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Pharma Insight


At Sponge, we pride ourselves in our human-centered design when it comes to creating elearning employees want to complete. To do that, we listen to what the learners are saying.

We've recently had the opportunity to interview an employee in the pharmaceutical industry about the workplace elearning. Gaining some useful insights into what elearning feels like at the sharp end in a sector which invests heavily in learning technologies helps meet the training needs of a heavily regulated industry.

The interview is anonymous although we can say that the employee works in the field of pharmaceutical research for a large company. We currently do not work with this particular organisation.

When you hear the word elearning, what is your first reaction?

My first reaction is ‘not something I really want to do.’ It’s usually knowledge that I don’t have that is necessary but usually not part of my job and so I’m not that interested in it.

How much elearning have you done?

It’s pretty much a necessity of my life at work. There’s a requirement to be 100% compliant with all of my elearning courses and so there certainly wouldn’t be a month that goes by without me needing to do a couple of elearning courses. On average, maybe one a month but often two a month, that sort of frequency - within my company that’s how many we’ve got to do.

Is it mostly compliance?

Yes, within my role, the majority of the elearning is compliance and health and safety.

What do you think of the elearning you do currently?

We all know it’s important but the truth is that it used to be the kind of knowledge that was gained from other people and it was implied that you knew. Now we’re getting tested on information that we are supposed to know. It’s just very time consuming and not absolutely central to the job. We do understand it’s important but it takes up a lot of time and that’s time that could be spent doing other things.

How long does an elearning module normally take?

Probably between 15 to 30 minutes which can be quite a lot of time. It depends how quickly you can flick through it. The modules we have are obviously paced so you can’t just rush through them and you also get tested on your knowledge so you can’t just fudge it or fake it. I think it can be quite stressful for people sometimes because they are absolutely required [to do the elearning] and monitored. It certainly causes quite a lot of stress amongst people especially for some of the longer courses where people lose interest, I think.

How long is the longest course you have to do?

The longest ones we do are about 45 minutes and the truth is you wouldn't do that in your working day so you’d probably fit it in around what else you were doing so that would be a lunchtime or before or after work.

Is there anything you would like to see included in elearning to make it more of a positive experience for you?

It could definitely be made more fun without being tacky or tasteless. I think the more effort that’s put into the course, the better it’s designed, the more you get out of it. Also, I think keeping it simple is probably best as well. Sometimes we are bombarded by a lot of concepts. I know the courses are refreshed if they are taken year after year but I’m not sure how much actually sticks, if any, after the test has finished.

Does any of your elearning include games at the moment?

Not within my company. Some of it you can’t trivialise but I think that definitely more fun could be put into elearning or certainly making it a more enjoyable experience. That could be games or it could just be better presentation style or shorter, more to the point modules.

Are you able to do your elearning on anything other than a desktop?

All our courses are online so if you are on a machine which is linked into our network you can do the course through a web browser. But I’d say 99% of us do it at our desk or our laptops.

What about being able to do it on an iPad, for example, would that make it easier to fit in with your day?

Not for me personally but I can see how it could help some people. Within our company we have sales people who are on the road all the time, maybe it would be a lot easier for them. So I think it depends on your role and your job. I think if you are solely desk based and you are in front of a computer all the time I think you are pretty comfortable with doing it in that environment. I think if you are working in another role than I can see the advantages.

What is your one message on elearning as a pharmaceutical industry employee?

What I would say is that it would be good if some of the elearning in our industry was not just about compliance and was based more around our knowledge because then I think we would engage with it a lot more and be a lot more connected with it. So, I think there is probably an opportunity within our industry to do something other than compliance – that would be my one take home message, I think.