Elearning has once again come under fire, after a study by analyst IDC criticised many of the offerings on the market for failing to meet business objectives.
It was also critcised for being too costly and time consuming to link to other back office systems.
Michael Brennan, one of the co-authors of the IDC elearning report, said post-sales activity and helping clients to encourage employees to use the systems, were also areaa that needed improvement.
"Lack of use is still a big issue, particularly for those vendors that offer large catalogues of content," he said.
"Companies need to dedicate resources to ensure they convey the business benefits of using elearning, and making sure it's aligned with business objectives."
But corporate purchasers of elearning are nonetheless sold on the concept, the report says, in particular the flexibility the training mechanism provides particularly when combined with classroom-based training.
"People have tended to see elearning as a panacea, but now they realise that it's really an additional extra," Brennan said.
Of those respondents who had not bought into the elearning concept, 44 per cent blame cost, and a similar number said a lack of management buy-in was to blame. Two out of five non-adopters said they planned to do so in the next two years.
But despite the hype, predictions from analyst Ovum Holway indicate that online learning will account for just a fifth of the IT training market by 2004.
Analyst Heather Small said IT training still means going back to the classroom for the majority of UK companies.
She also warned that most investments in elearning were driven by a desire to save costs. But outrageous claims about the financial benefits of elearning were giving companies false expectations about realistic return on investment.
"Customers expect training to be cheaper [than instructor-led training] but it's acutally phenomenally expensive to deliver," she said.
Brennan warned that going forward, the focus for elearning companies would be on linking training with performance management and tracking.
"We're still not at a point where we can prove that training has positively impacted productivity or sales," he said.
"Elearning can offer so much if you start by addressing business issues," said Laura Overten, global programmes manager at elearning giant SmartForce.
"It also helps to market elearning internally because everyone can see how it addresses real business problems such as increasing competitiveness or time to market.
"When you choose a company to work with, do they have the experience and case studies and strategies for post-implementation service - or will they love you and leave you? Tie down those issues at the outset. Don't underestimate the cultural implications," she said.
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