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e-Learning in the new economy

Part 3: The failure of traditional learning models

For most companies, training and learning initiatives take the form of traditional classroom-based models. There are considerable merits associated with this model. At its most ideal the ‘Oxbridge model’ of small or one to one tuition groups with pupils and teacher is the richest in terms of passing on information and empowering the interactivity that is at the heart of truly effective learning approaches. But the ‘Oxbridge model’ simply does not scale. The bigger the class, the less rich the interactive teaching-learning experience. A classroom with 40 students and one teacher cannot have the same richness, but it does have a more cost-effective reach.

To date, most companies have adopted some form of classroom-based learning strategies. This is where the costs associated with learning rack up. To set up a course for key staff, human resources personnel will expend time and money sourcing a venue, tutors and course content, arranging travel, allocating accommodation, possibly ensuring that contract staff are organised to cover for the permanent staff who have to leave their day to day jobs to attend the course.

One major international hotel chain reckons that to organise a basic course involves three to four weeks worth of work in advance. In order to train 3,500 employees on an upgrade to its reservations systems, the hotel chain estimated that its would need to conduct a total of 84 training sessions over a period of a few months, a major and costly logistical exercise for the organisers.

The tradition classroom based model is also limited in terms of the centralised control that can be exercised. If a company operates across multiple geographies, there are likely to be a number of training initiatives, managed by regional heads. These might follow a wider, global strategy, but they will be implemented at local level. There are likely to variants in the quality of the tuition unless the company flies the same tutors around all the regional operations, again a considerable overhead for even the largest organisation. This approach will also slow down the roll-out of potentially crucial information and lead to a situation where different parts of the workforce are educated to different levels.

New Learning Models

One of the reasons that traditional classroom based learning has remained the predominant model is one of familiarity: everyone has experienced this approach at school, college or university. Another reason has been the basic lack of a viable alternative. Early attempts at computer based training (CBT) enjoyed only limited success due in the main the rigid nature of the course materials and delivery mechanisms, which were in effect an electronic book. The all-important collaborative and interactive elements were absent.

But advances in collaborative and networking technology mean that the potential for a paradigm shift in learning models is now a reality. The new technology on offer enables organisations to embrace a blended model of learning, taking the richness of the classroom-based model and empowering it with the reach afforded by advances in networking and communications technologies. This is what has come to be known as eLearning.

Part 2 < Back to Top > Part 4   

© 2004 Centra Software. Reproduced with permission. Any opinions or views contained in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Training Reference.

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