What Type of Employee Sits Through E-Learning?

employee computer training
Topic(s): goals, personality, training
Publication: Learning and Individual Differences (2009)
Article: The influence of goal orientation dimensions on time to train in a self-paced training environment
Authors: K. Ely, T. Sitzmann, C. Falkiewicz
Reviewed by: Benjamin Granger

E-learning refers to computer-mediated training that grants trainees a great deal of control over the learning (e.g., time spent, pace, training location). These freedoms come along with many potential possibilities and pitfalls. One major disadvantage of self-paced e-learning is that trainees often stop instruction before mastering the training content. However, from a financial perspective, decreased training time can save a substantial amount of money.


Recently, researchers (Ely, Sitzmann, & Falkiewicz, 2009) predicted that trainee goal orientation (GO) would impact training time as well as knowledge gained from training in a “real world” self-paced e-learning course. Specifically, the course was an occupational training course for electrical technicians.

GO basically refers to the ways in which employees choose, work toward, and interpret the goals that they set. There are several types of GOs that employees can have. Employees who set mastery goals (mastery goal orientation) focus on mastering skills, whereas employees who have performance-avoid GOs are focused on not failing or avoiding negative judgments of others.

The researchers found that trainees who reported high levels of performance-avoid GO spend an average of five days longer in training. However, employees who reported high levels of both performance-avoid and mastery GO, spent the most time in training on average. These trainees are focused on mastering the training content and are also concerned about failing to show competence. Trainees reporting low mastery and performance-avoid GOs, on the other hand, spent the least amount of time in training on average. These employees are not concerned with mastery or failing to show competence.


Unexpectedly, the amount of time spent in training was unrelated to knowledge gain. The researchers suspect that this is due to some employees staying in training for unnecessarily long periods of time in order to avoid working. Although time spent in training may be an important training outcome from a financial standpoint, it is unclear whether this is really beneficial from a learning perspective. Organizations should instead turn to scientifically-backed research when designing their training programs.


Ely, K., Sitzmann, T., & Falkiewicz, C. (2009). The influence of goal orientation dimensions on time to train in a self-paced training environment. Learning and Individual Differences, 19(1), 146-150.