eLearning for the Healthcare Industry

If you look at healthcare today, it’s all about disease. The critic, the cynic, and the average Jane & John Doe will vehemently state that it’s no...

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Is eLearning Ageist?

We live in a world where being young is seen as a positive bonus in itself and seems to be a prerequisite for entry to, and advancement in, many indus...

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Learning – Looking into The Future

In an episode of the Simpson’s, Marge Simpson buys Homer a set of subliminal audio cassettes (remember them?) that he was to listen to when asleep, to...

Read More »

Old Dogs and New Tricks

For the first time in the history of workplace culture, we host 4 generations of workers – the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generat...

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Fix India’s Big Retail Challenges with Online Training

Over the last decade, India has witnessed a continuous migration of people from rural areas to Tier I and Tier II cities. Because of this continuing p...

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Is Your LMS Going Out Of Style?

The LMS is an integral part of the L&D industry across corporates, training institutions and a steadily increasing number of educational institutions....

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Use of MOOCs – A Boon for Corporate Training

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have offered multitude of online learners the opportunity to learn new skills and expand their knowledge base. How...

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eLearning for the Healthcare Industry

online training for healthcare

If you look at healthcare today, it’s all about disease. The critic, the cynic, and the average Jane & John Doe will vehemently state that it’s not about wellness any more, and the Healthcare industry is deteriorating.

The Healthcare Industry is a booming industry – it is also one of the biggest industries in the world – in terms of people power. Two factors that influence the exponential growth within this industry are: (1) the increase in chronic disease, and (2) the aging factor. These two factors alone have led to a rise in hospitals and a flurry of increased medical services.

The Problem: The increase in chronic disease and the aging factor have led to the despairing scenario of“more sickness and not enough care”. In an attempt to meet the ever-increasing numbers and needs of the sick, and to combat the problem of “ignorance” in the face of technology-enabled solutions in the Healthcare industry, we have seen a drastic deterioration in the services provided by this otherwise powerful and dynamic industry. There is a need for added services and more healthcare workers – but, this comes at an added cost, and today’s Healthcare Industry is not just bigger but it is also more expensive.

The Need: The need of the hour is a quick, easy, and cost-effective healthcare solution that will address the need for:

  • Better care from healthcare professionals
  • Increased services that will improve the quality of patient life

There is a need for a solution that:

  • Will enable healthcare workers to be better and more humane health service providers
  • Will provide healthcare workers with knowledge on the latest drugs, diseases, services, procedures, etc.

The solution: eLearning or online learning.

Online learning is not about frivolously downloading an online training course from the internet to learn how to administer first aid. Several decades ago, this would have been online learning’s limitations. However, today, technology has led to an upsurge in eLearning. From being a $35.6 billion industry in 2011, it is all set to become a $51.5 billion industry by 2016.

The Healthcare industry is an utterly labor-intensive industry. Health workers require long training periods that are inclusive of both theory and practical training. Acute shortage of workers means that those who are available need to work extra hours. Long hours in turn mean limited time to undergo training. eLearning today is synonymous with the term “any time, any where learning,” and actually allows healthcare workers to learn that way to upskill and upscale their knowledge bank.

This simple, anytime-anywhere learning can also drastically reduce the risk of healthcare workers getting entangled in a medical malpractice lawsuit (incidentally, ‘medical errors’ is known to be the third leading cause for death in America).

Back in 2013, Forbes published an article that described Healthcare as turning into an industry focused on compliance, regulation rather than patient care. The article stated that The Health Care Compliance Association alone has over a dozen different workshops on the myriad of government rules and regulations and offers a “compliance certificate board” or CCB.” – Another use for online learning. Online training on regulation compliance in the healthcare industry allows healthcare professionals to be compliant with the new and changing rules at all times, giving them more time to concentrate on patient care.

Today’s online courses include simulations, medical animations, and mobile learning solutions wherein healthcare workers can access medical knowledge on drugs, procedures, diseases and more on their mobile phones.

Blended learning – another term that is synonymous with eLearning allows for both online as well as ILT (instructor-led training). This method of learning cuts down training costs while training unlimited number of learners, as well as provides learners with the best of two training methodologies (online and instructor led training).

Users of eLearning also have access to a digital library. Depending on the service providers, the library would normally include hundreds of photorealistic 3D stock images of human anatomy, organs, medical environments, anatomical systems, medical equipment, and cellular structures for download. These images may be available just for preview or downloadable.

eLearning is a one-stop solution for continued learning and access to medical records and medical data sought bythe staff of hospitals, pharmaceutical and medical device and diagnostic companies, universities, medical clinics, elderly healthcare agencies, and government healthcare agencies.

While the advantages of online learning or eLearning in the Healthcare industry are many, what stands out is the fact that eLearning is an idiosyncratic, cost effective, user-friendly method of training. And all of its collective qualities lead to better services and better care.

American politician and the junior United States Senator,Bernie Sanders once said, “The goal of real healthcare reform must be high-quality, universal coverage in a cost-effective way.” This is exactly what eLearning is about. This is exactly what eLearning has given to the Healthcare industry.

If you look at healthcare today, it’s all about disease. The critic, the cynic, and the average Jane & John Doe will...

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Is eLearning Ageist?

elearning training

We live in a world where being young is seen as a positive bonus in itself and seems to be a prerequisite for entry to, and advancement in, many industries today. This is particularly true in computer and hi tech industries, but is rapidly spreading to other traditional industries too. While the world is in a tizzy spin trying to “catch ‘em young”, I wonder about the eLearning Industry’s take on catering to the not-so-young.

eLearning and Age: Is eLearning Ageist?

The term “ageism” refers to two concepts: A socially constructed way of thinking about older persons based on negative attitudes and stereotypes about ageing, and a tendency to structure society based on an assumption that everyone is young, thereby failing to respond appropriately to the real needs of older persons.

How many times have we read company blurbs proclaiming that they are “Young, dynamic, and going places fast” – or words to that effect? Even older well-established firms boast of “A young workforce in tune with today’s changing world”.

It is no secret why younger workers are preferred; they are cheaper, flexible (work more hours), disposable (soon as they have given their all). To my mind this whole situation reached a new nadir when I read that both Apple and Facebook were offering to freeze the eggs of their female employees (so that they could give their all to the company in their 20s and 30s)!

The days when an employee could stay with a single firm for their entire working life are long gone, and today multiple job changes and even career changes have become the norm. This now means a situation where someone progresses through their career, changing jobs and advancing up the seniority level, coming to a stage where they then suddenly become unemployable because of their age?

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was just 22 when he famously said “Young people are just smarter”. He is now 30 years old; and in Silicon Valley now the maxim is “Don’t hire anyone over 30”. So the “Facebooks” and “Apples” of this world get them young, work them hard, spit them out, leaving a lot of people in the 35+ age bracket looking for jobs that do not exist for them as they are “too old”.

Are young people smarter, as Zuckerberg claims them to be? There is certainly evidence that shows that as a person ages they learn at a slower rate, but if you read my article “Old Dogs, New Tricks”, research has shown that intellectual ability actually increases until age forty, stays on a plateau and doesn’t show decrease until about age sixty. That is how Albert Einstein conceived his “Theory of Relativity” and Peter Higgs worked out the theory of the Higgs Boson while both were in their forties. So maybe instead of smarter, we could read cheaper, more comfortable with new technology, malleable to the company ethos, less likely to question, but in the end expendable?

The disturbing thought is that with the ever increasing pace of technological change, the number of years between when a person is “too young to be trusted” until he becomes “too old to get hired” will continue to diminish.

So where does eLearning come into all this? Is eLearning ageist? eLearning is becoming almost universal in progressive verticals today, and critics may see it as wittingly or unwittingly aiding and abetting the ageism culture that surely flourishes in the workplace.

eLearning is a powerful tool for learning in all formats, but in the industrial arena is it doing enough to ensure that older employees are not left behind? Being a young industry, is it giving enough thought to people who are not still in their 20s and 30s – do we give any thought at all?

I invite readers to share their comments on some of the questions that we must give a thought to:

  • Does eLearning training put older employees at a disadvantage to those younger because they are not as comfortable or familiar with the devices used, unused to receiving information in this form, and are therefore slower to absorb the information presented?
  • Do older employees score lesser in online assessments?
  • Could lower scores mean that there are chances of them being sidelined for promotion or inclusion in specialized teams, even though they may have made a much better candidate because of their experience, track record, and stability?
  • Is there a fear that they might be unjustly dispensed with where an employer uses performance in eLearning as the sole criteria for employment?


[1] http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/ageism-and-age-discrimination-fact-sheet
[2] http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/15/apple-facebook-offer-freeze-eggs-female-employees
[3] http://www.cnet.com/news/say-what-young-people-are-just-smarter/
[4] http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/lifelonglearning/higher-education/implications/

We live in a world where being young is seen as a positive bonus in itself and seems to be a prerequisite for entry to,...

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Learning – Looking into The Future

learning - looking into the future

In an episode of the Simpson’s, Marge Simpson buys Homer a set of subliminal audio cassettes (remember them?) that he was to listen to when asleep, to help him lose weight. The company instead sends him a set of cassettes to improve his vocabulary! For the period he uses them, Homer piles on weight, but his vocabulary abounds with mellifluous and splendiferous pronouncements!

Sounds like something from science fiction, but research into sleep learning, or hypnopedia, has accelerated in recent years. Research has shown that if ‘awake’ learning is complemented by ‘sleep’ learning, the retention of information is considerably higher. How much? It is known that the brain is active during sleep, mainly sorting and storing events from during that day and if this was better understood hypnopedia could become a useful tool in a learning process – maybe a learning tool in itself – in time.

So apart from hypnopedia, what do we see about learning, looking into the future? We already know that eLearning is big in industry training and also increasingly so in education. We can already see some way into the future, where new technology will continue to make delivery of content easier and more effective. Screenless projection and then holography will free the mobile phone from its restrictive screen size and will make it the sole device that people will use. Huge open online courses will be common with participants from all parts of the globe participating and interacting. Gamification will become a big part of all learning. Virtual reality will remove any restrictions from learning as any scenario can be replicated for students.

So, exciting times ahead for learning indeed! Everything that is listed is already there and working right now. Nothing there is ‘under development’, it is all actually available here and now, but it is just lacking one vital ingredient to becoming mainstream – cheap and powerful computing power.

Right now, we have arrived at a point where there is a ‘bottleneck’ to technological progress, and to understand this, we need to look at Moore’s Law[1].

Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors per square inch on an integrated circuit would double every year, and that has essentially been the case ever since then – up until recently. Chip manufacturers have been steadily reducing the size of the components on their chip to increase the computing power, but now they are at such small sizes they are coming up against manufacturing difficulties – components on a chip are now down to .0000014 mm in size and it may be impossible to get much smaller.

As a result of this slow-down, furious research is going on around the world in universities, research laboratories and chip manufacturers for a successor for the silicon chip that has served us so well. IBM has recently unveiled a $3BN investment program, part of which is investigating other ways of increasing computer power[2]. A lot of research is being done in neuromorphic computing, which mimics the way the brain processes information, while Google is working on a quantum computer[3] which will process information in a new way that “could perform calculations that would take a conventional computer millions of years to complete”.

So back to talking about learning! We have all these burgeoning technologies waiting for a breakthrough in computer technology. When it happens, developers will be unleashed from the shackles of developing systems and products within a confining parameter of computer speed and memory. An avalanche of advancements could be unleashed in what could become ‘disruptive technological breakthroughs’- something that has the power to obsolete established industries overnight.

The problem is that it will happen at such a speed that it will be difficult to pick out which of the new emerging technologies will be a winner – although the best thing to do would be to keep an open mind about everything. Ken Olson, who was President, Chairman and founder of Digital, the world’s largest mainframe computer manufacturing company, scoffed when he was approached with the idea of personal computers in every home. In 1977 said: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.[4]” We know what happened: Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) declined with the advent of the personal computer and finally went under in 1998.

and even if an 18-something year old clad in khakis and overalls walks into your office one day and claims that he has discovered something that will revolutionize the world – give him a hearing – it may be hypnopedia at work!

[1] http://www.mooreslaw.org/
[2] http://www.popsci.com/article/gadgets/ibm-making-plans-end-silicon
[3] http://www.technologyreview.com/news/535621/google-researchers-make-quantum-computing-components-more-reliable/
[4] http://www.techhive.com/article/155984/worst_tech_predictions.html

In an episode of the Simpson’s, Marge Simpson buys Homer a set of subliminal audio cassettes (remember them?) that he wa...

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Old Dogs and New Tricks

Old Dogs New Tricks

For the first time in the history of workplace culture, we host 4 generations of workers – the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y or the Millennials. Over 60% of today’s workforce consists of the youngest generation – Gen Y, and perhaps for this very reason, we tend to forget about the other 40% that consists of the older generations. While we focus our attention on training the younger lot – who we hope will carry our company forward, who is thinking about the older generations? Shouldn’t they be trained – or can they be trained? If they can be trained – would they need a different type of training than Gen Y employees? It is generally accepted that the older we get, the more difficult it is for us to learn and acquire new skills, but is this acceptance justified?

Here is an excerpt from a very good article by David Crawford of the John Hopkins School of Education:

“Using a longitudinal study over a period of several decades, Schaie (1994) noted that scores on primary mental abilities improved gradually until about age forty at which time the abilities tend to stabilize until approximately age sixty. The decreases are small until the mid seventies at which time scores are usually measurably lower than they were in the mid twenties. Therefore, when a composite measure of mental abilities is used, learning ability does not decrease until the sixth or even seventh decade for most individuals. The significance of this seminal study seems to be that noticeable overall mental decline in the primary abilities does not generally occur until later in life.”

So mental ability remains pretty constant during a person’s lifetime, but what other studies have shown is that the speed at which information can be absorbed does decline, and this decline can be directly linked to how much the brain is used – the maxim ‘use it or lose it’ especially applies here.

Evidence shows that older people can learn new things – it just takes them longer than younger people.

There are other factors at work too:

  • It may be a long time since school, and a person may have lost the learning habit
  • A fear of failure may inhibit the learning process, coupled with a fear of losing face in their peer group
  • Older people tend to rely on past experience, and when presented with new, contradictory information or concepts, find it hard to accept and learn

So in an industry setting, this tells us a couple of things:

  • Regular retraining and upskilling helps to keep long-term employees in the learning habit
  • Training for older people needs to be handled differently and at a different pace

Older employees have a lot of ‘life experience’, and also a lot of work experience. They have learned how to deal with people in the workplace, and they know a lot about the company – not just about the work they personally do.

Most often, older employees have been with a company for some time. They have been loyal and good workers (or they would not still be there). They deserve training that works for them specifically, otherwise they start to fall behind, lose productivity, lose out on promotions, become disillusioned and not perform.

In a lot of cases people like these leave and go somewhere else, while at the same time the company is bringing in new recruits with no proven track record, training them, only to find them leaving for greener pastures pretty soon.

Just because an employee has passed into the imaginary ‘older’ category does not mean their usefulness to a company declines. As well as having demonstrated loyalty, they also have more stable and realistic ambitions, and know their own abilities better than their younger counterparts. Wisdom only comes with age, and every company needs older heads that can balance up the impetuousness of youth.

Companies must:

  • Understand the hesitancies and fears that hinder an older employee’s learning
  • Provide employees with training that they can relate to
  • Help older employees with the use of technology before providing technology-enabled training
  • Conduct research on how successful training is and if changes need to be made
  • Not expect drastic results instantly

We boast of 4 generations of employees under one roof. Companies spend a lot of time and effort training new people and could reap more dividends concentrating on their existing personnel – especially the older ones. We know now that it’s not impossible to train our older employees – it’s just a matter of finding out what drives them to learn.


For the first time in the history of workplace culture, we host 4 generations of workers – the Traditionalists, Baby Boo...

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Fix India’s Big Retail Challenges with Online Training

Fix India's Big Retail Challenges with Online Training

Over the last decade, India has witnessed a continuous migration of people from rural areas to Tier I and Tier II cities. Because of this continuing population move, city retailers are enjoying an ever increasing demographic at their doorstep, creating what could be perceived as the ‘Retailer’s Utopia’. It would therefore appear that Indian retail is in for a prosperous time in the decades ahead.

But before India can dream of having its own retail utopia, the Retail Industry has to overcome two major challenges that relentlessly hound it – more so now, than ever before. These two big Indian retail challenges are those of standards and competition.

The Big Indian Retail Challenges

Standards: It is a problem that is staring us in the face – right now. While main retail chains do a reasonably good job in their showcase stores that are usually located in upmarket parts of the city or in large malls, those same standards are not passed on to their smaller branches in the suburbs. The smaller stores tend to be cluttered; not as clean and tidy; the staff not as good; and in essence, the good retail experience of the showcase flagship store is lost. Most of this criticism is aimed at the Grocery & Food sector, but other retail outlets are at fault too. Rama Bijapurkar, a consumer guru sums it up succinctly “Merchandising is lacklustre in terms not only of aesthetics but also of thinking” [1]. Bring this problem up with a shopkeeper and he will turn back and say, “People are happy with the shops, they come to shop with us and we don’t hear complaints. So what is the problem?”

Competition: The problem is that a shiny new retail competitor will arrive on the scene and woo customers away with cleanliness, order, range and eye-watering low prices. This is a problem that the Indian Retail Industry should really worry about.

Indian retailers must seize the moment and get their act together. If they don’t seize the moment now, they will be forced into a secondary role, or may just disappear without a trace in the not-so-distant future.

For a long time now, India has been operating, what amounts to, a protectionist policy regarding foreign retail. It was only in 2012 and 2013 that this was relaxed by the Federal Government, but with conditions that made it unlikely that any large chain would come to India. At that time, states controlled by Congress were in favor of foreign chains, but those controlled by BJP were against foreign firms and this culminated in the locking up by CMDA officials in Chennai of a seven acre warehouse purportedly to be used by Walmart [2]. Protectionism has never worked in any country anywhere in the world as it only leads to stagnation of industry in the country where it is practiced. This cannot last forever and one day the big guns will come marching in.

The Solution
There is a window of opportunity now for the Retail sector that must be made use of in the best possible way. For as long as the Indian Retail Industry has the field to itself, it must improve, innovate, and become as good as anything the outside world has to offer. The industry must not be complacent with the status quo, but must be prepared for a war, because when Walmart, Tesco and the like arrive on these shores, it will be a war to the death, and these multinationals take no prisoners.

By way of illustration, it is like the army of any given country: No country would accept its army fighting mock battles, and sitting back complacently and congratulating itself on how good they are/were. Instead they would expect their army to go and see what other armies do, train with them, fight with them and then come back and train, train, train incessantly to become as good as any other soldiers that may land on their shores – never stopping and continuously updating and training for that moment when it will be wanted, because then there will be no time for anything but a fight.

Indian retailers need to invest in infrastructure that is as good as anything anywhere else. They need to become more user friendly, become customer focused, but above all, just like the army – they need to train staff, train, and then train again – and never stop!

In 2007, an all conquering Tesco launched their brand in the US. In 2013, they ignominiously withdrew with a bloody nose. The reason – their main opposition there – Walmart, knew they would come some day. Walmart made sure that its products were as good as could be so that established customers would not be tempted to switch loyalties. A huge plank in Walmart’s success was (and continues to be), their training – train, train, train again, for as long as the employee is with you. Indian retailers need to take a leaf out of Walmart’s book. They need to get their retail operations up to world standard, and need to start working on that right now.

The entire Indian Retail sector was worth $490 billion dollars in 2013 (down from $518 billion in 2012), and an astonishing 65 percent of that figure was accounted for by groceries and food. Grocery & Food sector is the battleground where the war that will decide long-term ownership of India’s retail sector will be fought, eventually. That is where it was fought in the UK, continental Europe and the US – the reason being that whoever controls the food and grocery market controls the rest of retail as well. The simple fact is that when people come to do their grocery shopping, they will also buy other regular purchases in the same place if they are available – be it children’s clothes, toys, adult clothes, electrical appliances, televisions, books, cigarettes, liquor, pharmacy or hardware.

The biggest problem for retail (after investment capital), is good staff. That staff doesn’t just come on stream overnight. They need to be trained to top standard, and then be continually retrained to keep them at that standard. An endless stream of new recruits needs to be broken in to feed the engine of retail growth into the future, and the outstanding, consistently good way to do this is through eLearning.

Why eLearning? – Because eLearning (online learning) takes into consideration all the training challenges faced by this industry. eLearning will:

  • Lower the average training cost per employee by running simultaneous training across locations and time zones
  • Ensure better course completion rates through customized courses that speak the language of retail business
  • Improved employee engagement through knowledge enhancement
  • Lead to better performance tracking via assessments
  • Analyze the effectiveness of training via feedbacks, polls and surveys, ensuring 2-way communication between the learner and L&D department
  • Provide informal learning through forums, discussion groups and content sharing to create a vibrant learning culture
  • Reduce training time – quick responsive time – faster turnaround from trainee to employee [3]

Once up and rolling, etraining becomes an automatic process.
In his article ‘The Top 5 Online Training Benefits In The Retail Sector,’ Christopher Pappas stresses on the measurable results that are obtainable via eLearning that include the ability of employees to stay-up-to-date with the latest products, improved employee retention, increased sales and customer satisfaction and more knowledge retention [4]. All this directly leads to company loyalty, a sense of belonging that translates into taking pride in showcasing one’s store and products in the best possible manner, a desire to maintain the highest standards, and a drive to compete with the best. This is the attitude that is much needed in the Indian Retail Industry today.

The big players are coming and we need to get proactive and raise our game now. The right attitude will help us overcome the big Indian Retail challenges – and the proper training will get us this attitude. The big Indian retail players are aware of this scenario and have started to ready their employees with intensive training. It’s a collective effort and through unity the Indian Retail Industry will emerge as the winner.

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/business/21625799-modern-food-retailing-has-struggled-win-customers-indias-old-fashioned-merchants-long
[2] http://archives.deccanchronicle.com/130220/news-current-affairs/article/walmart-warehouse-sealed-chennai
[3] http://www.24x7learning.com/retail-software-solutions/
[4] http://elearningindustry.com/top-5-online-training-benefits-in-the-retail-sector

© SHRM India. First appeared on www.shrmindia.org Published with permission from SHRM India. All rights reserved.

Over the last decade, India has witnessed a continuous migration of people from rural areas to Tier I and Tier II cities...

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