Monday, November 4, 2019

The Future of Corporate Language Instruction is Online

In many English speaking countries corporate training is a big sector. What many native English speakers perhaps don't realise is that a huge portion of global corporate training is English language instruction. 

Many big names in language instruction in Indonesia for example like Wall Street English, English First and Berlitz make the largest portion of their profits on in-house training programs, usually focusing on business English. Additionally there are several smaller players like English Today which are completely focused on the corporate sector and are quite competitive. I predict though that in coming years corporate English instruction could change to become more affordable, effective and accessible. The driving force behind this will be the switch to online based training.

Online based training is already becoming common place for industries that rely on remote outsourcing to recruit talent. Industries like the localisation industry (translation services to help companies target new markets) have most of their training done through instructors online. The "quiz" based online training that was prevalent over the previous decade is not what I am discussing here. I'm talking about small groups of trainees studying a personalised curriculum with a skilled online instructor.

First though let us discuss why the status quo is going to become increasingly nonviable for companies looking to upgrade their team.

Problems With The Status Quo

 I have been teaching Business English in-house for twelve years. I began in 2007 teaching at government departments and then went on to teach at NGOs, corporations and small businesses. One thing I found through these experiences is that an in-house trainer’s main challenge was on how to keep the trainees engaged and committed throughout the course. ​

Human beings prioritise. This is something natural and meaningful. Thus, most people will put immediate demands in front of long term gain. ​ Subsequently employees usually turn up to the first training sessions motivated and in full force. However whatever the quality of training most in-house training programs will never see the same attendance again. In some organisations it may even become a fraction of what it was. ​

Some exceptions are when:​

  1. The organisational culture is already effectively geared towards self-improvement​
  2. Financial incentives are provided (either deducting from or adding to wages)​
  3. There is a slump in business and many team members are under utilised​
In the first case this is positive but rare. I have only ever experienced this in a small percentage of organisations. Still when things got extra busy at the office, attention, if not attendance, was reduced.  The other two cases are mainly negative. Financial incentives cause extra cost to employers or reduce employee motivation to volunteer for the program (in the case of deductions / payments). A slump in business means that the organisation may be in trouble. In any case point 3 should not be “expected” as well organised businesses will still have alternative  and productive tasks to the team to do in slow periods. 

In addition to attendance there are some other inherent flaws with the traditional delivery of in-house training:

Large group sizes​

Smaller group sizes are the single most effective pedagogical factor according to extensive research in educational psychology​

Lack of personalisation ​

Trainees learn better from material that is tweaked to their individual interests and goals. This is possible to a certain degree in adapting material to particular organisations . However the smaller the group the better the personalisation. In the case of larger teams even complementary personality types can be paired together so the group is as conducive as possible.​

One size fits all​

In large groups you will almost always have a mixture of levels. A set curriculum is not conducive to a large group with mixed levels when it comes to language learning. A skilled instructor may be able to run up to three curriculums at a time, but this reduces their efficiency with any one level and it is most likely that the number of levels at an organisation outnumber three. ​

Inflexible study times​

It is almost impossible to arrange scheduling that suits everybody in an organisation.  Because of this some team members miss out on training despite the budget being used. Often these are team members that direly need to upgrade their communication skills like sales or external consultants. These are the people in the field doing presentations and meeting potential clients.

The Solution Is Here

  • Small Group Sizes​
  • Level Appropriate Instruction​
  • Flexible Scheduling​
  • Improved Accountability = Improved Attendance

Online Semi-Private Instruction

How Does it Work?

  1. Team is given a placement test and orientation​
  2. Based on this test they are separated into groups of 4​
  3. They are given personal instruction in these groups for 25 minutes each session​
  4. These sessions are scheduled at times that suit the individual groups​
  5. Assessment is given in a formative manner, increasing the number of effective sessions​
  6. Real time updates of attendance and progress can be shared with Human Resource and Training staff​

Investment Comparison Breakdown Example

 2 X 2hr / week instruction 
 $50 per hour (trainer) 
 +$30 (transport) if the location is in a major city centre 

$130/session X 8.6 

Total = $1,118 per month 

-Real number of employees trained: +-10/20 (due to previously mentioned variables) 

-Efficiency of instruction: sub-optimal 

-Total ours of productivity used: 172 
Example $5hr X 172 =$860 

Total cost PP: $118/month plus productivity cost 

 20 Participants = 5 groups 

$25 Per 25min session (trainer) 

5 X $25 = $125 X 8.6 
Total = $1,075 per month 

-Real number of employees trained: 20/20 

-Efficiency of instruction: Prime 

-Total hours of productivity used: Less than 86 Example: $5hr X 86 = $430 

Total cost PP: $53.75/month minus productivity saving 

In short: 

-Increased effect 

-Increased scope 

Which equates to: 

-Half the cost 

-Double the effect 

How To Get Started
There are international providers your company can use:  Example: 

And also local options:  Example: 

You can also find an independent instructor you like and commission them to make such a program. Make sure they are experienced delivering online instruction to groups! 

Remember --> Even a poor instructor will do better in ideal circumstances than a master instructor in poor circumstances. 

In conclusion, online corporate training is more effective, efficient and affordable than traditional in-house training. Although not a common choice it is the one that can help give your team and company an added competitive advantage. 

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