Operations executives are finding that an eLearning program has a valuable place in training their employees on a wide variety of topics. But the term eLearning can be confusing and misunderstood and since it is relatively new in the operations world, it is helpful to clarify what it means and what an eLearning program might look like in a plant, warehouse or distribution environment.

We tend to think of eLearning as online courses offered by a university. These are courses that students take over three or more months and substitute for traditional classroom learning. Students log on daily for up to 12 weeks and advance through chapters of the course, respond to daily posts from the instructor, complete papers, and tests online and often interact with other students online. That description is typical for the academic world, however, an eLearning program in the operations world is quite different.

Similar to the academic version, eLearning students (employees) take courses on a computer but that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. Instead of a course taking 12 weeks it typically takes 10-15 minutes and instead of taking a test online employees will take brief quizzes to confirm they understood the most important points. There are neither papers to write nor interaction with the instructor, however, there are hands-on interactions where employees must demonstrate how to do a task or confirm their understanding of the material.

An eLearning “program” is made up of many individual courses that are organized into chapters or topics for easy navigation. Here is an example of how a typical program could be organized.


  1.  Introduction to Smith & Co – 10 min
  2.  Overview of Your Benefits – 12 min
  3. Work Rules in the Operations Group – 8 min


  1. New Employee Safety Orientation 10 min
  2. Lift Truck Certifications
    1. Walkie Rider 10 min
    2. Order Picker 20 min
      1. Proper Harness fitting 5 min
    3. Reach Truck 20 min
    4. Sit down dock truck 20 min
  3. 3 Year Lift Truck Recertification 10 min
  4. Conveyor Safety 8 min
  5. Proper Lifting and Bending 12 min
  6. Safe Loading of Outbound Trailers


  1. Why Quality Matters – 10 min
  2. Understanding Our Item Numbers – 5 min
  3. Damage Free Pallet Building – 12 min
  4. What is the Cost of an Error – 8 min


  1. Efficient Trailer Unloading – 12 min
  2. Case Picking Procedures – 15 min
  3. Broken Case Picking – 15 min
  4. Replenishment – 10 min

There are many chapters that can be included in a well-developed eLearning program. Chapters such as…

  • Inventory Control
  • Delivery Driver Training
  • Quality Control and Auditing
  • Lead and Supervisor Training

Each course is accessed by simply clicking on the name which opens the course and registers the employee. Once started, the course is easily navigated with simple controls for forward, reverse and stop. At several points in each course, there is a knowledge check or hands-on activity that gives employees a chance to practice what they have just learned. At the completion of each course, a short quiz of 8-12 questions ensures they understand the most critical points and a minimum passing score can be set. If they are unable to pass the quiz an email can be sent to a supervisor alerting them that additional training may be required. This is particularly important for safety courses where comprehension is critical.

An eLearning program is an efficient way to train new employees or update current employees on new practices and company guidelines. The simple organization of a well-designed program quickly connects with employees, allows them to self-navigate and guides them step-by-step through each course. It is simple to start an eLearning program with a few basic courses and then add more over time.