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E-learning can’t entirely replace face-to-face learning: HR experts

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According to a team of seasoned learning and development professionals, while e-learning has become an essential component of an organisation’s training strategy it should never entirely supplant face-to-face learning.

This was the key takeaway from an in-depth panel discussion by HR experts at Human Resources’ Learning & Development Asia 2019 conference, held on 5 September at Hong Kong’s Hotel ICON.

Stephen Smith, head of L&D (Asia) at Mayer Brown, Polly Wong, a director of HR at SAS, and professor Eric Tsui, VP of the Hong Kong Knowledge Management Society, thrashed out thorny workplace e-learning issues in front of a packed house of HR practitioners – elaborating on pitfalls, how to engage employees, and delivering succinct advice.

“Start with the phone. Don’t compete against it,” said Smith, when discussing the battle e-learning professionals face when dealing with digital distractions, adding that it’s also a good idea to “bring the IT department along for the journey”, underscoring some of the pitfalls that can befall some of the less digitally savvy.

“Make it fun. Be curious, be creative” with your L&D programmes, he concluded.

Wong pointed out that as SAS has about 13,000 employees, e-learning “makes a compelling case” as a way to bring the company’s workforce closer. She added that employees can easily become distracted and that a “less is more” approach is the best way to achieve good e-learning outcomes.

Professor Tsui conceded that while e-learning “can breach geographical boundaries, it can never completely replace face-to-face learning” adding there is still a strong case for blended learning.

“Achieve clarity. Start small. Obtain feedback,” was his parting advice to the audience.

The e-learning panel discussion was one of many highlights at the day’s jam-packed L&D event, which also included an engaging keynote address on future skill sets from Joanne Ho, COO at Fung Academy, Fung Group.

There were also inspiring case studies on leveraging open source HR programmes, and connecting learning and business outcomes – as well as a variety of talks on L&D best practices.

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