Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What is e-Learning and how does it benefit your organization?

What is e-learning?
According to a team of leading experts[1], e-learning can be defined as “instruction delivered on a computer by CD-ROM, Internet or intranet.” While this is a fairly broad definition, e-learning, in a business environment, does contain almost all the features of traditional learning: Relevant content, instructional methodology, presentation tools (such as PowerPoint) and assessments,…all with the objective of enhancing knowledge and skills, as well as improving performance. To this definition, we can often add media (recorded audio and/or video) and software programs dedicated to the creation of e-learning courseware; again, not unlike traditional instruction processes.

In addition to the most prevalent self-directed delivery methods (called “asynchronous” training ), there is also instructor-led training (“synchronous” training) that can be delivered in a wide variety of ways, including online conferences and teleconferences. Sometimes we even find classroom training supplemented with self-directed e-learning. We generally refer to training that uses more than one method for delivery as “blended” learning.

2. How does e-learning benefit your organization?
e-Learning is reusable, cost effective training process, where content is prepared and paid for once but used again and again. It can be deployed rapidly and it is totally flexible to meet the needs of an organization. Once created, the material can be delivered anywhere and anytime with virtually no additional cost. Since e-learning is primarily self-directed, there is no need for individuals to resolve the typical conflicts between their ongoing work projects and required training; the courses are available to meet each individual’s schedule. And since the training is computer based, it can be scaled very effectively…delivering the same training to large numbers of employees at multiple locations at virtually the same time…or at any time at all.

e-Learning has the capability of providing the same material presented in a classroom, but since it is completely focused on the subject matter, it can take about half the time of the traditional class to conduct. Since there is no classroom, no assembly and no travel, e-learning is not constrained to any particular time or scheduled amount of time. Modules can be developed and delivered in very small increments so that they focus on a finite subject scope…just what’s needed and no more. Since this form of training doesn’t have to rely on a live trainer, there’s no need to cover the fixed costs associated with bringing an instructor into the, per diem expenses, minimum fees, and so on. You can deliver a five minute training session just as effectively as a five hour session. Most importantly, courses are delivered online and on demand. They are self-paced and can be paused or stopped by the user at any point…and when ready, the user can return to exactly that point. Unlike traditional training, the user remains available to the job site at any time during training. Try that in a traditional classroom!

e-Learning is also specific to your own environment…tailored to your needs and your specifications, leveraging the experience of your experts. It’s not broad theory, it’s not academic…it’s just what you do. Training can be focused on the “how to” elements of the process; for example, it’s very easy to demonstrate how to complete the fields in a new form that has just been introduced, or to review the steps in a newly implemented process. When e-learning addresses a business process and regulatory compliance--to create alignment with organizational goals and mandatory requirements (an area of increasing concern to most organizations)--it can also help ensure that personnel are operating in a cohesive manner and according to the organization’s standard operating procedures. Compliance reduces liability.

e-Learning also adds directly to the bottom line. In a typical training environment, costs can run about $2,600 per day per person, considering travel, expenses, salaries and the cost of admission. This figure likely increases with the distance traveled and the amount of productive time lost. Then add to this constraint the lack of ability of most training to track and assess individual progress and provide reports in formats determined by the user (a major failure of most professional seminars), and you have a very tidy savings.

Download Free e-Learning White paper: 7 Critical Questions about e-Learning

[1] Clark, Ruth Colvin and Richard E. Mayer, e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, (McGraw-Hill, 2008)

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