Can eLearning Help Change Behaviour?

As part of judging entries for the Brandon Hall Awards this year, I encountered an elearning module that attempted to teach the company’s sales people its new service orientation and its service oriented products. The elearning module was very well made, full of videos (actually it was practically a ‘video-based-training’ disguised as elearning) with very well written script and extremely professional production quality. The script and production quality was so good that I would have been proud of the product if it had been made by my team.

I went through the modules as a learner, something I hadn’t done in a while. I was probably the right audience, not in terms of being part of that company, but perhaps with about the same experience as the intended audience. So after being impressed with the first few video clippings I got down to actually attempting learning from it. And man was I unhappy going through the training. The training included lots of case studies and ‘role plays’ (the wrong and right way to sell videos). As an intended audience, I felt bad and felt the training was demeaning my intelligence and showed what I might be doing right now (remember I was trying to be in the actual learner’s shoes) in very bad light. Something like this might work in a controlled classroom environment where a trained instructor would be able to provoke me and respond to my reactions to the content being taught, and I might also have a healthy debate with others in the class. However using the elearning module, I felt the module was preaching to the choir and insulting the learner’s intelligence. Since it had no facilitation of a trainer and there were no other peers to learn from or debate with, I felt very bad about the content.

Which makes me wonder – can self-paced asynchronous elearning be a good tool for attempting to change behaviour? Is elearning better suited for certain types of audiences when attempting to do this? Are there some content areas that should just be dealt with in a classroom? Or perhaps is there a better way to teach behaviour change using elearning?