’s workers are situated at home, constructing workstations that can fulfil their everyday workplace tasks whilst getting used to the latest technological software. The Covid-19 pandemic urged workers to figure out how to satisfy their workplace needs and discover newer ones as a result.  

One popular report presented the necessity in upskilling today’s workers. This report particularly showed that 77% of employees are prepared to learn new skills and engage in novel training developments (PwC, 2021). This is largely explained by the rise of technology, exposing a digital divide between those individuals already adept with current software and those less so.  

Whilst employees are more forthcoming toward learning developments today, e-learning platforms weren’t so popular until recently. When the first platforms arose, these were often inundated by scam courses offered by dodgy businesses promising to provide a degree for a hefty sum of money. Unfortunately, these overshadowed the legitimate learning platforms, and curated a stigma that would last until a few years ago. 

Positive reviews surrounding e-learning environments began circulating when reputable universities in the US offered online certifications. By 2010, the amount of online students surged to three million. This number has doubled in 2020 and is expected to continue growing not just from an academic sphere but for professionals and their jobs in Malta and worldwide


Why we should all attend to virtual learning today 


As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations across the globe had to re-think current business practices to support a new model of work. This meant that important initiatives related to training, among others, were pushed to the back burner in order to meet current employee needs. Namely, their transition to a remote working environment, and the introduction of widespread remote jobs overall. 

Leaders and managers alike are tasked with understanding present employee needs, which reflect improved training developments to support the skill sets required to fulfil a job role successfully today. This can be quite difficult, for incorporating a new virtual environment to a team can be intimidating, for it is yet another intricate software to be acquainted with. However, leaders should carefully consider this and introduce a learning platform in such a way that aims are clearly discussed, and a dedicated support team is available where needed. 

Before throwing in the best available learning platform out there, leaders should evaluate their organisational and employee needs, in order for learning experiences to make sense for employees. We need to remember that, introducing a rich platform can be a cause for anxiety in some employees—something we’ve learned generally occurs in working during a pandemic. In this way, leaders shouldn’t view learning initiatives as a transactional means to satisfy employee wishes. Rather, it’s a transformational development that leaders guide employees into achieving valuable training arrangements.  


How do we learn effectively? 


Now that we understand our current working society context and how e-learning platforms support organisations today, leaders shouldn’t surpass exploring how we learn and what methods are more effective before selecting lessons at random. 

According to Petriglieri (2020), we learn in two main ways: cognitively and socio-emotionally. Whilst a large amount of research is dedicated to learning exclusively, these apply in workplace contexts as well. In cognitive learning, we ingest, process, and use that information to achieve our tasks. This is how we commonly understand learning and dominates our capabilities in a remote job. 

On the other hand, socio-emotional learning comes from observing other people’s actions. When someone interacts with a new situation, they’re able to think and manage their feelings toward the situation and share that experience with someone else. In this way, we learn how to think and feel towards the same situation if a similar experience arose to us. Both cognitive and socio-emotional learning help us understand and navigate the world before us. 

We tend to neglect socio-emotional learning in workplace settings, where today this kind of learning is entirely appropriate to support our understanding of novel technologies. We can ask our remote team member how to manage virtual calls and share presentations. When one of our colleagues suffers from technical difficulties, we can learn how to avoid this from happening to ourselves. Managers can apply this learning too—it’s no use explaining the functionalities of a new software developer tool without knowing how employees feel about using it. 


Using e-learning for professional development 


Like all technologies, e-learning platforms do possess its limitations, such as its lack of social interaction and requirement for self-motivated users. That being said, these do not overtake the important role education has in evolving professional development. Advantages for using e-learning platforms as part of an organisational training regimen includes: 

  • Flexible learning: employees can choose to complete lessons and activities in their own time, according to their busy schedules. This is an especially valid advantage for working parents who also must upkeep family responsibilities during their jobs in Malta and abroad. 
  • Cost-effective training: in-person events typically require monetary investment in management, external coaches, and open spaces to hold these events. With remote learning, these costs expire, and investments can go toward supplying these platforms. For such platforms to truly be cost-effective, employees must be engaged in partaking in learning. 
  • Wide array of learning opportunities: e-learning platforms offer lessons in a broad range of subjects, bringing numerous available topics to an accessible space for learners. This means that employees can learn multiple topics without investing in many expert teachers. Learning teams can curate programmes that suit the needs of employees and organisations whilst keeping track of program completion. 
  • Accessibility: it goes without saying that an e-learning platform is accessible for remote workers and is a great learning alternative for individuals living in different geographical locations. This is especially true for companies with multiple international offices. It supports flexible working opportunities without compromising workplace goals. 

Lastly, learning teams can amend programs to support current best practices across industries. This is important to consider in 2021, where many individuals are growing more used to constantly changing routines in an uncertain economy. Leaders can remain in the know of current employee needs and accommodate development programs accordingly. In doing so, leaders and managers will foster an organisational climate that supports employee wellbeing in ever-changing times. 

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