People: the missing link in e-learning

In modern society there are great pressures to learn electronically, asserts Peter Honey, who is best known for his research into learning styles. In particular, businesses are attracted to the potential cost savings it can offer over more traditional training approaches and its flexibility.

However not all is as it seems.

At the OSCM conference we were introduced to Mr e-Learning, a seductive fellow but a bit arrogant. A brief perusal of Mr e-Learning's character revealed him to be full of interesting and useful (and not so useful) information; he will search tirelessly for links and he is very generous with his information, attractively packaging products for you.

And his talents do not stop there. He is eminently accessible - he can be found anywhere and at anytime; versatile (he has many talents such as mixed media and blended learning); and well connected - he has loads of contacts (through discussion groups, e-mails etc).

But he is a little naive in that he thinks people have time to do e-learning; a bit of a bore - he drones on and on and lacks empathy with the learner.

Learning is more than just the process, it is also about the outcome. The evidence suggests that the vast majority of people who embark on e-learning courses do not finish them, usually dip in and out and find the format rather tedious. Successful models of e-learning have been heavily supported by people. More importantly, attention needs to be given to the learning process (and Mr e-learning if he had more empathy could achieve this more easily than the lecturer with a larger audience).

Rating Mr e-Learning on a scale of 9 factors (date in the diary dedicated time, place conducive to learning, demonstration, introductory video, hands on practice, colleague and peer support, teacher responsiveness/support and teacher personality), Mr e-Learning scores 5. He cannot give hands on practice (unless for a computer skill); he finds it difficult to project a personality and be responsive.

Mr e-Learning has a lot still to learn...


Reproduced by kind permission from the Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring journal "Coach and Mentor". For more information visit or email