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e-Learning in the new economy
Part 4: What is e-learning?
eLearning is defined by Centra as a strategic solution that is deployed as part of the wider business strategy throughout the entire organisation. Just as email has become part of the organisational infrastructure, so too will eLearning technologies. It needs to be seen as a complete solutions offering, not a reactive, point offering. As well as its basic function of enhancing skills and abilities of the workforce, it should be seen as a collaborative tool to support the solving of business problems -such as corporate governance - as well as being a way to cut costs without cutting back on the continued support and development of the organisation and its employees.
The benefits of elearning can be itemised easily:
Cost Reduction: One financial services company in the UK runs a permanent training centre that is so busy that if it were converted to a hotel it would be the busiest hotel in the district. Such centres are a considerable overhead and typically only within the reach of the largest of companies. The typical direct costs of classroom-based training - travel, lodging, time away from office etc - are eliminated with eLearning, which can be carried out from the employee's desk.
Personalisation of Learning: The Richness v Reach gap can be bridged using eLearning with courses able to be customised to meet the particular needs of the individuals receiving tuition. Course content can be customised to meet the requirements of individuals rather than the 'one size fits all'approach that larger classroom environments dictate.
More Effective Scheduling: While classroom-based courses need to be scheduled in advance and as such are never likely to be at the most convenient time for all attendees, eLearning leaves room for tuition to be fitted in to cause least disruption to the revenue generating activities of the organisation. Employees don't have to travel to attend courses and can log on to the tuition when it most appropriate to their own work schedules. Courses can be taken in 'bite-sized' chunks rather than having to be taken over a day or a set period of time predetermined by HR.
Immediate Dissemination of Vital Information: eLearning can be available 24/7/52, making it particularly valuable to global operations with employees working in different time zones. Important knowledge and information can be rolled out around the world within 24 hours rather than having to be scheduled over a period of days or weeks. Information about a specific issue or problem can as easily be disseminated as a major piece of course work, allowing for organisations to get up to speed quicker than their rivals.
Cost Effective Staff Motivation: Employees will see that the organisation is making their career development a priority, providing a mechanism for them to improve their skills rather than cutting back in a bid to make false economies. A motivated workforce is more productive than a dissatisfied one.
Assessment Made Easier: Classroom-based learning can often be judged as a success or a failure on the basis of 'Did the employee turn up?' Post-course assessment is easier with eLearning through the use of Learning Management Systems. This changes the success assessment criteria to "What did the employees do?"
Increased Collaboration and Access to Information: The interactive and collaborative nature of classroom-based teaching can be maintained by allowing pupils to communicate with others on a course. Comments and suggestions can be added, queries can be lodged and a range of additional course materials can be accessed through URLs to supporting web sites. In this way, the course content can gain added richness and reach.
© 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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