-2. What are typical barriers for implementing e-learning in a company?

- If you have any experience at all with implementing and rolling out new things in a company, you know that there are always barriers and that it's best to know about them up front.

- Barriers to e-learning range from people's natural resistance to any kind of change, to new technology, to budget constraints.

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You'd like to think that there won't be any barriers. But if you have any experience at all in implementing something new and then rolling it out in a company, you know that there are always barriers. And it's better to know about them up front.

Barriers to moving to e-learning can include the following:

- Natural resistance to change. Students, training instructors, and managers are people, and people are creatures of habit. A rule of thumb is that people don't like change. So there's going to be resistance whenever you change old habits and procedures. As an example: Students who view traveling to class as a perk or as a vacation from work could be annoyed that the perk seems to have been taken away.

- New instructor skills. Training instructors will need to learn new ways of teaching at a distance. The old skills that work in the classroom don't always work with e-learning. And there are many things that are just plain different—like communicating with text instead of with a glance.

- New technology. Much of the technology for e-learning is very new. As a rule, new technology is more prone to problems than something that's been honed by years of experience. Furthermore, the e-learning standards are still pretty much under development, so sometimes you'll be surprised when one part of your e-learning system from one vendor just doesn't work with another part from another vendor.

- Bandwidth limitations. Most people still connect to the Internet at slow speeds. Plus, the Internet itself sometimes gets clogged. This is not a big deal for e-mail or for downloading most Web pages. But it can be a big deal for streaming video or audio.

- Course availability. Sometimes the course you want is available "off the shelf" and sometimes it's not. You might have to create your own e-learning courses, and that will take a little more thought and investment than getting a subject-matter expert in front of a room to show a few slides and do a chalk talk.

- Budgets. In many companies, training budgets are set years in advance, and the funding is allocated for traditional training. However, as you move to e-learning, you'll find that there are new costs (or at least costs that go into different accounting buckets). You might find that you're funding a different part of the IT organization than you ever worked with before.

-3. What does e-learning need from your management team?

- Employees take their cues from management.

- Managers will need to keep realistic expectations, provide leadership, provide support, and manage the change that e-learning will bring to your company.

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Your company's management needs to give e-learning what it gives everything else: leadership and support. The success of e-learning in your company rests on the management team, just like the success of everything else in your business

Here's a quick list of what's needed from your management team:

1. Realistic expectations. Keep expectations at a reasonable level. Just because the learning is now being delivered over the Internet doesn't mean that the learning problem is "solved." Learning will still take time and effort by each individual student.

2. Leadership. Managers should be leading the way with e-learning. What's not useful is half-hearted communication based on an incomplete understanding of what's going on. Perhaps the most important thing your management team can do is fully understand what your e-learning initiative really does. And the best way to do that is to take a few e-learning courses and see what it feels like. (I don't mean just look at a five-minute demo, but actually take some of the courses.)

3. Support. Experience shows that some managers will think that e-learning enables students to take courses in no time at all since the students aren't going off to class. Furthermore, some e-learners will need management encouragement to keep up their motivation in relative isolation instead of being swept along with the pace of a face-to-face class.

4. Willingness to manage change. Depending on how much training your company does, e-learning has the potential to make a significant change to your company's culture. As a general rule, however, most people don't like to change. If you don't manage change, it can spin out of control. This is the same as anything you change in your business.

 
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