Go on admit it. You hate e-learning.

It’s ok most people hate e-learning. Or perhaps more accurately, they hate e-learning at work. E-learning at work is dying a slow, slow death, but e-learning outside work is booming. Are we backing the wrong horse?

What’s the difference between the two?

Most of us have to take some form of annual training, whether it’s health and safety, data protection, or some other legal requirement. If you work for a company of a certain size this will be in the form of e-learning.

The experience usually goes a little something like this:

“Read/watch this..”
“..now answer a multiple choice question”
“..Congratulations you passed!”
“Passed what?”
“It doesn’t matter, the box is ticked – now get back to work!”

This will be your main experience of e-learning. You will associate the word with the experience. At it’s best this kind of training is relatively painless. At it’s worst..

Outside work e-learning looks very different.

We use the web to learn things we are interested in, or things we need to know. It could be through search, watching YouTube, reading Wikipedia, joining in an online conversation on social media, or something more formal.

Millions of people around the world take part in free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) every year. Hundreds of thousands pay for online courses on platforms like Udemy and Teachable out of their own pockets. 20 million people a month use Khan Academy. Subject matter experts are selling their knowledge direct through their websites. People are paying good money just to attend webinars!


Because they are motivated to learn.

Does the quality of all these different online methods stand up to expert design scrutiny? Not always no. But it matters less, because motivation is the most important driver for learning. As Dan Pink highlights in Drive, we are motivated by a desire for mastery, autonomy and purpose. If learning something new helps you to do this, you don’t care how pretty the graphics are, or how smooth the video edit was. You don’t care if it follows Gagne’s nine events of instruction. You focus on the message and how you can adapt it to meet your needs and make the idea work in your world. Then you put it into practice and try to perfect it.

People who want to learn don’t hate e-learning. They love e-learning because it gives them access to knowledge they could never tap into otherwise. It democratises knowledge and opens up opportunities for anyone with the right motivation.

Do you work in training or learning and development?

If you do, you probably spend an awful lot of your time worrying about how to convince people to pay attention to your training. And a lot of time trying to gather evidence about the impact of your training. But that’s hard to do if the people you are trying to train aren’t motivated to learn.

Most people I know who work in training, do it because they like helping people. But how do you help people who don’t want to be helped? Why not spend more of your energy doing the things you love? Why not focus on feeding the hungry? The people who actually care about their own development.

That might sound a little defeatist, but really it’s the only logical thing to do. Let’s say you run a small training business and you deliver a range of typical corporate training courses – presentation skills, coaching, leadership development etc. Your ability to grow your business is limited by your headcount and your location. A large amount of your working life is spent trying to win business and keep business. You probably do this through some sort of evaluation which forms part of your value proposition. You probably spend relatively little time on designing and delivering training.

What if you could package up your expertise into products and sell direct to people around the world who value your experience and actually want to learn?

  1. You could grow your business without growing your headcount.
  2. You wouldn’t have to travel as much.
  3. You could focus your energy on creating great content and experiences for people who respect your insight and expertise.

Thousands of people around the world are already doing this successfully, with little or no experience of designing training. So why are so few professional trainers doing this?