EVOLUTION AND TRAUMA IN CORPORATE E-LEARNING
University of Coimbra (PORTUGAL)
Companies have been implementing e-learning projects to help improve their competitiveness for the last 15-20 years. In this period, they have been facing different supporting technologies and new approaches to online learning. The latest approaches included social learning, MOOCs, game-based learning, among many others. Most companies do not have time nor consider appropriate to their context to experiment all these trending approaches. Yet, when they put a new approach into practice, they expect to have good results. Unfortunately, things do not go well all the time and companies have to deal with the consequences of bad choices, bad reactions, dead ends, and indirect costs, as well with the anxiety, diminishing motivation, and lack of confidence of their management teams. Altogether, that creates defensive reactions, which can include, among others, avoiding experimenting new approaches, cutting features, restraining access to the courses, using less attractive learning resources, going back to traditional learning, or postponing decisions.
Learning from experience is the starting point to improvement (Daudelin, 1996; Levitt & March, 1988) and organizational learning is a competence that every company should have (Argyris, 1992). Companies would benefit from looking at how their negative experiences have affected them internally and how those experiences have influenced their current practices and the way they manage their e-learning projects. The ability to recover from trauma is an indicator of corporate maturity in e-learning (Cação, 2014): if a company is able to look at what went wrong and how it has affected or traumatized the company and its workers, and overcome all of that, it can keep on track to achieve the best learning results and pursue a successful learning strategy, without being constrained by the negative experiences.
We present the results of a qualitative study on how bad experiences in e-learning have traumatized companies and e-learning teams and how they have been coping and recovering from those experiences.
The study is based on interviews with e-learning managers at prime companies with about 10.000 employees and training budgets over € 5 million Euros, and where e-learning initiatives account for about 50% of the training volume. The results show that companies have signs of confidence in their experience in e-learning and have been dealing with traumas as consequences of bad experiences. The managing teams revealed discomfort with some experiences, the reactions from the trainees, and some previous decisions. Specifically, we found cases of difficulty in handling adversities regarding the platforms, the learning contents, the trainees' maturities and attitudes, and the attitudes from syndicates and top management. The results of this study may help companies self diagnose their traumas and the impact of their negative experience on their decisions, in order to eliminate their internal blocking forces and improve their e-learning processes.
 Argyris, C. (1992). On Organizational Learning (1999 ed.). Massachussetts: Blackwell.
 Cação, R. (2014). Maturity in Large Scale Corporate e-Learning. Paper presented at the ICELW 2014 - International Conference of e-Learning in the Workplace, New York.
 Daudelin, M. W. (1996). Learning from experience through reflection. Organizational Dynamics, Winter(3), 36-48.
 Levitt, B., & March, J. G. (1988). Organizational Learning. Annual Review of Sociology, 14, 319-338.