The Business Case for eLearning – A Guide To Adoption

Despite it’s apparent benefits, not all organizations are eager to embrace eLearning. Building a business case for eLearning can be challenging. There is often resistance towards shifting from tried and tested conventional methods to this relatively new approach of learning. Hesitations may stem from a lack of familiarity with digital learning tools, fear of change, or perceived high costs. BUt by far, the most common cause of resistance we have seen is the bad impression past unsuccessful eLearning attempts are among the most common we have seen.

This resistance may be fueled and perpetuated by what Michael Allen describes as the ‘cycle of bad eLearning’. In his book, Allen describes how negative views about eLearning can create a detrimental, self-perpetuating cycle. A poorly designed eLearning program leads to underwhelming outcomes. This can reinforce a negative perception of eLearning, resulting in a decreasing willingness to to consider future investment.

In this article, we will delve deeper into understanding this cycle of bad eLearning and how to break it. The result? Many more opportunities to encourage greater investment in eLearning – even in the most resistant organizations.

Understanding the Cycle of Bad eLearning

In today’s digital age, eLearning has emerged as a vital tool in education and learning and development (L&D) sectors. From virtual classrooms to adaptive learning applications, eLearning has been employed across various fields to enhance knowledge-sharing, foster skills development. Overall, the goal could even be to transform the way learning is perceived and consumed. In fact, that’s the way we see it here at BrightMind eLearning. The accessibility, personalization, and flexibility offered by eLearning make it a potentially transformative force. And with proper design and application, it has the potential surpass the effectiveness of many traditional teaching and learning methods. Unfortunately, eLearning isn’t universally embraced. When corporate leadership seems resistant or even intransigent in their stance, it can be a challenge to break through to them.

To appropriately address the issues surrounding eLearning, we first need to understand the obstacles. At the root of much of the resistance to eLearning implementation is the ‘cycle of bad eLearning’. This cycle, as the name suggests, is a chaining sequence of factors leading to poor eLearning outcomes and experiences, further discouraging investment and interest in similar initiatives.

Below, we detail the components of this destructive cycle:

1. Low Expectations

Many hold a poor perception of eLearning due to previous experiences that were uninspiring and unengaging. This preconceived notion leads to low expectations and an overall negative opinion about eLearning’s potential effectiveness.

2. Poor Design and Delivery

Guided by these diminished expectations, the commitment to developing high-quality eLearning materials wanes. Consequently, poorly designed and delivered programs are created that do little to engage learners or reinforce learning. As you can imagine, this often leads to a frustrating experience for all involved.

3. Poor Results: A Self-Fulfilled Prophecy

Naturally, poor design and delivery translates into ineffective learning. This means learners may not be able to:

  •  Retain as much information as they should.
  •  Develop the desired skills or change behavior.
  •  Properly apply what they’ve learned.

All this culminates in poor assessment results and a lack of performance improvement when applying those skills in practice. And of course, it leads to a big “I TOLD YOU SO” from the nay-sayers!

4. Reduced Investment

The lackluster performance discourages further investment as stakeholders question the value and efficacy of eLearning. Funds and resources that might have been allocated to future eLearning endeavors are instead directed elsewhere, stifling the chance for improved eLearning experiences.

When we take a closer look at real-world examples, this cycle can be distinctly observed. For instance, consider an organization that launches eLearning modules developed hastily without adequate emphasis on content relevancy or interactivity. The resulting program, unfortunately, fails to engage the learners, they struggle to extract meaningful knowledge or skills, and the organization, witnessing the poor outcomes, becomes even more reluctant to invest further in eLearning resources.

Clearly, the continuous creation and propagation of such negative experiences sustain this detrimental cycle of bad eLearning. Building a Business Case for eLearning often requires breaking this cycle requires an innovative and thoughtful approach, as we will discuss in the following section.

Breaking the Cycle of Bad eLearning

Overcoming the hurdles connected to the cycle of bad eLearning necessitates systematic and strategic planning to ensure eLearning is seen as a beneficial investment. Here are some key areas that need to be addressed:

1. Establish Clear and Measurable Learning Objectives

One of the most critical steps in developing an effective eLearning program is to design clear, specific, and measurable learning objectives. These objectives guide learners, providing them with a clear understanding of what they will learn and how it will be beneficial. They also serve as a clear yardstick for measuring the effectiveness and success of the program, thus giving stakeholders quantifiable results on their return on investment.

2. Invest in Quality Design and Delivery

Emphasis should be placed on creating high-quality eLearning materials that grab the learner’s interest and keep them engaged. This may include a combination of interactive modules, multimedia elements, and real-world application of concepts. In addition, the delivery of the content should be smooth and user-friendly, ensuring a positive user experience for the learners.

3. Engage in Regular Evaluation and Feedback

Continuous monitoring and evaluation of eLearning programs are key to improving them. Take learners’ feedback into consideration and make necessary improvements based on their recommendations. This will give learners a sense of being valued – boosting their engagement, and also keep the content fresh and up to date.

4. Invest in Professional Development and Tools

Proper resources and tools are necessary for the development of high-quality eLearning programs. Invest in professional development of the design team, provide them with the necessary tools and technology to create engaging eLearning materials.

Breaking the cycle of bad eLearning is no small feat. It requires a substantial shift in perspective and a conscious commitment to elevating the standards of eLearning. In essence, breaking the cycle is about improving every step of the way, right from planning to execution and evaluation, transforming eLearning experiences from being ‘just passable’ to truly productive and fulfilling.

Creating a Contract of Promise with Stakeholders

Once the shift towards higher-quality eLearning has begun, it’s essential to communicate this change effectively to those with invested interests. This is where the concept of a contract or promise comes into play.

What does this ‘promise’ entail? It’s essentially a commitment that the eLearning program will:


      • Meet set objectives

      • Yield measurable results

      • Providing a tangible return on the eLearning investment.

    This could be in the form of improved learner performance, faster completion times, or the achievement of specific learning outcomes.

    But it’s not enough just to make this promise—it must be fulfilled. And ensuring its fulfillment involves meticulously designing and executing the eLearning program. Whether it’s in the form of a 100% completion rate, a certain score increase, reduction in the number of production errors, or the achievement of specific performance goals, the results must be measurable and concrete. Transparency about these results goes a long way in building trust and confidence among the stakeholders regarding the effectiveness of eLearning.

    Look at successful eLearning initiatives in other organizations to understand how they’ve measured and demonstrated their returns on investment. Presenting these cases as evidence can provide solid assurance that when done right, eLearning can indeed be a worthwhile investment.

    At its core, this ‘promise’ or ‘contract’ is about guaranteeing value—to the learners, for their time and effort; to the design team, for their dedicated work; and to the organization, for its financial investment. Demonstrating this return on investment is a crucial step towards uplifting the image of eLearning and creating a propensity for greater investment. This affirmative change can transition organizations out of the cycle of bad eLearning and position them onto the path of continuous eLearning success and progress.

    Establishing the Cycle of Good eLearning

    Once the ‘cycle of bad eLearning’ has been broken and the promise of meaningful, measurable results fulfilled, the job of building a business base for eLearning is nearly done. Now it’s time to move towards establishing what could be termed as a ‘cycle of good eLearning’. 

    This virtuous cycle drastically contrasts with the cycle of bad eLearning, with each stage serving as an improvement point that feeds into the next, aligning the eLearning project for success. Here’s how the cycle works:

    1. Improved Attitude and Higher Expectations

    The initial success of an effective eLearning program improves perceptions and raises expectations towards eLearning initiatives. Stakeholders and learners alike start seeing eLearning as a valuable, engaging, and productive method of teaching and learning.

    2. Quality Design and Delivery

    With raised expectations comes commitment to quality. Improved attitudes towards eLearning can motivate the design team to create more high-quality, engaging, and relevant content. The effectiveness of the learning program is improved with objective-focused design and the efficient delivery of content.

    3. Better Learning Outcomes

    Naturally, when the learning materials are well-designed and engaging, learning outcomes improve. Engaging learning materials also capture learners’ attention and maintain their interest throughout the learning process. When learners are interested and motivated, they are more likely to engage with the material actively, leading to better learning outcomes. Interactive elements, such as quizzes, games, or simulations, can help make the learning experience more enjoyable and interactive, further enhancing engagement.

    4. Increased Investment

    When stakeholders see the positive results of the eLearning program, they are more inclined to invest in further eLearning initiatives. This new investment can then be used to expand and improve future eLearning programs.

    This cycle of good eLearning carries huge potential for long-term benefits as each successful eLearning venture feeds into the next, keeping the momentum going. By keeping the focus on delivering quality with each cycle, organizations can ensure that positive attitudes towards eLearning, higher expectations, and increased investment become the norm rather than the exception. Maintaining this positive cycle helps validate that eLearning is indeed a worthy objective seeking continuous refinement and evolution. The end goal is simple, yet profoundly transformative — not just meeting but exceeding the learning objectives, thereby continually delivering high return on eLearning investments.


    Deploying eLearning in an organization that is resistant to change is undeniably a significant challenge. Overcoming this resistance and building a business case for eLearning demands a strategic approach that not only addresses the existing skepticism but also showcases the extensive potential and return on investment that eLearning offers.

    By understanding the cycle of bad eLearning, and deliberately engaging strategies to break it, organizations can overcome the initial resistance and skepticism. The key is to shift the narrative from negative to positive, by delivering on the ‘promise’ of high-quality, meaningful, and effective learning infused with quantifiable results. 

    Establishing clear and measurable objectives, investing in design and delivery, continuously evaluating and improvising the program, and manifesting the return on investment are major steps towards dispelling any existing misconceptions about eLearning. 

    Meeting these initial objectives paves the way for creating a self-reinforcing cycle of good eLearning, where every success fuels the desire to create more successful eLearning experiences. 

    Ultimately, the goal is to foster a learning culture that appreciates and utilizes eLearning not as a mere alternative to traditional learning methods but as an effective, engaging, and efficient mode of knowledge acquisition and skills development. Transforming the perception about eLearning can significantly motivate organizations to invest more effort, time, and resources into making eLearning experiences truly valuable and rewarding.

    The journey may be rigorous, but the outcomes of good eLearning are definitely worth every effort. If you find you need help, contact BrightMind eLearning’s Strategy and Consulting team for a free consultation.