ONE. What Is E-Learning All About?
Leading-edge companies are starting to use e-learning to address their training needs. Some companies are already using e-learning in a big way.
But many people believe that we're just seeing the tip of the e-learning iceberg. The expectation is that e-learning in businesses will expand rapidly over the next several years until it's as commonplace as fax machines, e-mail, and cell phones.
-1. What is e-learning?
- E-learning is learning at a distance that uses computer technology (usually the Internet).
- E-learning enables employees to learn at their work computers without traveling to a classroom.
- E-learning can be a scheduled session with an instructor and other students, or it can be an on-demand course that the employee can take for self-directed learning at a time when it's convenient.
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E-learning lets your employees learn at a distance, over the Internet. For example, salespersons can get real-time training on new products without traveling to class. IT specialists can remain at their work stations while they take courses they need to pass their certification exams. And new managers can get real-time training as they perform their new manager role.
E-learning enables employees to learn at any time and any place. All they need is a computer, an Internet connection, and access to the course materials that reside on the Web.
Let's look at an example of what e-learning can mean to a project manager working at a company that is using e-learning in a big way:
First thing in the morning, even before starting the day's work, Bill starts his laptop computer and connects to the company's e-learning Web site in order to complete the next lesson of the project-management certification course. Bill is a new project manager, and he expects to take the certification exam before the end of the year. As soon as he thinks he's ready, he'll take the certification exam online as well.
Later in the day, Bill will connect over the Internet to a live "product-update training" session that is held quarterly for all product salespersons and support staff in his group. The product training session is a virtual event where hundreds of employees around the world learn about the latest product updates, see a quick product demo, and interact with the product experts via "instant messaging" and "simulation" features.
At the end of the day, Bill's manager will ask him to think about working on some new projects for the company's newly formed nanotechnology group. Not knowing much about nanotechnology, Bill looks up the "bite-size tutorial" about nanotechnology on the company's intranet. Each "bite-size tutorial" takes about ten minutes and gives Bill some basic understanding about the key technical and business issues surrounding nanotech-nology—so that he will be able to understand enough to accept the new project work he was offered.
You can see from this scenario that employees at their work computer can:
1. Take training courses for skill certification; these courses can be taken at the employees' convenience in bite-size pieces over weeks or months. This was the project-management certification course in the example.
2. Participate in regularly scheduled "live-update" training on products, processes, or other topics that are important to the business. This was the product-update training in the example.
3. Take on-demand, self-directed training for short topics important to your business.
Depending on the topic being taught, e-learning can be instructor-led or self-directed (without instructor). Some e-learning is designed to be completed at scheduled times, and other kinds of e-learning are completely unscheduled: Students can take the course at their convenience.
While e-learning comes in a variety of styles and sizes, all of the e-learning varieties share the goal of getting knowledge and skills training to employees more quickly, more effectively, and often at lower cost.
It's often possible to get more training to more people— anytime, anywhere— at lower overall cost with e-learning.