E-learning courses: advantages and implementation

Many organizations already use e-learning courses to build cyber security awareness. But what do you need to be aware of to ensure their success?

What is e-learning?

E-learning (from “electronic learning” or “online learning”) means learning via electronical devices and digital platforms. Organizations use this term mainly as an umbrella term for online trainings as well as for so-called learning management systems (LMS). Employees receive access to all training contents and e-learning lessons via an online learning platform which allows them to work and learn autonomously.

E-learning courses vs. traditional learning methods: What to choose?

Flexibility plays a major role when it comes to e-learning as the term “autonomously” already indicates. One of the reasons why so many people like e-learnings: employees can choose to work through the learning content no matter when or where, which allows them to approach topics whenever they feel ready. Moreover, e-learning is considered very effective and is usually less expensive than traditional learning methods such as time-limited workshops or trainings. Employees can use a learning platform anytime once the learning management system and the relevant contents have been implemented. Learners can then individually decide when they want to complete the tasks which is also favorable in terms of motivation psychology. The principle is called “just-in-time” learning: Whenever our human need to learn something comes up, it can be directly satisfied.

Diese Elemente brauchen effektive E-Learnings

E-learning based on educationally meaningful methods

To make the most out of your e-learning, always think about the employees and their needs. A glance at recent scientific findings also proves worthwhile. Here are some examples of how to increase the employees’ learning success:

1. Individual levels of difficulty: feasible for everyone

Most of us probably know the following situation: you are studying for an exam but suddenly stumble over a task too difficult to solve right away. The typical psychological mechanism is to abandon the entire studying session in frustration.

To avoid this situation, e-learning courses should offer individual levels of difficulty for employees with different levels of expertise. Colleagues from the IT department certainly know more about ransomware than those from HR. Solve this problem by providing assistance such as optional learning advice users can access when needed. Learners can then decide if they need help and are less likely to back out of the learning process.

2. Situated learning: telling good stories

We remember exciting stories much better than a few numbers just strung together. Even indigenous people passed on their knowledge through stories and legends. Why? We memorize situations better than facts. E-learning courses should, therefore, also be based on situated learning practices.

Situated learning helps us to transfer what we have learned, especially in vocational training. Knowledge, for instance about phishing in awareness trainings, should not simply be passed so the employees remember facts, but rather to sustainably change behavior so they stop clicking on suspicious attachments in the future. The closer the e-learning is to learners’ daily work life, the easier it is to integrate what they have learned into their routines. That is why e-learning courses should be based on the principle of storytelling. In other words, telling realistic stories in and throughout the different modules. These scenarios make it easier for learners to apply the rules they have learned in new contexts, as well.

3. Learning tasks vs performance tasks: practicing without pressure

Traditional learning methods are usually built around assessing knowledge and thereby create reluctance and pressure on the part of the learners. Instead of holding on to these outdated measures, enable learners to gain knowledge in a safe environment. Everyone makes mistakes and nobody likes to be controlled. Strictly separate learning tasks from performance tasks. This gives learners the chance to perform their tasks whenever they feel ready.

What is most crucial in both types of tasks is that learners quickly receive individualized feedback so they know which learning units they should probably focus on and complete once again. This also fosters the general human need to develop and make progress. Employees stay motivated, expand their knowledge and change their behavior to reach the overall aim.

4. Varied learning methods:
from videos to quizzes

Not only academics agree that varied learning methods can have positive effects on the trainings’ success. Who wants to do nothing else but continuously read rules or go through the same tasks over and over again?

Different types of content improve and encourage the learning success so that the knowledge can be flexibly applied afterwards. To ensure that employees do not forget the acquired knowledge but integrate it into their daily working routines, you should include different formats in your e-learning courses. These might be videos, interactive learning modules based on storytelling, quizzes or playful elements, so-called gamification features. That is how you achieve sustainable learning effects.

5. Distributed learning: regular bites of knowledge

Although it has been long known in memory research, the forgetting curve described by Hermann Ebbinghaus at the end of the 19th century, receives surprisingly little attention in employee trainings. The forgetting curve has been proven to be effective many times in the last decades. It basically says that after a short amount of time, we have already forgotten a major part of what we learned before. According to Ebbinghaus, we tend to forget half of what we have memorized after just half an hour.

However, researchers were able to prove that a “spaced repetition” flattens this steep forgetting curve. Repeating learning content at regular intervals slows down the loss of knowledge. This is where modular e-learning courses are promising. Many short modules that continuously address topics such as phishing are easy to integrate into your working day. They also help your employees to memorize knowledge much more sustainably than it would be the case in a 90-minute compulsory training.

E-Learning-Kurse für stärkere Cyber Security Awareness

E-learning promises learning success and creates sustainable awareness

Vocational training is about developing abilities and competences to perform your daily tasks. Here, it is, however, necessary to differentiate between what we can and what we want to do. For instance, learners must be able to react to IT security risks on the one hand – they need special knowledge to do so. On the other hand, they should want to act accordingly, e.g. by changing their passwords. Papers including guidelines and rules only are not sufficient to change the employees’ behavior. Interactive workshops as well as psychologically and educationally driven (and thus motivational) e-learning courses, on the other hand, have powerful learning effects They promote internal learning mechanisms boosting the success of the training measures. Under the motto “learners first”, organizations benefit from sensitizing their employees in the long term and are able to achieve a real change in behavior.

SoSafe uses these findings for e-learning courses on the topic of IT security where it is particularly important to create an awareness of the risks, to enable employees to react to and thus protect the entire organization from cyberattacks. Results from SoSafe´s awareness platform illustrate these powerful learning effects: when phishing simulations are supplemented with e-learning focused on the users’ learning success, the click rate on dangerous messages is reduced by another 40%. E-learning courses give employees the tools they need to protect themselves from online threats.

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About SoSafe

The SoSafe Awareness Platform sensitizes and trains employees in dealing with the topics of cyber security and data protection. Regular phishing simulations and interactive e-learnings teach employees in an effective and sustainable way what to pay special attention to when, for example, using emails, passwords or social media. The employer receives anonymous but differentiated reporting and can so make awareness building measurable – completely in compliance with GDPR.