Kenya: Flexible Online Learning Clicks With Employers

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Companies are slowly reducing reliance on physical training programmes and adding online learning portals to their staff learning systems to improve output while ensuring maximum utilisation of office hours. Experts say online learning is convenient because it reduces the need for the learner to travel to a place to learn. "While applying online learning programmes, you do not need to send employees out of their workplaces," said Gathogo Kimani, CEO Octopus ICT solutions.

Because of such convenience, not only companies but individual employees who may often lack enough time out of their busy office schedules to attend classes are choosing online training programmes. Locally, companies like those in the telecommunications, banking and health industries have adopted online learning programmes.

Initiatives for similar programmes in the public sector also seem to be on the rise. "Right now we are building a portal and developing content for an online HIV/AIDS learning programme for use by various government departments. This is being done in collaboration with NASCOP, the ministry of medical services and the Kenya ICT board," said Kimani.

While physical classroom training added value to employment life, particularly in regard to employee's performance at the workplace, well executed online training programmes have similar benefits in addition to saving time needed for training.

To stay ahead of the rest in terms of efficiency and employee productivity which has direct impact on corporate performance, companies cannot afford to ignore staff training programmes.

They provide avenues for workers to learn while on the job as well as to instill emerging concepts in their respective technical areas. Previously, learning centres either located within a company's buildings or in separate locations provided training avenues. And they came along with training schedules for staff which would often be hectic to balance in the case of large companies with many employees.

In addition, training facilities meant a company has separate staff specifically dedicated to staff training all which spelt additional costs to companies.

"Online programmes cut down on costs of training because even though they do not completely do away with physical trainers, they reduce the level of trainer services required," said Allan Akoko, staff development manager at Commercial Bank of Africa.

While experts appreciate the role played by physical training programmes, they argue that online programmes are ideal in achieving faster results as all employees can undergo a course simultaneously without relying on scheduled training sessions.

But online training does not necessarily mean an end to physical training. "For best results, it is ideal to blend both modes. While online training gives the employee a chance to explore training at their own initiative, some concepts are better dealt with in a physical learning programme," said Mr Akoko.

Also, because of the flexibility that online learning allows, some employees have been known to be lazy in completing the recommended courses. It is advisable that employers include physical training to complement the role of an online learning programme. "It calls for high level of discipline among employees when applying online training programmes. Being a self directed learning culture, some employees may fail to complete the required courses," he added.

Therefore, continuous evaluation of the online training programme in a bid to establish its exact yield in improving staff productivity is encouraged as the practice will help identify any shortfalls of such a programme.