-5. What is an e-learning utility?

- An e-learning utility is aimed at temporary access to an e-learning system.

- This is much like the ASP model described in Question 10-4 except that, as with any other utility, you only plug into it as needed.

Tell Me More

An e-learning utility is something you plug into only as needed, and it aims at solving the following kind of problem.

We Do Virtual Stuff, Inc. is implementing a new CRM system. In order for the new system to be successful, both technical and end-user training is needed. Traditionally all users would be sent to class at the end of the CRM implementation phase.

However, We Do Virtual Stuff, Inc. is spread among many geographic locations, which leads to scheduling challenges, travel expenses, and inconsistency in content delivery of classroom courses. If the classroom approach is used, many current and future users will not get effective training, and the new CRM system will not be as productive or achieve operation targets. So this looks like a good situation for e-learning.

But, We Do Virtual Stuff, Inc. does not yet have its own e-learning infrastructure and does not yet want to get into a long-term relationship with an ASP for a shared system.

We Do Virtual Stuff, Inc. wants to have access to an e-learning infrastructure only for the period of time it takes to get the CRM users trained—after that, access to the rented e-learning utility can end.

In short, what an e-learning utility gives you is short-term access to an e-learning system. You only need access for a matter of months, and that's what you get. After that you disconnect. The whole goal of an e-learning utility is:

- Getting you up and running fast

- Running the courses you need

- Disconnecting you after you're done

In most cases, an e-learning utility is temporary access to a shared system run by an ASP. This means that it has many of the same characteristics as the private access to a shared system in Question 10-4 above:

Factor

E-Learning Utility

Courseware

You can deliver any kind of e-learning courseware: off-the-shelf courseware, custom courseware that someone develops for you, or courseware that you build yourself.

Learning management system

(LMS)

application

You will use the LMS that the ASP has already implemented.

Control

You will have control of your system at the user level, but not at the system level, which means:

- You control authorizations. You can only let in employees. Or you could let in selected suppliers or customers. But you don't control basic security for the site.

- You most likely cannot connect your e-learning system to other computer systems and applications in your company such as your HR system.

Cost

You will typically pay only for what you use.

This is sometimes called "metering," or paying "by the trip."

Speed to get up and running

Usually a matter of weeks for an experienced ASP.

-6. Can you use multiple residencies for your e-learning system?

- You don't have to have a single place for your employees to go for e-learning. You can send them to a combination of public sites, to your own private e-learning system, and to anywhere else you want.

- How you mix and match where your employees go for training will most likely depend on costs and on what courses are available at what location.

Tell Me More

At first, this question seems to be asking "What if you can't make up your mind where you want your e-learning system to reside?"

But it's really more than that. If you think in terms of classroom training, you might want to have a company education center where most of the training occurs, but you also might want to send some of your employees to colleges and universities for other kinds of specialized training. And you might want to rent a hotel ballroom occasionally for special lectures.

If we put that in terms of the Internet, you might have this situation:

- You have a corporate online university where most of the online training is expected to occur.

- You send some of your employees to public Web sites, or to other private Web sites you've gotten them access to, for certain types of training that they can't get at your online university.

Things to consider with multiple sources of education are:

- What e-learning courses are available at what location, and how important is it for your business to have access to those courses?

- The employee education record. Is it important to your company to be able to produce a single list of all the e-learning courses a student has taken? If so, then you'll have to dig into the reporting capabilities of the other sites you send students to.

- Cost and payment. For example, which of your employees are allowed to spend how much money taking e-learning courses from a public site if you already have a corporate e-learning center for which you have to recover the costs?

So, the bottom line is that it's possible to have many different online places to which you send your employees for e-learning. But you'll have to decide whether your specific situation balances the pros and cons of doing that.

 
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