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Do we need management systems?

Bob Little reports on the in-depth discussions on learning management systems, skills management systems and virtual classrooms that took place at the March 2004 meeting of the eLearning Network.

Part 3: Virtual Classrooms

Margaret Flynn, professional services manager with VC producers, Centra Europe, explained that Centra provides an online collaboration tool. This tool serves not only the e-learning market but also the business meetings and marketing sectors. She said: "It's a learning delivery system rather than an LMS but most VCs will have some ability to 'manage' learning - through tracking who has attended each session."

In looking at quantifying the value of a VC, Flynn contrasted factors relating to 'efficiency' (easier to measure) and 'effectiveness' (harder to measure). On the 'efficiency' side, Flynn named the elimination of travel; the ability to produce content faster and cheaper than before, and the global reach of the VC.

However, she commented, you have to be careful with the argument that you can save travel and subsistence costs by using a VC compared with the traditional classroom-based approach - since an accountant might argue that, if you did no training whatsoever, you could save 100 per cent of the training costs!

On the 'effectiveness' side, Flynn suggested that the vale of a VC lies in its revenue productivity; 'expert leverage', that is, giving the learners access to the key experts in a particular field as well as saving these experts having to travel around the world to dispense their expertise; relationship development, and 'critical business process acceleration and improvement'.

Flynn said that Centra focuses on four business critical process:

  • Application rollout - aiming to make this faster and more successful, thus producing a higher ROI
  • Sales effectiveness - aiming to improve sales effectiveness and produce faster product rollouts. And, Flynn pointed out, if you can keep your salesforce in the field for one day per quarter longer as a result of delivering training to them via VC compared with via a traditional classroom, they will be more productive
  • Workforce development - aiming to reduce corporate training costs and producing a more productive workforce
  • Customer development - aiming to reduce the costs of customer acquisition and retention, thus producing greater revenue for the organisation that is using the VC

Flynn provided three examples of ROI from using a VC. These included Wyndham International, which has saved over $1m in travel, subsistence and related telecommunications costs since implementing the Centra VC - making regular savings of some 40 per cent over its previous expenditure on training, and the University of Tenness, which has gained some $2m in revenue through delivering some of its courses via Centra technology and has also saved $250,000 a year through using Centra as opposed to videoconferencing.

Flynn believes that buying a VC is money well spent because:

  • Speed - it will reduce the time taken to get information to a dispersed audience
  • Reach - it is easy to reach audiences who are geographically widespread
  • Cost savings - the time taken to train a student is often reduce when using a VC compared with other forms of training delivery
  • Competency - learners can master what they need to learn faster via the VC medium
  • Relationship - a VC can make and cement the tutor-learner bond in real time

"Using a VC can bring about a real difference in terms of process improvement, access to experts (expert leverage), relationship leverage and time to market," said Flynn. "The one overriding business case justification for a VC is its cost savings compared with those of the traditional classroom. This is closely followed by the access that VCs give to key subject matter experts."

Part 2 < Back to Top > Part 4   

© 2004 e-Learning Network. 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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