E-learning is picking up with the pandemic and rules about social distancing but training providers have quickly realised that this trend, which was late to land in Asia because of cultural peculiarities, lacks Asian content and trainers.
Nellie Wartoft, CEO of Tigerhall, a digital learning platform based in Singapore, points out that even with the lockdowns and rules about social distancing, most corporations cannot bring their training and development programmes to a halt.
“Many have started to budget and plan for e-learning over the long term. We already see a shift from offline learning towards online learning in many countries. There will be more in the coming years,” she says.
She says the global e-learning market is worth about US$200 billion this year and is expected to reach US$350 billion by 2030. “The virus outbreak should have accelerated the growth,” she adds.
Corporations and businesses have also quickly realised the benefits of adopting e-learning. The crucial point is that it can help them save costs on top of providing their employees with the convenience to upgrade themselves at their own pace.
“You do not always have to be in the headquarters of your company to be trained. You do not have to take a train, or a flight and stay at a hotel. You can learn anywhere. And with e-learning, you will save money,” she points out.
Why have corporations in Asia been so slow to hop on this particular bandwagon? It’s an issue of both trust and control, she says.
“Some people would mute their computers and laptops and do their own thing such as watching a movie while attending an online training workshop. If the programme is done in a room, the organiser can have full control,” says Wartoft.
E-learning platforms lack Asian speakers and content
Another key obstacle for Asian companies to implement e-learning is the lack of Asian speakers and content, she points out.
“When you look at online learning content, in general, 83% of those programmes are developed and delivered by a white 45-year-old American,” she says.
Such is the feedback Wartoft received from industry players and various clients in Singapore, Malaysia and India. So Tigerhall is now making an effort to introduce more Asia-centric content.
While the Covid-19 outbreak has driven corporations and businesses to the e-learning space, Wartoft says many of them would want to have both offline and online training and development programmes for their employees.
Prior to the virus outbreak, corporations and businesses liked to organise offline training programmes, mentorship programmes or even private luncheons and dinners for employees to meet trainers, speakers and mentors in person. These things will continue once the virus is contained.
However, some offline programmes that Tigerhall helped clients organise recently were moved online, says Wartoft. It has found creative solutions around the social distancing rule.
“We organise virtual private dinners where we deliver a three-course dinner to participants which they can enjoy together with the expert of the group they are part of,” she says
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should take the virus outbreak period as a chance to explore different e-learning platforms to see how these online portals can help develop their talents.
“SMEs do not have the same resources and budgets as their MNC (multi-national corporation) counterparts. E-learning platforms could provide them with a cheaper and easier way to upgrade their teams,” she says.
Wartoft adds that many SME business founders are worried that they are the only person their team can learn from.
“An e-learning platform can help bring in other experts. For instance, if the founder is not a marketing person, an e-learning platform can allow his team to learn from the head of marketing of Facebook, for instance. SMEs owners do not have to spend a lot on hiring expensive trainers,” says Nellie.