Only 15 per cent of organisations say elearning is an effective learning tool, according to CIPD research


Of the three-quarters of organisations currently using e-learning, only 15% report it is effective, according to the CIPD/Cornerstone OnDemand Learning and Talent Development survey 2013.

The perception of e-learning – including methods such as online virtual learning, serious games and webinars – has improved over the past five years (up from 7% of organisations ranking it in their top three methods in 2009).

According to the survey of 1,000 L&D professionals, other training methods are considered to be more effective including coaching by line managers (39%) or in-house development programmes (48%). Despite widespread expectations in the 2011 Learning and Talent Development survey that e-learning would account for an increasing proportion of training time, the 2013 findings suggest e-learning has changed very little over the past two years. Approximately two-fifths of organisations report that e-learning makes up less than 10% of their total training time and just one in ten reports it makes up more than half of their total training time.

Learning and development adviser at the CIPD and author of the report, Dr John McGurk,  said: “The globalisation of many businesses and the need for an agile and highly skilled workforce means that e-learning should be embraced as a vital tool for developing talent and capability across organisations. However, our research data suggests that UK businesses are not taking full advantage of the flexibility of e-learning and the networking opportunities it affords.

Further findings include:

  • Further findings:
  • Nearly three quarters (72%) of organisations that use e-learning reported that they offer it to the majority of their employees, but just 31% of organisations reported that most employees completed the course. This has improved since 2011, when 23% of organisations reported that the majority of their employees completed the course.
  • The use of mobile learning packages designed for smart phones has had very little take-up to date (with only 14% of organisations reporting that they have used them regularly, frequently or occasionally). The use of serious games, for example games designed to test and develop learning through game scenarios, has also had low take up (with only 24% of organisations reporting that they have used them regularly, frequently or occasionally) whereas older methods, such as podcasts and webinars have been more popular (49% and 75% respectively have used them regularly, frequently or occasionally).
  • The use of e-learning is particularly common in the public sector, where 90% of respondents report using it.
  • The vast majority of respondents (91%) stated that they believe e-learning is more effective when it is combined with other types of learning and almost three quarters (72%) agree that it is not a substitute for face to face or classroom learning.

The report can be downloaded here.


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  1. I am sure that many organisations would report this, however this does not mean e-learning actually isn’t an effective learning tool. I actually think a lot of the time e-learning fails because the company has positioned it as a ‘cost-saving’ device, at the expense of prestigious and expensive face to face alternatives. There is also the lack of understanding of what good e-learning is (I get asked to ‘make an e-learning out of’ things like 115-slide PPT’s about a Business Intelligence system for example) and lakcing the necessary investment in the infrastructure to make it accessible and the skills required to create it. Classroom trainers don’t always make good e-learning designers and vice versa. They often resent e-learning because it threatens them – they don’t know it and they think it will take their jobs away. So I think it is partly its positioning, partly lack of understanding and skills and partly lack of investment – e-learning is just fine if it’s done properly. No one would think to suggest classroom training was ineffective – but it often is!!! It is down to the skills of the designer and/or deliverer. Some guy talking to his powerpoint slides about health & safety is not effective either!!!

    • I agree with your comments. Cost-savings made by converting a slide deck to elearning content does not equate to more effective learning content. I see the same in live online learning environments where physical classroom pedagogy is transplanted to the live online environment, which of course requires a whole new apporach to creating useful learning experiences. The answer is in understanding what different tools and techniques are good for.

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