E-Learning as a Tool for Human Resource Management

Abstract

The application of electronic learning (e-learning) at the organisation level has been on the rise. This is because organisations have realised that the ensuing benefits of e-learning, relative to the conventional employees training techniques are enormous. E-learning has been seen to result in a massive reduction in terms of the training cost per individual employee. Furthermore, it is a flexible form of employees training and is learner- oriented, thereby ensuring that the trainer learns at his/her own pace.

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This research study sought to explore the importance of e-learning as a human resource management (HRM) tool. A financial institution, ATEbank S. A., located in Greece was identified as the case study for the research. Use was made of a semi-structured and self-administered questionnaire for purposes of data collection. Ethical considerations were followed during the data collection exercise. Data analysis was done via sue of statistical tools of research, specifically the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and Microsoft Excel (MS Excel).

The presentation of the research findings was done through the use of statistical table. According the responses of the 60 participants of this study, flexibility, convenience and cost effectiveness were ranked as the foremost benefits of e-learning to AteBANK, at 31, 25 and 24 percent, respectively. On the other hand, more than two thirds of the respondents (69 percent) opined that e-learning had resulted in a productive performance of the human resource management at ATEbank.

Introduction

From a corporation point of view, e-learning has generated a lot of interest, with the result that massive investment has been made for purposes of expanding its growth and by extension, the market, as has been noted by Bielawski and Metcalf (2003). One of the areas in which e-learning has had a major impact, from a corporate context, is the human resource management (HRM). The benefits that e-learning has accorded to organizations, corporations, and also various kinds of learners, and especially to manpower development, are quite immense (Armstrong 2006, p. 18). To start with, e-learning has ensured that corporations are able to train their employees to match with the best in the world, and at the same time also greatly reduce the ensuing training costs.

Not only is e-learning affordable, it is also time-saving, in addition to the fact that its results are measurable (Clark 1993, p. 21). To ensure that the e-learning program will succeed, the designer of the e-learning program must work closely with the HR manager in order to develop an adequate e-learning program that answers precisely the needs of the bank. Thus, the integrated development team must focus not on establishing a good-looking, high-tech training program but in achieving the business goals of the bank and addressing the bank’s problems. It must adopt the bank’s business perspective and make it competitive and must make the employees undergoing e-learning “to do the right thing at the right time” (Allen 2003, p.3).

The program can only succeed when there is management participation and support and when the learners sense that “the performance environment is supportive and conducive to the behaviours being trained” (Allen 2003, p.29). E-learning is also bound for failure when the aims and reasons for undergoing e-learning are not exactly “defined, are not relayed, get lost or become misinterpreted” (Allen 2003, p.9).

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Sometimes e-learning projects are undertaken because it is the thing to do, others are doing it and it is imperative that the firm must not be left out in the race for modernity and innovation. From time to time, the learners immerse themselves into the project without truly knowing why they are undergoing the project, in the first place. They may fail to make a connection between the activity and the goals (Bratton & Gold 2001, P. 89).

But if they do, sometimes they are not properly motivated by the HR manager, who most likely is “not attuned to the criteria against which their e-learning solutions should be evaluated (Chao & Gay 2005, P. 13), the focus of development teams turns to what will be assessed: mastering the technology, overcoming production hurdles and just getting something that looks good up and running-within budget and schedule, which become more the focus than the original goals” (Allen 2003, p.9).

If the e-learning project is a failure, most often the culprit is the HR manager, barring failure to properly fund the project. When the manager fails to utilise e-learning as a tool for HRM, the whole thing crumbles and all efforts are for naught. The crux of the failure seems to be the managerial neglect to formulate an effective strategy (Hendry 1995, p.95) and his failure to “put targeted control systems in place to ensure that the plans have high quality human resource components” (Fombrun 1984, p.25).

The problem is when a manager is too conservative and insists on age-old human resource methods. Because the banking environment is steeped with winds of change, he fails to deliver an extensive, updated discharge of training and education to the employees (World Bank 2002) and the firm is left out in the march to innovation and is likely condemned to perish.

When the manager loses sight of his role as proactive agent of change and as innovator who has to be an “expert in change management” (Armstrong 2006, p.74), and when he fails to take advantage of the rapid growth of e-learning, “which makes the internet or intranet a viable means for delivering training content” (Mathis 2006, p.282), he is doomed to fail. He will likewise reap failure if he doesn’t exert careful planning and execution of the project.

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A manager must also ensure that the learners are computer literate and there is urgency for the partaking of e-learning, which must be the means to an end. “To be successful, e-learning must have the right fit with the organization. It should not be chosen because it is fashionable but is the most efficient and effective way to meet the identified learning need” (Stockley 2006, p.1). Compared with conventional form of learning, e-learning has proved to be quite cost-effective, given that less money and time is involved.

Based on such a perspective, it is the intention of this research study to explore the importance of e-learning to an organisation, and more so the impact it has had on human resource management (HRM). To facilitate such an assessment, a financial institution in Greece, ATE bank S. A., has been identified as a case study for this particular research. ATEbank S.A is mainly concerned with financial and banking services provision (www.atebank.gr). The bank especially lays more emphasis on businesses and individuals that are within the agricultural sector and for this reason it has gained a reputation as an agricultural bank.

The bank has a total of 478 branches that are located within Greece, and has a single branch in Germany (www.atebank.gr). In Romania, the bank has managed to open 25 branches, courtesy of ATEbank Romania S. A., its local subsidiary. This is in addition to the automated teller machines (ATM) that the bank has in both Greece and Romania, which totals 960 and 25 respectively. The subsidiaries and affiliates for the bank includes ATE Leasing, ATE brokers, ATE insurance First Business Bank, and ATE Rent, amongst others. With such a wide network of operations, human resource management (HRM) has become a fundamental concern to the bank. As such, training and development of the employees, along with the management staff, has been an on-going process.

E-learning has especially proved to be a useful tool in the provision of the necessary training and development of the human resources; be it in the form of seminars, Webinars, or virtual classes. Based on such a premise, it is the intention of this research study to unearth the extent to which e-learning has been of benefit to ATEbank, with respect to its human resource management (HRM).

Research questions

The main question that this dissertation seeks to answer is,

  • How important e-learning as a tool for human resource management at the ATEbank?

There are also a number of supporting questions that this research seeks to answer. For example, – What forms of e-learning tools does the case study bank (ATEbank S. A.,) utilize?

  • How beneficial has e-learning been to the employees and the management at the ATE bank?
  • What are some of the challenges/handicaps that have faced the ATE bank in their bid to implement e-learning?

Data collection for purposes of this research shall be via the use of a semi-structured questionnaire, targeting a total of 60 respondents. The data so collected shall be analysed statistically through the use of such statistical toils as Scientific Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and Microsoft Excel (MS Excel). Data presentation shall be in the form of statistical tables. The research findings shall be explored, relative to existing research findings in literature, and recommendations made on the gaps that this research study shall have left, and which future related research studies could very well seek to fill.

Literature review

Introduction

In the face of globalisation, and with high rates of deregulation within diverse markets, organisations the world over have arrived at a conclusion that if at all they are to either fail or succeed in their respective markets, this shall to a great extent be dependent on the capacity that such organisations have, with regard to a rapid response to the threats and opportunities to be found in the market (Kotter, & Cohen 2002, P. 193).

Such a capacity as described above, hinges upon the capability of the human resource for such an organisation. For this reason, a lot of companies are finding it prudent to spend more on professional training and development of their manpower (Levy 2001, p. 13), in the face of a fast changing world replete of novel challenges that pose a challenge to such employees.

Constant learning therefore becomes a necessity (Locke, Levine, Searls, & Weinberger 2001, p. 18), lest the knowledge that employees acquire becomes obsolete. In line with this, the advances that the field of information technology has made in recent years is quite considerable, so that such conventional methods of training and development of employees as blackboard, chalk and overhead projectors, have rapidly been replaced by less complex and less costly novel technologies, such as electronic learning (e-learning).

In this case, e-learning encompasses e-mail, discussion forums, educational applications that are internet-based, and multimedia applications, amongst others. Even as the development and implementation of e-learning may be said to be more complex and expensive (Lynch 2001), nevertheless it enables enhanced process development in such areas of an organisation as the human resource management (HRM), mainly through the training and development of the workforce.

Moreover, they are cost-effective in the long-run, flexible, and are learner-oriented (MacPherson, Homan & Wilkinson 2005, p. 45; Moshinskie 2000; Pye et al 2000). On the basis of the potential of e-learning, a lot of organisations have today sought to embrace and implement this technology, with a view to overcoming a number of limitations of the conventional training programs.

Some of these limitations include high training costs, mistiming of programs and the inability of employees to adapt fact enough to these training programs (Rosenberg 2000, p. 131).

There is a lot of interest at the moment towards e-learning, and more so within the business fraternity in which massive investments have been made.

Even as approximations of anticipated future growth of e-learning differ, nevertheless it is generally agreed by a majority of the players in the market that the solutions for e-learning stands to witness great demand (Sanders 2001). According to some 2004 estimations by International Data Corporation, the global revenues courtesy of organizations dealing with the provision of e-learning solutions were poised to rise from $ 7.9 billion to a high of $ 21.1 billion, for the period between 2004 and 2008.

Additionally, Forrester (2004) is of the opinion that the perceived interests and growth within this market goes beyond the corporations. It has been estimated that universities that are offering online courses shall witness a growth of between 25 and 30 percent on an annual basis. On the basis of such a popularity and exponential growth, it may be expected therefore that a widespread e-learning understanding would also suffice.

Thus far, we have a multitude of applications and definitions with respect to e-learning, further refuting the possibility of a common e-learning understanding. As Broadbent (2002) has noted, “It seems that everyone, from e-Learning theorists and practitioners, to vendors and learners, are applying the term e-Learning to very different methods and products” (Broadbent 2002).

E-learning definitions

Although there lacks a definition term for e-learning that has thus far come to be universally accepted, nevertheless we have a number of these that are generally utilised by a number of scholars and researchers alike. One such definition by CIPD looks at e-learning as ‘Learning that is delivered, enabled or mediated using electronic technology for the explicit purpose of training in organisations’ (Stockley 2003 p.1).

In other worlds, e-learning as a term takes into account various kinds of learning that have been technologically enhanced, in which the use of technology becomes necessary, for purposes of reinforcing the learning process (Rosenberg 2001). Usually, computer technology becomes a medium through which learning instructions are relied to the learners.

On the other hand, Nichols (2008) defines e-learning as “pedagogy empowered by digital technology” (Nichols 2008). In certain cases, e-learning does not involve ‘face-to-face’ interaction. Separately, Lingham (2008) has defined e-learning as “learning facilitated and supported through the use of information and communications technology” (Lingham 2008, p.1). Further, Lingham views e-learning as “the use of the internet or an organizational intranet to conduct training on-line”. By intranet, the author seeks to refer to a “private organizational network behind firewall software that restricts access to authorized users, including employees participating in learning” Mathis 2006, p.281).

According to Sanders (2001) e-Learning is a form of electronic technology that enables knowledge and skills development, in addition to information delivery. On the other hand, Clark (2003) opines that e-learning ought to utilize instructional techniques, in addition to connecting knowledge and skills development to the learning goals of an individual, or for purposes of enhancing the performance of an organization.

Brennan (2003) views e-learning as education, training, information and coaching availed to the end-user via digital means. His definition entails such delivery media as satellite, CD-ROM, and telephone. According to Masie (2002), e-learning entails technology application to design, manage, select, deliver, support, coach, as well as broaden all forms of learning. Even as Masie fails to mention within his definition the term internet, there is no doubt that he is talking about online learning.

Amongst the early champions and adopters of e-learning is Cisco Systems and according to the organization, e-learning refers to ‘internet-enabled learning’. Separately, Hall and Schnider (2001) have sought to the terms intranet and internet, while trying to define e-learning. The definition by Hall and Schnider has also been extended by Urban and Weggen (2000), when the two authors include the term extranets.

Further, e-learning scope has been broadened by Rosenberg (2001), by way of incorporating internet technologies usage, in reference to the term e-learning. The definition by Rosenberg takes into account intranet, internet, as well as extranets, in a bid to convey a multitude of learning solutions whose aim is to improve performance and knowledge. The e-learning definition according to Rosenberg rests on the premise of three decisive factors.

First, e-learning entails a network, and for this reason, instant updating becomes possible, in addition to retrieval or storage of information, sharing and distribution of information or instructions. (Perhaps this might be the reason behind his decision to leave out from e-learning, learning based on CD-ROM.). Secondly, e-learning usually gets delivered to the end-user or learner through internet technology (Sanders 2001).

Thirdly, e-learning is more concerned with delivering learning solutions to the end-users from a broader perspective; solutions that transcends the conventional training paradigms. Moreover, Rosenberg (2001), in his definition, has endeavored to make a distinction between three e-learning solutions, and these entails knowledge management, training, and also performance support. Bielawski uses the term blended learning while referring to e-learning.

According to Bielawski, blended learning acts “as a powerful and cost effective continuous learning solution that combines the elements: learning, performance support and knowledge management.” (Bielawski 2003). The definition offered by Rossett (2002, p.6) on e-learning appears to be much broader, when compared to those of other authors.

In this case, his definition has taken into account learning, collaboration and interaction, coaching and information support, and also knowledge management. In agreement with the perspective of e-learning that Rosenberg has provided, Carliner (2002, p.2) has sought to identify five kinds of e-learning. These are online training, online education, electronic performance support, and knowledge management.

E-learning design

The design of e-learning lessons is such that a tutor is able to guide his/her students through numerous information sources within a short time, in addition to assisting such students undertake a number of various tasks. The content of such information whose basis is on e-learning seeks to in this case, communicate to such students the information that they so much yearn for (Shohreh & Garland 2000).

Such kinds of information could involve for instance, content regarding the facts or history of a company, its services, or even the products that such an organisation could be dealing with.

Thus far, a majority of the learning activities within industry and in the academic circles have already been captured by e-learning (Light Reading 2008).

By 2007 for example, the application of asynchronous e-learning (otherwise known as self-paced e-learning) realized a massive growth to stand at 20 percent of the entire categories of consumed learning, which was to later drop by 4 points in 2008, to stand at 16 percent.

On the other hand, synchronous e-learning, or the utilization of virtual class witnessed a year-by-year drop for the period between 2005, when it stood at 16 percent, to a low of 8 percent at the close of 2008.

From the point of view of higher education, it is important to note that almost 3. 5 million students are reported to have been engaged in e-learning at various institutions within the United States, by 2006 (Brown & Adler 2008, p. 16). As a form of education, e-learning embraces communication, motivation, technology and efficiency (Lewis, Quentin & Whitlock 2003). Owing to the limited level of interaction in e-learning, the onus in this case is often with the students to ensure that they cultivate self-motivation.

The inherent isolation between on the on hand, the students and on the other hand, the instructor, ensures that such students are in constant communication amongst themselves, and also with their instructor, for purposes of accomplishing their learning objectives (Sanders 2002).

The schedule of e-learning is such that it may be Asynchronous on the one hand, or Synchronous, on the other hand.

With respect to Synchronous, this implies that the implementation of real-time communication is quite possible, for example, teleconferencing, video conferencing, as well as programs that involves on-line chat (Price 2007, p. 129). Asynchronous, on the other hand, implies that other forms of communication and which do not rely on responses that are real time, are utilized. E-learning examples that are asynchronous in nature entail list serves, e-mail, blogs, threaded discussions, as well as on-line forums.

E-learning evolution

Slightly over a decade ago, most of the training within organizations used to take place within a classroom, in which the instructor would be a qualified trainer. With the advances in information technology however, a lot of the organizations started incorporating computer technology into their training process, thereby giving shape to e-learning (Rosenberg 2000).

During the early 1990s, a majority of the organizations utilized videotapes for purposes of employee training. As Cooke (2004) has noted, the industry of the time were only a representation of a fraction of the market that they served, in addition to the fact that they were deficient of ‘scalability’, something that is often viewed as being mandatory, within the present day application of e-learning within organizations.

At the time, incorporating video into the training process appeared to be a good idea, but Clark (2001) observes that this idea was lacking in certain areas. To start with, video was not able to be customized in order to suit the needs of its end-user. In addition, it was also expensive, both in terms of production and maintenance, besides the fact that it was quite difficult to be upgraded. Clark further observes that at the time, some of the employees had no choice but to hunt down, literary, the necessary equipment, so that they could be in a position to watch such video. Moreover, Cooke (2004) asserts that such kinds of videos often times entailed limited interactions, thereby making it quiet hard for one to track either the assessment of an activity such as training, or even progress of the same.

Seeing that video was proving to be not the best training solution there was Computer Based Training (CBT) was therefore developed. Macintosh, Windows 3.1, CD-ROMs as well as PowerPoint are some of the advances in technology that Kiffmeyer (2004) has termed as the mark for the Multimedia Era. In this case, the cheapness with which CD-ROMs could be produced sought to somewhat eliminate a persistent problem with the use of video; that of having to check these in, and then later out. In addition, it was also now possible to have employees of an organization to complete training sessions by merely having to insert a CD to their PCs, even at the place of work.

Even with the benefits that CD-ROMs had over video, within the context of Computer-Based Training, nevertheless they still could not manage to keep track of the performance of the employees within an organization’s centralized database. In addition, it was also proving quite hard to upgrade the CD-ROM. When the delivery of content to an organization was made possible thanks to the utilization of the internet, all the aforementioned problems would come to an end, as Cooke (2004) has noted.

At that moment, little regard was given to how effective the internet could be, as a medium of information transfer. Within time however, researchers came to the realization that it was quite hard to place information online in the absence of a learning strategy that targets the end-users for such information. In a bid to let technology enhance learning, there is a need for it to ‘fit into the lives of students (Clarke 2002). This is how then, e-learning came into being.

Pedagogical concerns for E-learning

The main focus of pedagogy is make room for the intellectual growth and learning of the students, as opposed to the issuance of instructions that often times attempts to such students as curriculum implementation objects. The requirements for a successful learning pedagogy is such that the teachers are usually called upon to comprehend the learning behaviours of their students (Ofsted 1999), in addition to being in possession of autonomy and capacity for the planning, implementation as well as the evaluation of the educational activities whose role is to fulfil the individual needs of all the students (Newton & Rogers 2001).

On the other hand, e-learning pedagogy encompasses a similar learning pedagogy, only that it goes further, to take into consideration a deeper exploration of a possible instructional strategies incorporation that allows for personalised learning content in real-time, and according to the level of adaptability of the learner (Schramm 2006, p. 27). A point worth of note here is that the e-learning pedagogy that has already been proposed has no intention of standing for the entire range of multifaceted activities which entails teaching; to a certain extent, it stands for instructional tasks which augments active learning by the students, within the e-learning framework.

In light of novel teaching approaches within the education sector, restructuring of training practices within the confines of e-learning calls for an urgent review of existing pedagogy theories, in this day and age of Information Communication Technology (ICT). Three are a number of authors that have documented the need to pedagogical theories, in line with the advances in ICT (for example, Becta, 2002; Lynch, 2001; Ofsted, 1999).

Even as we have research studies being carried out for purposes of developing and integrating the application of technology within the education sector and more specifically, teaching, nevertheless, such developments have been seen to lag behind the emerging huge investments that have been made in software and hardware (Newton & Rogers 2001). Despite the fact that we have several e-learning aspects which could be viewed as significant, nevertheless the relevancy principle is a vital element when it comes to the issue of telling apart those e-learning materials that are effective, and those that are not.

The relevancy principle is mainly concerned with the primary vision that guides e-learning. Furthermore, the relevancy principle is very important, when it comes to the issue of both retrieving as well as presenting the right kind of information at the correct time, and targets the right audience. There are those proponents who are of the opinion that the present-day systems of e-learning have massively failed, when it comes to the issue of relevancy (for example, Wade, V. & Power 1998; Salmon 2002; Spielman & Winfeld 2003). In addition, a majority of the proponents of e-learning have mistakenly arrived at the conclusion that in this case, it is the technology that is to blame.

On the other hand, it is worth of note here that even in the face of the most advanced technology, we can only hope to benefit from the ease with which we may be able to retrieve information (Webster & Hackley 1997), in addition to the processing speed of the same. Nonetheless, such advances in technology may not be very beneficial when it comes to there issue of the relevancy of information.

What appears to be absent from the present-day systems of e-learning instead, is a suitable design, along with content application. Information relevance comes about via the precisions of content, as opposed to technology (Webster & Hackley 1997). When a resource has been written well, designed and focused, we may then expect that it will encompass sufficient ‘relevant’ content. This, in addition to the right placement goes a long way into accomplishing the just-in-time information retrieval that e-learning promise.

An additional key principle that is necessary for an e-learning solution that has been implemented successfully is content placement (Webb, Jones, Barker, & van Schaik 2004, p. 96). Even as the activity of creating content that is quite relevant becomes essential, nevertheless there is a need also to take into account the storage location for such kinds of resources. From a learner’s perspective, each extra second that they spend while steering through the learning space is regarded as wasted efforts and time. Other than wasted efforts and time, there is also the issue of placing a distance between on the one hand, a learner and on the other hand, the solution they are after.

When we create distance, there emerges a consequent perplexity, and this in essence implies a learning process that is less effective, frustrating and additionally, dogged by an escalation in terms of the drop-out rates of the students. From such a perspective therefore, we have a number of scholars who have forecasted the need to bring about a shift in terms of the direction that e-learning has taken at the moment, from an approach that is concerned more with content, to one that seeks to embrace the synthesis of knowledge (for example, Teo & Gay 2005a; 2005b).

With regard to behavioral models of learning, Medsker and Holdsworth (2001, p. 359 -361) are of the opinion that these, along with their associated strategies, would blend well with the design of e-learning at a time when concrete and specific actins requires to be learned. These authors are of the opinion that such a model would function especially better is a situation whereby the control of the program has rendered itself quite desirable, and in the event that the sequence of the requirements have been defined well in advance.

Moreover, the authors infer that it is the responsibility of a learner to respond in an active manner to the content of the program they are undertaking, as opposed to just viewing it in a passive manner, like in the case of what is known as ‘e-learning page-tuners’.

The opinion of Prensky (2000) is that e-learning could play a significant function with regard to the presenting of the materials of e-learning, and which though it fails to motivate anybody intrinsically, it nevertheless requires to be learned.

Prensky and Schank are two other scholars who are proponents of e-learning. According to Prensky (2001), learning requires being engaging, although the author has also emphasized the point about a majority of the learning procedure being somewhat boring, relative to such other alternatives as television, computer and work. This is because for most of the times, learning either tends to be content or teacher-focused.

Prensky asserts that since the advent of the ICT era, there has been drastic change with regard to the e-learning and for this reason it has therefore become necessary to now shift the learning focus on a learner. This is what e-learning endeavors to achieve. Medsker and Holdsworth (2001, p.362, have made an observation that the e-learning design has greatly been influenced by cognitive theories as regards the development of tutoring programs that are intelligent-based, along with expert systems. This is especially the case within the context of knowledge representation, simulations and case studies.

These authors (Medsker & Holdsworth2001) have further observed that social, effective and humanistic theories have all acted to influence in great way, the design of e-learning. For instance, this entails the application of motivation strategies for certain learning programs, stereotypes avoidance, and also the application of group programs when it comes to e-learning.

E-Learning Solutions

Rosenberg (2001) offers three e-learning solutions that are worth of exploration. They include knowledge management, performance support and training. Knowledge management is one of the initiatives that have been repeatedly used within the realm of e-learning for purposes of recording, capturing, as well as the exchange of implicit knowledge.

According to Newman (1999), knowledge management is “finding ways to create, identify, capture and distribute organizational knowledge to people who need it.” (Newman 1999, p. 1). On the other hand, Corall (2000) talks of “a management philosophy which combines good practice in purposeful information management with a culture of organization learning, in order to improve business performance.” , in reference to knowledge management.

As Bielawaski (2003, p. 45) has noted, some of the fundamental business features and objectives for the management of knowledge entails first the transfer of knowledge to others as a result of fulfilled performance. Then we have the issue of best practices sharing, as well as learnt lessons with a wide range of employees.

Another important feature of knowledge management is that it affords experts that are in possession of high-value knowledge an easy connectivity, while at the same time also enhancing a permanent and incessant learning environment. Rosenberg (2001) has identified potential challenges for organizations as they endeavor to establish capabilities for knowledge management.

According to Rosenberg, such capabilities require being “so flexible and dynamic that it is easy to be understood managed, valued by people and supportive of a broad-based learning culture” (Rosenberg, 2000, p. 66). Up to this point, knowledge management may be said to apply to web, databases, as well as organizational intranet sites, although it could as well take into account discussions, online chats, and also symposia while at the same time also advancing e-learning (Carliner, 2002).

Cross (2000, p. 69) is of the opinion that “ “a lot of early knowledge management initiatives have focused almost exclusively on information technology and missed the myriad ways in which knowledge can become embedded in the organization.” Cross (2000, p. 69). For this reason, a majority of the organizations have by and large accumulated a lot of knowledge and information, most of which they may never get to use anyway (Cross, 2000).

The arguments has been that a true measure of enhanced effectiveness and efficiency with regard to knowledge-intensive work emanates from exploring the manner in which individuals are able to solicit for solutions to problems that are ambiguous, in addition to the application of knowledge within the setting of an organization.

Bielowski (2002, p.51) has asserted, “Yet few companies really know where or how to start implementing an effective knowledge management system and how to extend learning beyond the walls of training organizations,” (Bielowski 20002, p. 51). The author further observes, “In order to create a learning organization that can capture, manage and disseminate knowledge, it is necessary to consider technologies that can make this process easier, more cost-effective, and widely distributed.” (Bielowski (2002, p.51).

Rosenberg (2001) asserts that performance support may very well assist an individual to do a certain task or job better, at a reduced cost, and in a fast way. The provision of performance support could be in the form of forms, checklists, mentors, books, tolls, and systems. The author has further distinguished between on the one hand, support tools for electronic performance (EPST) and on the other hand, the support systems for electronic performance (EPSS). The latter often times gets delivered as either independent tools or stand-alone software (Rosenberg 2001).

Application of e-learning amongst organizations

E-learning is poised to dramatically transform the manner in which various corporations gain a competitive edge via enhanced human performance. Specifically for the SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises), these have to encounter the greatest challenges, given that the current strategies and methods for an effective e-learning implementation appears to be more in favor of the larger enterprises (for example, Urban & Weggen 2000).

Even then, the larger corporations are also faced with a multitude of problems, because e-learning like any other change, shall often meet with resistance at the point of introduction. For this reason, organization requires to explore their learning and business habits once again so that they are in a better position to influence a successful e-learning implementation (Trace, Hinkin, , Tannenbaum & Mathieu 2001, p. 14). This is because at the introduction stage of e-learning, such problems as limited infrastructure, management problems, and learning culture within an organization may act as a hindrance.

When the human resource management of an organization lacks a sound leadership structure, then intelligent decisions regarding the need to embrace cost effective and flexible methods of staff training and development may be hard to implement (Stahl 2002). Consequently, less priority may be given to the allocation of sufficient resource for a proper implementation plan. The result is that the rate of staff turnover, reduced morale, and inability to retain the youthful employees may go up, further adding to the management woes of an organization.

A majority of the countries have been seen to have tactically experimented with e-learning. Nevertheless, the methodical application of information technology (IT) to facilitate extensive informal and formal learning has up to this point been the preserve of a small number of early adopters of this technology. These are mainly to be found within the information communication technology (ICT), consulting services and financial services sectors (Urban, & Weggen 2000). Some of the outstanding examples that are worth of mention here include Dell, Skandia, Cisco, Shell, and Merrill Lynch.

One thing that is common for all of the aforementioned companies is that knowledge sharing and information technology (IT) have been taken to be critical aspects of the companies’ desire to remain competitive and successful in a cutthroat market (Cohen, Manion & Morrison 2007). Compared with their United States counterparts, the European market for e-learning appears to be somewhat less developed, for largely due to a smaller information technology (IT) industry within Europe.

Furthermore, internet access levels, along with their usage are also exceedingly lower in Europe. There is also the issue of significant cultural and linguistic differences and for this reason, it has become increasingly difficult for the industry players to standardize and offer content for sale on a global scale. Nevertheless, the markets in Europe are poised to grow at an increasingly faster rate (Stockley 2006), relative to those in the United States within a couple of years from now, buoyed mainly by the existence of knowledge-intensive organizations, and a population that is increasingly embracing information technology (IT).

A projection report by Screen Digest indicates that by the year 2010, the amount of money that the corporations shall have spent of e-learning on a global scale, shall have attained a level that is equivalent to 20 percent of their collective training budgets. Consequently, the global market for e-learning is poised to attain the $ 50 billion mark by 2010, on an annual basis. The experience by e-learning experts is that there is a fast and changing trend with regard to its adoption.

In this case, universities and corporations alike have been seen to enhance their adoption rate of e-learning. Previously, a lot of factors were at play, and which acted to delay the process of e-learning adoption by these organizations. At the moment however, a majority of these have ceased to be valid, which is why we are witnessing a high level of adoption and acceptance (Webb et al 2004, p. 97).

A survey that was undertaken in April, 2004 by SkillSoft, a provider of e-learning revealed that those businesses that are to be found within the financial sector have succeeded more than any other businesses to implement the concept of e-learning. The study that SkillSoft carried out was more of a qualitative one, and it entailed employees from a total of 16 global corporations. Some of these organizations included Deloitte, AT & T, Hilton Group, Lloyds TSB, FedEx, Price Warehouse Coopers, Intelligence Finance, Nestle, Royal Mail, Norwich Union, Siemens, Wolters Kluwer, Schlumberger, Telewest, and Xerox.

What these researchers from SkillSoft were able to reveal is that 94 percent of employees by companies within the financial sectors, were more likely to reap the full benefits of e-learning, when compared with their counterparts from other sectors, who were 10 percent less satisfied with the implementation of e-learning (Stockley 2005).

In addition, those employees that worked for the financial corporations were more likely to put into user the new skills of e-learning that they learnt through the training programs. Within the banking circle, a lot of organizations have embraced Web seminars development and hosting with a view to enabling these keep abreast with the latest developments within their industry (Stockley 2005), in order to stay relevant and competitive in an otherwise volatile and rapidly changing market.

While commenting on the question about the applicability of the novel knowledge form e-learning, nearly half (49 percent) of the survey’s respondents asserted that they often borrowed from the -e-learning skills that they received during the training session, everyday. A further 28 percent of the respondents indicated that they usually implemented their novel skills while handling specific projects and presentations (Stockley 2005). 11 percent of the study’s respondents were of the opinion that their database creation techniques had immensely improved, and more so Excel and Access, following their training sessions that they had attended on e-learning.

On the other hand, 6 percent of the respondents confessed that their mentoring and coaching skills had improved, thanks to the new skills they had received through e-learning. Moreover, 55 percent of the study’ respondents indicated that they had managed to share with others the new skills and knowledge that they had acquired (Stockley 2005), while 98 percent of the respondents confessed that they would readily recommend the enrolment of their colleagues at work, and also their friends, for e-learning courses.

It is the opinion of a number of analysts and training managers for various corporations that for an e-learning initiative to become successful, there are a number of complications that it must be able to overcome. In this case, a manifold of aspects are necessary for purposes of bringing forth the acceptance, as well as the adoption of an e-learning initiative within an organization, so that an organizations may be able to attain financial success, and save on costs (Masie 2002).

When we have an organization being governed by robust leadership, a business manager for such a corporation shall often be faced with the challenge of ensuring that they have in place a strategy for the implementation of e-learning (Masie 2002). In addition, such a manager shall be charged with the responsibility of shopping around to assess the numerous vendors who are out offering a multitude of e-learning products, with the aim of training the employees on the latest development in e-learning, while at the same time also cutting on costs incurred by the organization.

The market for e-learning is extremely fragmented (Masie 2002), in addition to the fact that it is made up of various management systems of e-learning. A number of these management systems of learning utilize protocols and internet technology for purposes of managing and tracking instructor-led as well as online employee training. Additionally, we also have management systems that are concerned with the learning content of training, and which manages both the informal as well as the formal content that are often utilized as part of the human resource training course. Then there is the issue of the applications of e-learning that seeks to embrace content development, and which allows users to come up with the original content of the training material in a number of formats.

Moreover, service providers of e-learning also provide over the internet online courses. A majority of there corporate managers who heads e-learning contend that overabundance of available options within the market has proved to be a big challenges, with respect to making a choice between the best e-learning provider to go for. Most of the employers provide training courses on e-learning through company intranet. This is as per a research survey that was carried in 2004 by Information Week, and which sought to survey a total of 500 organizations. The responses by employers from the businesses surveyed indicate that about one quarter (25 percent) of their workforce had already successfully completed what they termed as ‘third-party E-learning course’.

On the other hand, the business managers for these organizations surveyed concurred that 35 percent of their workforce had already successfully gone through ‘customized e-learning courses’ (Business Week 2004). Without doubt, e-learning training for organizations is characterized with an enormous potential for profits, and this has also caught the attentions of the large and reputable vendors of e-learning technology. Such would include PeopleSoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and SAP. These firms are either testing, or seeking to introduce novel managements systems on e-learning.

Even with strong interests from customers, coupled with huge growth predictions, the development in this sector have lately indicated that the industry that is e-learning may not after all become immune to the prevailing impacts of the global economic crisis. It is important to note that in case of an economic crisis within an organization, thanks to a decline in profits and revenues, the budget that has been set aside for training purposes becomes the first casualty (Kotler & Cohen 2002). Even when faced with a multitude of problems, a majority of the businesses have found it prudent to invest in e-learning. For example, Prudential Securities Inc., and General Motors Corp, is an example of some of the organizations that have in the past entered into contacts with vendors for e-learning management systems.

Another major manufacturer in the United States that has for a number of years now, managed to successfully implement e-learning training for its workforce that is more than 35, 000, is Proctor & Gamble, a manufacturer of household products. Research studies indicate that the rise in the adoption process of e-learning is mainly as a result of its tendency to transcend the role limitations that the conventional format of training usually imposes on organizations (for example, Knowles, Holton & Swanson 1998; Masie 2002).

To begin with, however, there appeared to have been a hindrance with respect to e-learning uptake as it was seen to enforce certain roles on those who were under training. Apparently, such roles failed to embody the trainees’ socialisation needs.

In a bid to overcome such a hindrance, some organisations even went to the extent of implementing what they referred to as e-learning alternative sessions (for example, Levy 2001), in addition to ‘face-to-face sessions’ in classes. Even then, e-learning development is still faced with a number of limitations at the moment, in part due to the fact that it brings about role conflict within the places of work. For example, there are those who wonder whether by an employee engaging in an e-learning session within the confines of their offices or workstations, such an activity ought to be viewed as ‘in training’ or ‘at work’.

What is important to note here is that this kind of role conflict in the long-run tends to damage the hitherto cordial relationship that e-learners enjoys with their managers and also their colleagues (Hall 2000, p. 12). Many companies have sought to come up with various solutions in a bid to counter such a conflict. However, what such solutions end up doing instead, is to reduce the level of efficiency that may be achieved by e-learning sessions, thereby playing a significant role in as far as the future development of e-learning is concerned.

E-learning implementation in corporate universities

Thanks to the application of e-learning, we now have what are known as corporate universities within some of the large organizations. The corporate university trend is rapidly turning out to be virtual centers of learning for such organizations. Programs of e-learning optimize resources via such considerable cost saving measures as a reduction with respect to the amount of time that an employee is able to spend from their jobs, in addition to flexibility delivery (for instance, the pace at which e-learning sessions are conducted, ability to get to even those employees that have been dispersed to remote areas, and also the element of virtual work bases) (MacPherson, Homan & Wilkinson 2005, p. 37).

According to a 2006 workplace forecast by SHRM, enhanced development, in addition to the application of e-learning was ranked as a leading trend within the corporate world (Schramm 2006). The forecast study that MacPherson and colleagues sought to undertake explored the application of e-learning within the corporate worlds and to be specific, corporate universities. The study was more of an inquisitive assessment of e-learning implementation at the corporate level. In this case, the implementation of e-learning was explored, with special emphasis to the setting of corporate university within three large organizations within the sectors of aerospace, fiancé and telecommunication.

At each of the aforementioned firms, the survey team conducted interviews with the organizations’ leading development executives, and who were behind the implementation and strategizing of e-learning at their respective firms. Senior staff at the corporate universities located in threes firms, along with the academicians and practitioners alike, were also interviewed, for purposes of enriching the data that the research study would collect (MacPherson et al 2006).

Research findings revealed that all the three firms that were interviewed, perceived e-learning to be a chance for the expansion of training of human resource, and at the same time also cutting down on the affiliated training costs. Research findings at the bank indicated that flexibility of delivery, the ease with which e-learning could be accessed, along with the associated reduced costs, were the fundamental drivers (MacPherson et al 2006) with regards to the applications of e-learning. The areas that were covered by e-learning courses being offered at these institutions entailed impersonal skills, generic IT skills, and sector-specific qualifications training.

The research findings revealed that the respondent still favored learning interactions that are face-to-face, in the case of high-level courses. The engineering firms within the aerospace industry had managed to implement ‘a virtual corporate university’ with a view to affording its employees a full learning life cycle, ranging from orientation of the employees, to training of its executives (MacPherson et al 2006).

On the basis of the strategic goals of the organization, the purpose behind its implementation of e-learning was with a view to not only sharing best practices with its employees, but also to encourage its workforce to embrace lifelong learning (MacPherson et al 2006). In fact, by creating a virtual corporate university, the organisations saw this as a fundamental element towards the development of its learning strategy and integrated knowledge management.

On the other hand, technology proved to be a great barrier, as a result of lacking capabilities with respect to software and hardware programs. The telecom organisation sought to embrace e-learning as a tool for the consistent delivery of programs all over its global corporation. However, owing to the corporation’s diverse workforce, it was quite impossible for it to utilise a’ one-size fits-all approach’ (MacPherson et al 2006). Also, the corporation had previously sought to ‘reward’ their employees through training programs, and this served to give employees a break from the daily monotony of the workplace, during the time when they were attending classes.

With the initiation of e-learning however, employees were not required to leave their places of work and for this reason, the new strategy for distance learning implementation was faced with a stiff resistance from the employees. Additional barriers to e-learning in this case entailed differences in terms of the attitude that the diverse workforce harboured (MacPherson et al 2006), on the issue of training and technology, thanks to acquisitions and mergers. Then we have the issue of the poor pedagogical design that is a characteristic of e-learning (that is, there lacks a proper utilisation of technology when it comes to the issue of learning activities that are interactive).

Furthermore, questions were also being raised on what value the e-learning programs stood to afford the end-users, in addition to reduced levels of understanding at the time of the using the e-learning skills.

Importance of e-learning

Though e-learning is not as concept that is very new, there is a proliferation with regard to its applications (Arbaugh 2000b, p. 215). Without doubt, many an employer would wish to training their workforce with the minimum cost possible, in effect saving on financial resources, while at the same time also eliminating wherever possible the idea of having to engage the services of an instructor, travel expenses, and purchase of training facilities.

For those organizations that have a number of locations, some of which may be in far flung regions, the use of e-learning could be the only way through which they may be able to ensure that their messages to the workforce gets delivered in a consistent manner, while still sensitive to issues of cost-effectiveness and timeliness (Bielawski & Metcalf 2003). E-learning has especially come in handy for organizations, at a time when they wish to deliver compliance training.

The orientation exercise of new employees for instance, could be the most opportune time to embark on the exercise of preaching the doctrine of the organization’s standards, such as the avoidance of discrimination and harassment. In this case, we have a number of companies that shall often identify a number of e-learning elements that would best fit such a scenario. Walters (2003) has identified a number of elements of an effective e-learning human resource (HR) training exercise.

First, Walters (2003) observes that an effective e-learning program needs to augment the compliance by employees with the employment-law contract. In this case, such a programs needs to be created, updated and reviewed periodically by professionals in the legal fraternity with a bias for workplace law. Moreover, such a training program requires to be readily accessible through an organization’s intranet or alternatively, over the internet. This way, a learner may even access the training material at home, or anywhere else, as long as they have access to a computer and an internet connection.

A self-paced e-learning training program is what Walters (2003) perceives, so that the employees have a better chance to get acquainted with the available training materials, in effect hastening the completion exercise of the training. In addition, there should also be alternative training programs to supplement the online human resource training, so that in the event that a learner encounters any difficulties with the online offer, they can always fall back on the other option available.

Further, Walters (2003) has noted that such a program requires reinforcing the process of learning, in addition to creating room for new training materials to be included, along the way. E-learning has greatly augmented the practice of human resource management (HRM) by ensuring that corporations are able to train their employees to match with the bets in the world, and at the same time also greatly reducing the ensuing training costs.

A case in point is that of Hilton Group, in which the implementation of e-learning has enabled the organization to greatly reinforce the loyalty of its staff. Thanks to e-learning, the Hilton Group has finally established a connection between on the one hand, the development of their employees and on the other hand, a reduction in the turnover of its staff (Chao & Gay 2005b, p. 1517). In May, 2006, a global survey was carried out to all the establishments that are affiliated with the Hilton Group.

This survey that was made up of 1500 ‘team members’ revealed that 40 percent of the respondents that were surveyed cited the recent human resource development initiative via Hilton University, an online platform of learning fro the group, as the chief reason behind their intention to go on with the careers that they already had with Hilton (Lingham 2008).

Further, 49 percent of the survey’s respondents opined that the chance that their employer had given them-that of developing professionally through e-learning- was an initiative that they considered as being very important. Today, it is quite possible for the employees of the Hilton Group around the world to gain access to a multitudes of learning activities via the group’s institution of higher learning; Hilton University. In this case, the organization boasts of a total of 550 e-learning courses, courtesy of SkillSoft (Lingham 2008).

These courses take into account professional, business as well as IT Skills. The institution also has referenceware dubbed ‘Books 24×7’, a catalogue that consists of the best-selling business, management as well as technology books, along with numerous reference materials (Lingham 2008). This is besides online mentoring sessions that the employees stand to benefit, and also virtual classes.

The benefits that e-learning has accorded to education, organizations, corporations, and also various kinds of learners, are quite immense. Not only is e-learning affordable, it is also time-saving, in addition to the fact that its results are measurebale. Compared with conventional form of learning, e-learning has proved to be quite cost-effective, given that less money and time is involved (Walters 2003). We also have the issue of a reduction in terms of the environmental impact. In this case, e-learning enable individuals to avoid traveling, with the result that the overall carbon output into the atmosphere gets reduced.

E-learning is mostly implemented in a virtual environment and for this reason we also have a reduction in terms of the paper that is used. As such, papers notes get replaced with virtual notes, while online assessment of say, training progress, takes precedent over paper assessment. In this case, e-learning may be said to be a learning solution that is environmentally-friendly (E-learning Guide 2005).

Furthermore- e-learning has also enabled individuals to afford quality education (D’Atri & Pauselli 2002).This is because it has now become possible to enlist the services of the best instructors, who in turn disseminate knowledge to students that are located even in the remotest regions, thereby transcending political, physicals as well as economic boundaries. Experts of renowned repute now have the chance to availing information to anybody who may be interested at an international level, again at a minimum cost, thanks to e-learning.

What this means is that the hitherto exorbitant costs that characterized higher education have now been reduced, to a great extent (Grantham 2000), with the result that education has now become quite accessible and affordable to the larger population. At this day and age, having a computer that is connected to the internet, and with the aid of a projector, it is now possible for even a classroom located in a remote place, possibly a university situated in a third world country, to gain immense benefit, courtesy of a teleconferencing session with an opinion leader.

Another benefit of e-learning is that of affording flexibility and convenience to the learners (Ellis et al 1999). From different perspectives, e-learning tends to be by and large, self-paced, in addition to the fact that the e-learning sessions are usually available to the learners all round the clock. In this case, learning is not restricted to the activity of having to attend a class physically, or even by the time of the day. Moreover, it is also quiet possible for e-learners to suspend at their own convenience, their learning sessions.

E-learning is well able to take into consideration a multitude of activities that finds application in various styles of learning possessed by different learners. In this case, it is quite possible for e-learning to blend well with the busy schedule of students (Hall 2000). In a situation whereby we have a student who also holds a job at the same time, it becomes easier for them to learn electronically, and at the same times also work. Should such a learner find it prudent to undertake their learning say, at night, they have such an option at their disposal.

Furthermore, e-learning enables learners to go through information via the application of sites and hyperlinks, over the worldwide web (Hipwell 2002). Moreover, e-learning affords students the opportunity to choose materials of learning that is in line with interests and knowledge levels. In addition, students are also in a position to obtain the information that they need, so as to effectively perform a given activity.

E-learning appears to be more learner-focused, and this adds a certain level of interest in learning to a learner (Khan 2005, p. 191). Besides, e-learning students have a better chance of developing internet knowledge; more than their peers. Such knowledge proves to be quite beneficial in their career years. Also, e-learning affords students the chances to take a personal initiative in as far as their learning needs are concerned.

In the event that learners manage to succeed, they are able to build up within themselves self-confidence and self-knowledge. E-learning can be done in the privacy of one’s room and at one’s own pace. Thus, paraplegics and the physically disadvantaged can absorb so much information like the rest of humanity. It not only boasts advantages of convenience, flexibility and adaptability but also its provision of a variety of learning experience. The use of multimedia and “streamed video, recorded lectures and MP3 files provide visual and audio learning that can be reviewed as often as needed” (Lingham 2008, p.1).

E-learning has also been designed to enable people to communicate with each other and the tutor inside the confines of classroom. Today, e-mail, chat groups and computer-mediated conferencing make interaction between people possible. This is the basis for the development of teaching and learning via e-learning (Salmon 2002, p.4). Because there are many benefits that can be gained from use of e-learning, it might be easy to convince banks to accept e-learning as tool for their HRM (Rosenberg 2000, p. 30).

Banks might be persuaded that in the long run, e-learning cuts down training on information expenses. It is true that banks must shoulder an initial outlay for the acquisition of machines for e-learning implementation but the “cost of training per user goes down exponentially as more learners use e-learning course material” (Lingham 2008, p.1) which is constant and the same for everybody. Thus, there is consistency of knowledge for all knowledge takers and yet the programs can be altered according to individual specifications, depending on the learning needs of particular bank employees.

Because in banks, business practices diversify so fast, it is important that innovations reach everybody simultaneously. Concomitant to this is the nature of e-learning to be easily updated and upgraded instantaneously. Thus, its content is always current and dependable (Keen & Digrius 2002). The bank’s learning operations may also be considered global because employees may access all learning information anywhere they happen to be and at any time that’s most convenient for them. It also has universality where it shares with the whole world the same material in the same way.

The banks may also allow any number of learners to participate, presuming the machines had been put in place, with the least incremental cost. E-learning also fosters bank unity, as each learner, whether employee or manager feels he is part of that community which is a partaker of one effort for one purpose. As customers ask solutions for their problems, for example, delay in the arrival of their money sent via electronic fund transfer, e-learning provides the answer. In the above case, the money can be traced and persuasion can be used to speed up the transfer process. As a result, a closer customer-bank relationship can be fostered. Finally, e-learning is one mode used by bank magnates to leverage their gargantuan investments in the Web or the intranets (Rosenberg 2000, p.31).

The ensuing savings in terms of cost incurred by any organization, through the implementation of an e-learning system, can be enormously high. For example, conventional seminars and stand-up lectures that organizations have previously in the past been seen to embrace, may end up costing such a firm hundreds of thousands of dollars, at a time when the organization wishes to offer training and development to its workforce (Klein & Ware 2003, p. 39).This is a lot of wasted resources, when you compare the monetary value with the use of a typical package of e-learning.

If we were to add to the training cost the amount of financial resources that an organization would normally spend on travel and accommodation (assuming that the training is taking place in another city) then the training budget increase even further. For this reason, a lot more organizations are findings it convenient and cost-effective to employ e-learning for the training of their human resources, owing to its flexibility and affordability (Lewis 2001, p. 16). As such, a lot of the expenses to an organization, and which may ideally be said to be seen as unnecessary, are avoided. Besides, the implementation of e-learning by organizations helps to maximize the training results of the employees.

There is a variation from one organization to another, with respect to the standards that companies normally employ, for purposes of assessing the success of a training session, at an individual level (Lewis et al 2003). Furthermore, various situations within an organization shall also have an impact on such training. Nevertheless, it is worth of note that success’ true measure with regard to any one given training package hinges on tow main decisive factors: the performance of an individual user, as well as the amount of knowledge that such a trainer is able to retain following the coming to end of a training program.

In the case of e-learning however, it is quite possible for the users to apply their individual paces through the e-learning process. In addition, they also have the chance to review the training content for as long as they wish. Moreover, individual users and administrators usually are quite capable of establishing a training program that is self-directed, and which is so designed as to cater for their specific needs, as opposed to a situation whereby the priority would be given to an instructor’s needs.

In other worlds, e-learning tends to be more focused on the learner (Medsker & Holdsworth 2001). Through the exploitations of such e-learning benefits, a corporation is therefore in a position to ensure that each one of their employees is able to get a training curriculum that is personalized, and one whose foundation is to ensure maximum effectiveness, efficiency, and also to enhance job performance. Besides, e-learning may be implemented anywhere, and on demand, in addition to the fact that its accessibility is not time bound (Rosenberg 2000).

Usually, at a time when an organization perceives a need to training its employees, it has to rely upon what is currently being offered in the market (Kotler & Cohen 2002). In this case, experts in in-house consulting or stand-up seminars may fail to deliver their services on schedule, thereby jeopardizing the productivity and time frame of an organization. When such an organization implements e-learning however, this is like having to establish a ‘one stop shop’ from where the training needs of the organization could be accessed on demand and at the shortest time possible, irrespective of the location. As a result of such a kind of direct connection, coupled with accessibility and flexibility, a user is therefore guaranteed that they shall indeed obtain the training that they desperately yearn for, at their convenience.

Another form of e-learning which presently finds acceptance in the military and the government is Web-based education or distributed learning (Salmon 2002). Like e-learning, it is also used in employee training. But it is a bit more complex because the technique involves information dissemination involving sharing and communication between employees and their managers via the internet. Both parties work through “content modules with links to other sources and Web Sites; often with video clips and downloadable documents. This may include online chat sessions with the instructor or other students, asynchrous postings to bulletin boards and replies and private e-mail to individual students and instructors” (Berman 2006, p.232).

This might be effective to people in the military and government because it affords higher-ups the chance to motivate and encourage their subordinates to do their jobs to the utmost efficiency. But not in banks because of the presumption that managers are infallible and close to perfection with respect to possession of knowledge. However, its one big disadvantage is that employees are trained to extemporize and express themselves orally. This really is a sort of blended learning, a combination of traditional and e-learning practices. (Berman 2006, p.232).

Other than e-learning, there are also web meetings and web seminars (Spielman 2003, p.204). “Web seminars or webinars are free sponsored educational seminars that are accessed over the internet” (Light Reading). However, it’s not entirely for free as no such webinar can materialize without a webinar provider first installing some software on the computer that makes possible all attendees to connect to the webinar company’s server (Siskind 2003, p.122).This happens to be not useful to banks.

Having established the importance of e-learning as a tool for human resource management (HRM) development within a corporation, perhaps it would be helpful if we could explore the level to which human resource professionals within various corporations have sought to embrace e-learning as a toll for advancement. Research findings of an independent survey that was carried out in November 2008 by IMC (UK) Learning Ltd, a provider for advanced content-solutions and e-learning indicates that just well over half of all the Human Resource professionals (52 percent) have taken the initiative of enrolling their employees in LMS (learning management systems) within their organizations, even as more than two thirds of them (79 percent) are strong supporters of cost-effective and quick in-house training.

The above mentioned research survey was dubbed, “Staff Training during an Economic Downturn – Opportunities and Threats”. It sought the opinion of a total of 15- professionals in the human resource departments of various corporations in the United Kingdom. To this end, the human resource professionals were queried on their human resource practices, training needs, as well as expectations, especially at a time when organizations are hard hit by an economic slowdown. The IMC (UK) Learning Ltd managing director, Dr Dirk Thissen, while giving his comment regarding the research, observed that “Despite the acknowledgement that in-house training provides flexibility and cost effectiveness, which are needed during these tough times, only half of HR professionals have invested in learning management systems or rapid authoring tools” (Checkpoint 2008).

Dr Thissen further asserted that it is the responsibility of the leaders within the human resource department of various organizations to look at the prevailing global economic meltdown as more of a prime opportunity, one that will enable them to re-evaluate the existing programs of training within their department, so that they may be better bale to assess additionally cost-effective and flexible tolls of training that are currently available in the market, like virtual classrooms, web-based training, and virtual classrooms. Further, this research study revealed that the number of organizations that utilizes internet-based training instruments was surprisingly lower.

In this case, 53 percent of the respondents said that they often utilized online testing/ assessment, a further 48 percent said that their found video/audio content to be a useful tool, and a similar number of respondents (48 percent) talked of regularly using web-based training. On the other hand, just about 25 percent of the research study’s respondents were found to be frequently users of online communities, while the use of podcasts and virtual classrooms was at 11 percent and 20 percent respectively. Thissen further asserts that “With new graduates having grown up in the digital world, organizations looking for a competitive edge in attracting and retaining talent need to tailor their training techniques to best address today’s web-based and virtual learning environments” (Checkpoint 2008).

Such portable devices and tolls as iPods, podcasts, as well as PlayStation Portables, in addition to now the internet, have already established themselves and blended well with the existing education system. For this reason, it is only proper that those organizations that are intent on accomplishing the most following a training of their human resources, needs to embrace these devices and tools (Lingham 2008) as they endeavours to come up with ways and means to both motivate and engage their human resources, via training programs.

Methodology

Introduction

This research study seeks to explore the importance of e-learning as a tool for human resource management. The case study for the dissertation is a financial institution; ABE bank that is situated in Greece. In this case, a qualitative research study shall be adopted with a view to gathering data on the benefits of e-learning to the financial institutions in question. Emphasis shall be laid on seminars and webinars as forms of e-learning, as they are applied at the ABE bank.

In addition, employees as well as the management staff from the ATE bank shall be interviewed via a detailed semi-structured research questionnaire, in order to gain an insight into the application of e-learning at the said institution. It is important to note here that the research questionnaire will serve as the only tool for data collection. Furthermore, such a research questionnaire shall also be self-administered.

Research questions

The main dissertation question is, how important is e-learning as a tool for human resource management?

Sub-questions for this dissertation are as provided below:

  • What forms of e-learning tools does the case study bank (ATE) utilize?
  • How beneficial has e-learning been to the employees and the management at the ATE bank?
  • What are some of the challenges/handicaps that have faced the ATE bank in their bid to implement e-learning?

Research Design

According to Creswell (2008), a research design is a framework for collecting and utilizing sets of data that aims to produce logical and appropriate findings with great accuracy, and that aims to adequately and reasonably rest a research hypothesis. As mentioned in the introduction, a qualitative study was conducted. This permitted the research to meet its objectives by comparing, analysing and evaluating the importance of e-learning to a business, within the context of the case study for this research; ATE bank in Greece.

This study utilized a descriptive research approach to accurately describe variables that were under exploration, for purposes of determining the degree to which the variables could be related. As Kumar (2000) has indicated, an exploratory research is often times carried out at a time when a researcher seeks insights into the broad nature of a problem at hand, the possible substitutes, and the appropriate variables that need to be evaluated.

On the other hand, casual research is undertaken when the objectives of the research are to comprehend the causal–effect variables, along with the effects that these have over a given phenomenon. Causal research also entails an assessment of the nature of the association between on the one hand, causative agents and on the other hand, the effects of a phenomenon. From such a perspective then, this research study may be seen as more of a descriptive study, as it seeks to explore and illustrate how beneficial e-learning has been to the corporate world, within the context of a financial institution in Greece, which also happens to be the case study for this dissertation.

This study is basically a descriptive study since it is aimed at evaluating the benefits and limitation variables of the online retail marketing especially in Hong Kong. It is concerned with the frequency with which something occurs or the relationship between variables (Kant 1999). It is possible to categorise a research design on the basis of either a quantitative or qualitative method. According to Bryman (2001), quantitative research chiefly entails a quantification of the findings.

On the other hand, qualitative research has been explained as a research strategy which focuses more on words, as opposed to the quantification of the findings, with respect to both the collection and also the interpretation of research data. Lee (1999) has noted that quantitative strategy usually makes use of a deductive approach. On the other hand, qualitative design strategy is more concerned with the application of induction.

It is important to note here that whereas a quantitative strategy endeavours to put to test a research theory, qualitative strategy on the other hand, hopes to build such a theory. When a research study adopts a qualitative approach, there is the chance that the ensuing analysis of the findings shall be both profound and more detailed, as regards a specific situation under investigation. From such a mindset, this research study has sought to embrace the use of a qualitative research approach, in a bid to gain more insight into the level of significance of e-learning applications within the corporate setting, within the context of the ATE bank in Greece, which has been used as a case study for this research.

With a qualitative design of research, the resultant openness between various parts appears to be much higher in comparison with quantitative method which can facilitate the generation and creation of new theories (Ischool 2008). A qualitative research design helps explain the uncertainties and problems of a study. Such a level of depth and detail is not achievable in quantitative research in the event that a research study respondents only gets to answer closed questions. For this reason, this research study sought to embrace the use of open-ended and semi-structured questions while gathering data, so that the insights of thee respondents could be recorded.

The definition of a qualitative research is nevertheless not easy to arrive at, owing to the fact that this term is not without its won theory or paradigm. Moreover, this form of research lacks a discrete set of practices of methods that could entirely be attributed to it. It is the opinion of a other scholars (for instance, Covaledki & Dirsmith, 1990) that qualitative approaches to a research may very well be utilized at a time when a research wises to assess social truths, like a certain phenomenon.

Even as we have differences with respect top qualitative research definitions, nonetheless there is a common feature that is a characteristic of virtually all the known definitions; all of these definitions are geared towards the provision of a richer perspective with respect to social processes and realities (Harvard Business Review 2001). The philosophical setting with respect to the qualitative methods of research focuses more on the importance of understanding better social interactions, from the point of view of an organization, in addition to the meaning of human behaviour.

In this case, it is important to note that through the implementation of e-learning within an organization, there is a heightened social interaction between the human resources, either through a common ground through training sessions or via say, the adoption of internet communication. These are some of the impacts of e-learning to the corporate world that this research study seeks to establish. Flick (2002) offers that those research studies that tend to stick to strategies that are inductive are best conducted using a qualitative strategy.

Furthermore, qualitative research assist a researcher to embrace contextual conditions while at the same time also acting as a tool for detecting novel issues, and aiding in the development of theories that are grounded on empirical evidence. Besides, qualitative methodologies tend to have high validity levels, while at the same time also preserving data flow in a chronological manner. In any case, qualitative data is rarely vulnerable to retrospective alterations (Ghauri et al., 1995, p. 85).

Participants

This particular research study hopes to interview a total of 60 respondents. These shall include both the staff as well as the management team at ATE bank, Greece. The selection of the participants for this particular research study was done through a sampling procedure. According to Creswell (2008), sampling is one element of the statistical practice that concern itself with the selection of unique observations that are anticipated to surrender some knowledge about a population in question, specifically for the purposes of forming some statistical inference.

Before primary research is conducted, a researcher must be clear about the category of respondents it wants to interview. In most instances, it is virtually impossible for a researcher to interview the whole population to get their views and opinions about a research question as this would be unfeasible and costly. In that respect, a representative sample of the population was taken to assist in conducting the research.

The population for this research study was made up of all the employees for employees and management personnel for ATE bank. Seeing that the entire population could not have been engaged in the interview process, probability sampling method was viewed as the right one for this research as respondents were chosen based on some form of random selection.

According to Creswell (2008), probability sampling ensures that the different units in the research population have the same probabilities of being selected. After the required sample size of the study respondents was calculated, systematic sampling technique was employed for the purposes of collecting data for the study. This sampling ensures that each individual in the population has an equal and known possibility of been selected to participate in the research (Creswell 2008).

However, any researcher using systematic random sampling must first ensure that chosen sampling interval in a population does not conceal any pattern as this would threaten the randomness of a sample. Every 10th employees, in order of alphabetical listing from the bank’s latest database update was automatically selected.

Materials

Research instruments

Questionnaire

Creswell (2008) argues that the best method to minimise the measurement error is to “use a good [research] instrument” (p. 394). As such, this research study sought to utilise an open-ended and semi-structured questionnaire, for purposes of data collection. The use of open ended questions shall enable the respondents to the research study express their views freely, and with minimal limitations, as Cohen and colleagues (2002) have noted. This is important, because of what Creswell (2008) has termed as “cultural and social experiences” (Creswell 2008, p. 399) of the respondents to a study.

As Cohen and other have further noted, “closed and open ended questions can catch the authenticity, richness, depth of response, honesty and candour which is […] the hallmarks of quantitative data”. (Cohen, Manion & Morrison 2002 p. 255). As such, in order to explore the importance of e-learning as a tool for human resource management at the organisational level, and to better understand the methods of e-learning that have been adopted by ATE bank in Greece, this researcher deemed it appropriate to make use of an open-ended questionnaire, as the most appropriate method of data collection. The questionnaire was personally administered by the researcher.

Creswell (2008) is of the opinion that personal administration of a research questionnaire has the obvious advantage of making the respondent understand the questions and concepts involved. Personal administration also gives a respondent the opportunity to ask for clarifications. Personal administration also yields the lowest refusal rate among respondents. It also allows for detailed, longer, and more complicated interviews to be undertaken (Lee & Johnson 1999).

Questionnaire design

This research study sought to utilizes a self-completed questionnaire as the tool for research. The questionnaire consisted of 17 questions, a majority of which were closed ended, thereby giving the impression of a highly structured questionnaire. Only several open-ended questions were used in the whole questionnaire. According to Leung (2007), factual data is best collected using questionnaires and thus appropriate questionnaire design is crucial in making sure research questions elicits valid responses.

The questionnaire developed for this research study mainly dwelt on the benefits of e-learning to the financial institution in question, in this case, ITE bank in Greece. The impact that e-learning has had on the human resource management (HRM) at the bank was assessed by way of posing questions to the beneficiaries of this technology, in this case the employees and the management. A copy of the research questionnaire has been included in the appendix section of this dissertation.

Procedure

Primary data was collected via a semi-structure questionnaire that was self-administered. On the other hand, secondary data was collected from literature sources that have touched on the area of e-learning and its application at the organisational level. Secondary data is a valuable tool within a research study since it can provide insights into the research area and can also lay the foundation for further research. As such, books, journals and articles acted as the main sources of secondary data. At a time when the secondary data was being collected, this was done with special caution so that the most precise data about the issue at hand, and which were in line with the research objectives, was located.

For purposes of ensuring that the questionnaires reached the intended respondents, these were sent via the personal e-mails of the participants. Furthermore, the researcher also made a follow-up through e-mails to the respondents, to ascertain that they received the questionnaires. Jointly sent with these questionnaires was a cover letter explaining the purpose of the study, with an acknowledgement that is has been endorsed by university for which this researcher is a student. The respondents were also assured of confidentiality of their responses by this researcher. All participants were asked to voluntarily complete and return the questionnaires to the researcher via email.

Ethical Considerations

The researcher explained to all participants the purpose of this study and also guaranteed them that their identity was to remain anonymous. According to Sekeran (1992), a researcher should not “ use the research results to the disadvantage of the participants, or for purposes that participants will not like; not allowing them to withdraw from the research when they want to; exposing participants to physical and mental stress; deceiving subject by deliberately misleading them as to the true purpose of the research; asking demeaning questions that diminish their self-respect and putting pressure on individuals to participate in the research”.

In keeping with Sekeran’s directives, this researcher pointed out to the respondents from the start that their participation was on a voluntary basis. As such, there was no coercion for a respondent to remain in the study. Furthermore, the respondents were also free to leave the research study at any point of participation. Moreover, the use of any information given by all participants was only used with their consent for purposes of this research study. The answers given by the study’s respondents were elaborated anonymously. Ultimately, the filled-up self-administered questionnaires were destroyed once the data collected had been complied and analysed.

Data presentation

Are you familiar with e-learning?

96 percent of the respondents affirmed that they were well acquainted with e-learning; only 4 percent of them were yet to become familiar with the e-learning concept.

In what ways do you utilise e-learning in your organisation?

Training and development of staff 43 percent
Recruitment of employees 26 percent
Correspondents with clients 24 percent
others 7 percent
Total 100 percent

Table 1: e-learning utilisation at ATEbank.

E-learning is mainly used for purposes of training and development of the staff at the ATEbank, as confirmed by 43 percent of the respondents. This is followed by employees’ recruitment exercise, at 26 percent, while 24 percent of the respondents affirmed that their organisation often utilised e-learning as a way of corresponding with its clients, with the reminder (7 percent) of the respondents contending that e-learning is applicable for other purposes, besides those mentioned above.

Has the application of e-learning enhanced the conduction of seminars and web-seminars in your organisation?

yes 88 percent
No 7 percent
Not sure 5 percent
total 100 percent

Table 2: seminars and web-seminars enhancement through e-learning implementation.

According to 88 percent of the study’s respondents, the conduction of seminars and web-seminars by their employers has especially been buoyed by the implementation of e-learning. A further 7 percent of the respondents did not think that e-learning had really been beneficial with regard to these forms of training, while the reminder (5 percent) were not decided on a plausible response.

Is it you opinion that the use of e-learning has been of benefit to the HRM at your organisation?

yes 87 percent
No 4 percent
Not sure 9 percent
Total 100 percent

Table 3: potential e-learning benefits to the human resource management (HRM) at ATEbank.

Well over two thirds of the study’s respondents (87 percent) concurred that indeed, the use of e-learning had been of benefit to the human resource management (HRM) within their organisation. A further 84 percent of the respondents felt that the introduction of e-learning in their organisation had acted to enhance the performance of its human resource management (HRM).

What general abilities does your bank look for, from its potential employees?

On the question of the general abilities that the ATEbank as an employer, often look for while recruiting its workforce, it was the feeling of a majority of the respondents that information technology skills (IT) was given priority, at 34 percent, closely followed by internet savvy, at 15 percent. Strategic thinking (15 percent), a team player (13 percent) ability to manage time (12 percent) and problem solving skills (11 percent) were also seen as important considerations.

General ability Percentage
Technology skills (IT) 34
internet savvy 15
Strategic thinking 15
Team player 13
Ability to manage time 12
Problem solving skills 11
Total 100

Table 4: a list of general employees’ abilities for recruitment by ATEbank.

How beneficial do your feel e-learning has been to your bank?

Benefit Percentage
Flexibility 31
Convenience 25
cost-effectiveness 24
fast 20
Total 100

Table 5: E-learning benefits to ATEbank.

Regarding the accruing benefits to the organisation as a result of e-learning implementation, flexibility was seen as one of the most important elements, at 31 percent, while 24 percent of the respondents felt that the adoption of e-learning had been a cost-effective undertaking by their employer. A quarter of the respondents perceived e-learning as being convenient to both the organisation and its workforce, while 20 percent of those interviewed thought it was a faster form of staff training technique, compared with the conventional programs.

How satisfied are you with the level of engagement of your employer to e-learning tools?

Very satisfied 51 percent
Satisfied 25 percent
Neither satisfied, nor dissatisfied 14 percent
Dissatisfied 4
extremely dissatisfied 2
Not sure 4

Table 6: respondent’s level of satisfactions with their employer’s e-learning engagement level.

Moreover, more than half of the respondents (51 percent) affirmed that they were satisfied with the level of engagement to e-learning tools that their organisation had adopted. Only a handful of the respondents (6 percent) were yet to be contented with e-learning engagement at their place of work.

In your own opinion, what are some of the barriers to a better implementation of e-learning that your organization is faced with?

Lack of enough in-house experts on e-learning and a lack of awareness on potential e-learning benefits were ranked as the leading barriers for a better implementation of e-learning at the ATEbank, at 28 and 25percent respectively. Other potential barriers included financial constraints (16 percent), a lack of awareness about e-learning (8 percent), difficulty in implementation (7 percent), limited access to service providers (7 percent), the culture of the organization (5 percent), and a conservative management over new technology adoption (4 percent).

Barrier Percentage
Lack of enough in-house experts on e-learning 28
Lack of awareness on potential benefits 25
Financial constrains 16
Lack of awareness about e-learning 8
Limited access to service providers 7
Difficulty in implementation 7
Organization culture 5
Conservatism over novel technology 4
Total 100

Table 7: Potential barriers to effective e-learning implementation.

Potential barriers to effective e-learning implementation

Would you in future recommend to your employer to embrace e-learning for the training and development of its employees?

93 percent of the study’s respondents said that in future, they would recommend to their potential employer to embrace e-learning for the training and development of their employees.

Has e-learning proved productive for the performance of human resource management (HRM) within your organization?

More than two thirds of the respondents (69 percent) concurred that at the ATEbank, e-learning had proved productive for the performance of human resource management (HRM).

Extremely productive 31 percent
Very productive 23 percent
Moderately productive 15 percent
Neither productive, nor unproductive 18 percent
Unproductive 9
Extremely unproductive 4
Total 100

Table 8: impact of e-learning on human resource management (HRM) productivity.

Please rate the level of importance of these factors to your organization within the context of the implementation of e-learning.

position Factor Percentage of importance
1 Knowledge increase 89
2 Training materials access (online) 85
3 Training cost and time reduction 77
4 Consistency and training quality 73
5 Enhanced retention of staff 71
6 Enhanced productivity at the workplace 66
7 Delivery flexibility 59
8 Enhanced competitive advantage 58
9 Increased overall profitability 55
10 Enhanced collaboration within the sector 50
11 Cultural shift potential 49
12 Retention/attraction of youthful employees 24

Table 9: Important e-learning implementation factors.

The ratings given by the study’s respondents over a number of human resource management (HRM) factors, within the context of e-learning implementation, are as indicated by the table above.

Data analysis

According to the research findings for this particular study, e-learning was seen as a better option when compared with the conventional training programs for the human resource, due to its flexibility, cost-effectiveness and convenience. Similar sentiments have also been echoed by Walters (2003), who concur that good e-learning training has the potential to powerfully contribute to enhance the moral and productivity of the employees, add to a to a positive environment of working, lower the rate of staff turnover, and also reduce distractions that come about at a time when hitherto mild staff dissatisfaction becomes rather hostile.

To a majority of the organizations, the implementation of e-learning is seen as a fundamental tool in a bid at leveraging the knowledge management of their human resources, in an even better manner than previously. In the face of flexible fast and convenient electronic e-learning, Walters (2003) contends that the ensuing return on investment (ROI) may very well exceeded a corresponding payback generation that conventional human resource training programs, such as ‘customized instructor-led training’ brings.

These research findings are in agreement with a case study for Jarvis Hotel, as presented by Sander (2000). As Sander reports, an induction program introduced by the hotels in 1999 had been occasioned by elevated rates of staff turnover that the company had been experiencing, fro a number of years. Furthermore, a majority of its staff operated on a shift-basis, thereby making them part-time employees. For this reason, e-learning was deemed as a beneficial undertaking to the management of human resources.

The results of the implementation of e-learning by Jarvis Hotels was that the training cots on an individual basis was seen to reduce to only 7 pounds, down from 40 pounds that the company had been incurring through the conventional training programs. In addition, the staff turnover was seen to greatly reduce. Moreover, there was also a corresponding enhanced satisfaction of the customers and by extension, increased company revenues.

Even as close to a quarter of this study’s respondents (24 percent) were of the opinion that e-learning is a cost-effective form of training for the employees, nevertheless this response appear to contradict an observation by Marchington and colleagues (2002) who have noted that the development of e-learning is costly, due to the fact that an organisation has to train or recruit qualified professionals to steer the adoption process of e-learning.

In addition, there is also a need to enhance the currently system within the organisation, so that it is in tune with this new development. Even as more than half of the study’s respondents (51 percent) were very satisfied with the level of engagement of their organisation, in as far as the tools of e-learning are concerned, a case study of Lakin Scott Golding, as presented by Sloman (2001) suggests otherwise.

In this case, attempts by the management of the said organisation to embrace e-learning in pace of classroom training were met with resistance and chaos. According to a report that was filed by the training manager at the firm, e-learning failed because the learning café was turned into a ‘spare meeting-room’ by the learners. Also, the chosen products and the information technology (IT) systems were incompatible, and this led to the postponement of the start of the training program, thrice.

What this suggests is that there is a need to have the whole organisation involved, at a time when an organisation intends to institute a new change, such as e-learning. This is important, because when both the management and the employees alike and in agreement as regards the implementation of say, e-learning, there are a number of hindrances to its development that they may well be able to avoid.

More than two thirds of the study’s respondents felt that e-learning had acted to enhance the productivity of human resource management (HRM) at the ATEbank. Price (2007) talks of a survey that involved a total of 35 major organisations of e-learning, and who aim was to asses the impact that the implementation of e-learning was having on the individual organisation’s human resource management (HRM) departments.

According to 92 percent of the study’s respondents, e-learning programs were viewed as the most effective aspects of human resource management (HRM) training and development. Closely following this, were the instructor-led ‘training courses’ which were backed by 86 percent of the respondents. At this point, it becomes necessary to draw a parallel between these research findings as regards the flexibility of e-learning as a tool for human resource management (HRM).

Research findings of a study conducted by Arbaugh (2000a) appear to be in agreement with the results for this research. Arbaugh discovered flexibility to be an extremely significant element of e-learning. This is because a learner is in a position to embrace it wherever and whenever they may be. A number of this study’s participants also cited that with e-learning, the most important thing was for them to have unlimited access to the study materials, an observation that is in line with the responses of the employees of ATEbank, who at 85 percent, cited e-learning as important for generating online access to their learning materials.

One of the research study’s respondents rightly observed, “If there is something you don’t understand, you go back and do it again; if you fail on a particular lesson, or if the percentage of correct answers is low, you can easily redo (re-read) it. If you cannot remember certain definitions, you can go back and check them.” As such, the advantages of e-learning for training and development of the human resources within an organisation is highly flexible, unlike other classroom-based training programs.

According to the general policies of the ATEbank, not everyone who is employed at the financial institution usually gains internet access, and this could possibly explain why we have 8 percent of the respondents who confessed that they had no idea what e-learning means. One of the employees interviewed for this research study had this to say: “At this day and age of information technology, it is necessary to have access to the latest developments in one’s area of specialisation. The internet has come to our rescue. We should therefore use it to our benefits. Our employers needs to helps us all realise the full benefits of e-learning for both our common good and that of the organisation.”

Although not the main hindrance, lack of financial resource was cited by the study’s respondents as one of the leading barriers for a better e-learning implementation within the ATEbank.

According to Khan (2005), any initiative towards the implementation of e-learning by an organization calls for financial support from the management of the said organization. In this case, there is a need for an institution to assess such an e-learning initiative vis-à-vis the ensuing return on investment (ROI).

A successful implementation of e-learning shall also call for a technological infrastructure that is well-planned, and one that is augmented by sufficient resources. In this case, infrastructural readiness is a necessity, and it entails equipment readiness, manpower readiness, and technical readiness. It is important to note that e-learning, which largely appears more directed on self (individual learner), as opposed to a group of learners, may very well encounter challenges, and more so in a case whereby a strong tradition is well established. For this reason, there is a need for institutions to first explore their culture through an assessment of the learning preference of their learners, the teaching techniques that an instructor prefers, as well as the learning culture that is currently in place.

Cultural readiness takes into account sociological, psychological, as well as environmental readiness. It is important that the contents of e-learning adopted by an organization to be based and organized on the basis of the established goals of such a project.

Conclusion

Electronic learning (E-learning), the application of information technology (IT) tools to facilitate and enhance the learning process, has been seen to rise over the last decade (Khan 2005). To start with, e-learning is a convenient mode of learning, and may be conducted even in a situation whereby distance would prove to be a handicap. All that is needed is a computer, and internet technology.

Due to the flexibility of e-learning, a lot of learners find it convenient to their schedules, in addition to its being learner-oriented, unlike the conventional training programs that are more focused on the trainer (Hall 2000). These, among other benefits have seen a lot more organizations embrace the concept of e-learning, in a bid to ensure cost-effectiveness, in the face of a competitive market (E-learning Guide 2005).

Research studies indicate that the cost of an e-learning program could be as much as 6 times cheaper, compared with conventional training programs (Klein & Ware 2003). It is not a wonder then that a lot more organisations seek to implement e-learning as a way of enhancing the productivity and performance exercise of their human resource management (HRM).

It is from this point of view, that this research study sought to explore e-learning using the ATEbank S. A., in Greece, as a case study. As such, the study sought to explore how e-learning had been effective as a toll for human resource management (HRM).

The design of this research study was qualitative, to allow the respondents to express their views and opinions regarding the study questions. Data collection was through the use of a semi-structured questionnaire. A systematic sampling procedure was carried out in order to statistically identify the 60 participants that were needed for this research study. Ethical considerations were taken into account during the time of data collection, cleaning and interpretation.

According to the findings of this research study, e-learning was found to have contributed to an enhanced productivity of the human resource managements activities at the ATEbank. Moreover, flexibility, convenience and cost-effectiveness were identified as the leading benefits that the bank had acquired upon implementing e-learning. Besides, well over two thirds of the respondents were satisfied with the e-learning programs introduced by their employer.

Moreover, knowledge increase, ease of accessing training materials online, consistency and training quality, enhanced retention of staff, increased organisation competitive advantage and a rise in the overall profitability of the bank were other factors that the respondents identified as having benefited from the use of e-learning. The study findings therefore reveal that a successful implementation of an e-learning system in an organisation is cost-effective in the long-term, as it results in a positive return on investment (ROI).

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Appendix

Questionnaire

My names are (name of the student). I am undertaking my masters’ degree in (name of degree) at (name of university). The questionnaire below is a tool for data collection for my dissertation titled “The importance of e-learning as a tool for human resource management: a case-study of ATEbank S. A., Greece. Your response shall be held in strict confidence, and the data shall only be used for purposes of the research project only.

Thank you in advance.

  • Are you familiar with e-learning?
    • Yes
    • No
  • In what ways do you utilise e-learning in your organisation?
    • Recruitment of employees
    • Training and development of staff
    • Correspondents with clients
  • Does your organisation conduct seminars and web-seminars?
  • Has the application of e-learning enhanced the conduction of seminars and web-seminars in your organisation?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  • Please explain your answer above. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
  • For how long has your organisation been implementing the concept of e-learning?
    • Less than 1 year
    • More than two years
    • Over 5 years
  • Is it you opinion that the use of e-learning has been of benefit to the HRM at your organisation?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Undecided
  • Explain your response to the question above. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………
  • Do you feel that e-learning introduction into the banking practice enhances the performance of HRM?
    • Yes
    • No
  • What general abilities does your bank look for, from its potential employees?
    • Team player
    • Ability to manage time
    • IT skills
    • Internet savvy
    • Problem-solving skills
    • Strategic thinking
    • Potential research skills
  • What are some of the educational needs for the bank that have been reinforced by the application of e-learning? ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
  • How beneficial do your feel e-learning has been to your bank?
    • Cost effectiveness
    • Convenience
    • Fast
    • Flexibility
  • How satisfied are you with the level of engagement of your employer to e-learning tools?
    • Very satisfied
    • Satisfied
    • Moderate
    • Dissatisfied
    • extremely dissatisfied
    • Not sure
  • In your own opinion, what are some of the barriers to a better implementation of e-learning that your organization is faced with?
    • Lack of enough in-house experts on e-learning
    • Lack of awareness on potential benefits
    • Limited access to service providers
    • Financial constrains
    • Lack of awareness about e-learning
    • Organization culture
    • Conservatism over novel technology
    • Difficulty in implementation
  • Would you in future recommend to your employer to embrace e-learning for the training and development of its employees?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Undecided
  • Has e-learning proved productive for the performance of human resource management (HRM) within your organization?
    • Extremely productive
    • Very productive
    • Moderate
    • Unproductive
    • Very unproductive
  • Below is a table of factors that are related to human resource management (HRM) within an organization. Please rate the level of importance of these factors to your organization within the context of the implementation of e-learning.
position factor Percentage of importance
1 Knowledge increase
2 Training materials access (online)
3 Training cost and time reduction
4 Consistency and training quality
5 Enhanced retention of staff
6 Enhanced productivity at the workplace
7 Delivery flexibility
8 Enhanced competitive advantage
9 Increased overall profitability
10 Enhanced collaboration within the sector
11 Cultural shift potential
12 Retention/attraction of youthful employees

Thank you for your time and efforts to participate in this research survey.

E-Learning as a Tool for Human Resource Management
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