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The time is e-right: just as e-mail has transformed the way we communicate, e-learning will transform the way we develop professionally.

The Internet has revolutionized the way we do business in countless ways since the early 90s. The incalculable amount of information available via the Internet and computer technology has also revolutionized the way we learn.

Now, more than ever, the speed, low cost, flexibility and omnipresent nature of the Internet is causing a major paradigm shift in the way we deliver and receive education from the campus to the corporation. This phenomenon has been coined e-learning.

Training delivered in a classroom with an instructor still represents the majority of all training in Corporate America, but when you consider the fact that over 50 percent of the traditional corporate training budget is spent on travel-related costs, it becomes clear there must be a better way. Travel costs include airline tickets, hotel rooms and meals for each training participant.

Classroom facility costs, instructor and participant wages, and lost productivity while participating in a training event must also be factored into the equation.

It is estimated that over time, 90 percent of overall costs for a traditional classroom course can be attributed to delivery. Delivery costs include all the above-mentioned costs of getting trainers together with trainees, plus workbook and manual printing, revisions and distribution.

Understanding the value of e-learning in helping businesses to become more effective begins with knowing its many forms, as well as its many benefits and limitations.

E-learning is available in many modalities such as: Internet or Web-based training (WBT), CD-ROM or DVD computer-based training (CBT) and job aids or electronic performance support systems (EPSS). Additionally, corporations can benefit from a customized blend of WBT, CBT and instructor-led training (ILT) to best meet the needs of the training audience.

Most Web-based and computer-based e-learning is designed for self-paced (asynchronous) instruction. This puts the student in control of when the instruction is delivered and how quickly he or she progresses through the content.

Self-paced instruction allows the student to go back and review portions of the course or skip portions as needed, and training can be taken anytime it is convenient for the student, as compared to a scheduled classroom event where the pace of instruction is determined by the instructor and the class group as a whole. Total training time (seat time) for self-paced Web-based training is typically 50 percent less than instructor-led training. What used to take all day in a classroom can be done in about three hours on your computer.

While retention and test scores compare favorably between traditional classroom instruction and e-learning, a common complaint about self-paced e-learning is its higher than normal "departure"--or non-completion--rate as compared to instructor-led training. Students don't always complete the entire course.

A high departure rate can indicate "just enough training" where the student took only those modules that were needed. More commonly, a low course completion rate can indicate poor instructional design resulting in what is referred to as a "page turner" course. Since an instructor is not present to facilitate and stimulate the learning process, it is more critical than ever for content to be engaging and even entertaining.

One increasingly popular form of e-learning is live (synchronous) Internet-based training. Students and instructor gather in a virtual classroom that simulates a traditional classroom, such as allowing participants to raise their hand to ask a question, pass notes back and forth to other classmates, draw on a whiteboard, and project slides and graphics. Students can participate in a live class from anywhere in the world via a PC with a standard Internet connection. This method has the advantages of live instruction and collaboration without the costs of travel and facilities.

So, is e-learning the panacea for all training ills in the business world? Will traditional classroom instruction go the way of the printed memo? Not exactly, but, just as e-mail has transformed the way we communicate, e-learning will transform the way we learn. Given the world we live in today, the time couldn't be more right to take advantage of the Internet and computer technology to get the right training and information to the right people at the right time.

5 key advantages of Web-based training

1. Standardized instruction 2. On-demand availability 24/7 3. Less training time = more productive time 4. No travel expenses 5. Continuous learning support (rapid content updating, convenient Web access)

Bob Sheridan is director of business development for O/E Learning in Troy, a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
e-learning: User-friendly?

How does your organization measure
the success of e-learning?

Employee feedback 72%

Improved job performance 46%

Tracking number of employees
using online offerings 46%

Bottom-line results 37%

What are the major challenges to
e-learning?

Lack of bandwidth 53%

Cultural resistance 51%

Lack of interaction 39%

What are the primary benefits of
e-learning over traditional
classroom learning?

Availability anytime, anywhere 79%

Cost savings 59%

Allows for self-paced learning 59%

Source: e-Learning Magazine 2001
user survey
COPYRIGHT 2002 Detroit Regional Chamber
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Internet and computer technology; Professional Development
Author:Sheridan, Bob
Publication:Detroiter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
Words:813
Previous Article:Two businesses--one solution.
Next Article:A strategic tool: how to maximize the value of your training and education programs.
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