-14. Is e-learning something completely new?

- E-learning fits into a long tradition of learning at a distance.

Tell Me More

Learning at a distance is not new. That's what correspondence courses do. That's what "how to" books do. That's what public television programs at 5:30 a.m. do.

Apprenticeships, classroom courses, books, and correspondence courses were the way everyone learned until the flood of new technologies began in the middle of the twentieth century. From the 1960s onward, we've quickly seen the technology proceed through:

- Video courses (on tape or private TV network)

- Audiotape courses

- Computer-based, self-paced training (text-based)

- Computer-based, self-paced training (with multimedia)

- E-learning via the Internet

A key thing to note here is that the newer technologies don't usually replace the older technologies—instead, they build on top of them. So it's quite natural to see interactive courses on the Internet being used right alongside classroom courses or even blended together with classroom modules.

-15. Where can you find out more about e-learning?

- Your best bet is to finish reading the rest of this book.

- Or, you can look on the Internet. There are hundreds of place to look, but you can start by looking at only a handful of Web sites.

Tell Me More

I've tried to keep this chapter short—as well as keeping the entire book short—but there is much, much more about e-learning you can find elsewhere. (This book is only a survival guide, not an encyclopedia of everything you can possibly know about e-learning.)

The best place to start learning more about e-learning is the Internet itself (just as you can find lots about almost anything on the Internet).

I recommend you start by looking at this handful of Web sites on the Internet:

- ibm.com/services/learning

- ibm.com/mindspan

- masie.com

- learnativity.com

- internettime.com/e.htm

These are certainly not the only sites—there are dozens of others. If you have a spare weekend or so, it might be fun to surf all over the Internet and look at as many of them as you can. How do you find more sites? Use a search engine to look for these words and phrases:

- e-learning

- e-learning

- distance learning

- distributed learning

For example, if you want some advice on ROI for e-learning, use your favorite search engine to search for "e-learning ROI" and see what comes back. Then search for "distance learning ROI" and "distributed learning ROI." (If you don't have a favorite search engine, try google.com.)

Finally, you can look in bookstores for e-learning books. They might be categorized as e-learning books, distance learning books, or distributed learning books. You can also search for such books at the Internet bookstores like amazon.com, borders.com, and bar-nesandnoble.com.

Summary

E-learning is learning that uses computer technology, usually via the Internet.

- E-learning enables employees to learn at their work computer without traveling to a classroom.

- 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 out of the field.

- E-learning can be a scheduled session with an instructor and other students, or it can be an on-demand course that the employees can take for self-directed learning at a time when it's convenient.

E-learning can help your business so that:

- Employees can learn without traveling to class—the training is delivered right to their computers. This means that you can save on travel costs and that employees don't have to be away from work for extended periods of time.

- Employees can learn at their convenience—many e-learning courses don't have rigid start and end times. Many people can learn much better when they can learn at a convenient time.

- Employees can sometimes learn in ways that are more effective than what they see in the traditional company classroom. Many people can learn better when the material to be learned is in bite-size pieces or spread over several weeks instead of packed into a couple of intensive days. - Companies can get more bang for their education buck—especially when you can reduce existing expenses associated with going to class and when you structure e-learning to take advantage of its strengths.

The e-learning approach you take will depend on understanding what your learning situation really is, from a business point of view, and then tailoring e-learning to meet the needs of that situation

Research shows that e-learning works as well as classroom learning. You can use e-learning to teach almost anything that a business needs to teach. (But some things can be more effective when done in a classroom environment.)

It's safe to say that, in the long term, from five to ten years, all companies are good candidates for using e-learning. In the short term, from right now to a year or so from now, you have to think about whether your company's training situations are a good fit with the strengths of e-learning.

All this doesn't mean that e-learning is a silver bullet for all your training needs. Implementing e-learning in a simplistic or thoughtless way will probably not get you the benefits you're looking for. But if you go about it thoughtfully, you will most likely find that e-learning can fulfill its promise of giving your company a better-trained workforce.

 
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