Making eLearning Work For You
eLearning is an interactive technology used to translate knowledge into skills. It has become a common way to train employees and students within business and organizations as wells as colleges and universities. This technology is relatively inexpensive and can reach beyond geographical boundaries and space limitations that exceeds traditional classroom training capabilities. In this article, you will explore the various concepts of online learning.
Classroom vs. Online Learning
When considering a delivery method for your training, you should consider the differences between classroom and online concepts. Below is a chart that will help you in determining what delivery methods you should consider to implement your training objectives.
As you explore the chart above, there are certain advantages to classroom training versus online training and vice versa. Some people often overlook the motivation factor which has a huge impact on the success of the training. Instructors have the advantage of looking at their audience and determining if individuals are struggling or bored with the subject being presented. With this immediate feedback the instructor can quickly change the mood of the classroom by adding personal experiences to training concepts, changing the pace of a discussion, or ask and answer questions to ensure individuals are comprehending the subject.
Unfortunately, online learning is not capable of this immediate change to the learning process. Computer-based training is much more programmed and assumes that the learner is fully engaged in the learning process. Therefore, some topics tend to be better in a classroom setting vs. online training. By the same token, there are some topics that tend to achieve great success in an online environment.
When To Use eLearning
There is really no standard answer for using online over classroom training. However, the following list might be helpful when analyzing how online learning might be implemented into a training curriculum and improve the learning process.
- When training needs exceed trainer resources. Sometimes a project may not allow enough time to train a large number of people or the facilities to conduct the training. In these instances, online learning is a great delivery method to accomplish the training. Computer-based training can reach a vast number of people at the same time to meet difficult deadlines. Computer-based training is also not limited to space (facilities) or geographical boundaries (world-wide access).
- To simulate systems or other work environment applications that a classroom may not be able to replicate. One of the best uses of online learning is applying simulated environments. Simulations offer the learner the ability to practice and learn a system or application without the dangers of interfering or deleting live data. While the classroom can only explain the system or application, online learning can also simulate an environment that mirrors the real world. Using this technique can greatly enhance the learner's ability to comprehend and apply various skills necessary to learn and perform the job. Also, combining both classroom and computer-based training (a blended learning environment) can create a powerful learning experience for the learner.
- When content consistency is critical. An advantage of classroom training is that it can be customized, meaning that the instructor can add value to the course by using personal experiences. The disadvantage of classroom training is that each class is different based on the instructor's and/or students' personalities and learning styles. However, online training provides consistency in the delivery of the materials to provide everyone the same learning experience. When it is important that everyone receives information or instructions the exact same way, then online learning is a great option to deliver the training.
- To communicate minor changes or updates to systems and procedures. Sometimes, there is not enough information necessary to conduct classroom training. However, the information is important and must be communicated to employees or students. In these situations, computer-based training is an excellent option to deliver the message.
- To reduce training expense. Expenses of instructors, facilities, workbooks, and other supportive materials can take its toll on an education or training budget. When the budget is small, online learning can be a great alternative. This is not to say that computer-based training does not cost, as you need to have the infrastructure such as server capabilities, access to computers, and developers to create the materials. However, after the initial investment, the cost of computer-based training is actually must less than classroom facilitation. Print costs alone for many programs can put a strain on the budget. Online materials are minimal, and possibly non-existent. While it should not be the first thing to consider when determining to use online over classroom training, it is still a consideration that must be addressed.
When You Might Not Want To Use eLearning
While online learning is a great method to deliver training, it is not always the best option to achieve your training objectives. Consider the following as you contemplate the use of computer-based training for your course delivery method.
- When content focuses on answers that have multiple responses (gray areas). You must remember that computer-based training is a programmable delivery method. This means that you must plan for every possible response from the learner. If the topic requires justification for an answer which does not have a right or wrong answer, it is very difficult to plan for every possible response from the learner. In this situation, the classroom would be a better choice to deliver the training.
- When objectives focus on performance of speaking presentations. While many in the industry may argue the fact that computer-based training can be used to teach or train interactive people skills, I have found it to be one of the most challenging tasks to create from an online perspective. For example, learning the skills to verbally respond to customers or practice sales closing techniques are better taught in a classroom setting rather than within an online environment. A classroom setting for this situation enables the learner to explore various responses in a semi-realistic environment. An online environment must be programmed to certain responses and lack the flexibility required to achieve this skill's objectives.
- When hands-on training is required. Computer-based training can simulate a lot of environments in the real world. However, certain situations or environments are less suitable to an online course. For example, situations that require the sense of smell or touch is not suitable to a computer-based training environment. Also, when the training objectives require on-site visits such as tours, online learning is not a viable training solution.
In conclusion, elearning is a great method to deliver training. How it is used is critical to the success of any training program. If you understand the limitations and possibilities of online learning, you will be able to create a powerful training program that will meet the objectives discovered within the Analysis phase of ADDIE.