The Advantages of ELearning By Karen L. Jones
Editor's Notes: Ardent proponents of E-learning as applied to employee training suggest a wide range of benefits to the use of technology in training and learning. This article suggests the advantages of elearning, but it's important to recognize that the history of technological applications to promote learning indicates that many of the potential advantages are not achieved in real world situations. While the advantages in this article make sense on the surface, it remains to be seen if organizations will actually receive the benefits, and whether technology based learning is more or less effective than traditional approaches.
Technology has revolutionized business; now it must revolutionize learning.
In the 21st century, people have to learn more than ever before. Especially for global organizations, live classroom-based training is becoming too costly and cumbersome. Even if employees had the time to attend all the courses and seminars and to read all the books and reports they should to remain up-to-date in their area of work, the cost of such learning would be prohibitive. The need to transform how organizations learn points to a more modern, efficient, and flexible alternative: eLearning. The mission of corporate eLearning is to supply the workforce with an up-to-date and cost-effective program that yields motivated, skilled, and loyal knowledge workers.
Anywhere, anytime, anyone.
The Internet can offer the logical solution for a company's education and training objectives. Approximately 80% of the professional workforce already uses computers on the job. Technical obstacles, such as access, standards, infrastructure, and bandwidth, will not be an issue in a few years. The growth of the World Wide Web, high-capacity corporate networks, and high-speed desktop computers will make learning available to people 24 hours a day, seven days a week around the globe. This will enable businesses to distribute training and critical information to multiple locations easily and conveniently. Employees can then access training when it is convenient for them, at home or in the office.
Substantial cost savings due to elimination of travel expenses.
When delivered through technology based solutions, training is less expensive per end user due to scaleable distribution and the elimination of high salaries for trainers and consultants. The biggest benefit of eLearning, however, is that it eliminates the expense and inconvenience of getting the instructor and students in the same place. According to Training Magazine, corporations save between 50-70% when replacing instructor-led training with electronic content delivery. Opting for eLearning also means that courses can be pared into shorter sessions and spread out over several days or weeks so that the business would not lose an employee for entire days at a time. Workers can also improve productivity and use their own time more efficiently, as they no longer need to travel or fight rush-hour traffic to get to a class.
Just-in-time access to timely information.
Web-based products allow instructors to update lessons and materials across the entire network instantly. This keeps content fresh and consistent and gives students immediate access to the most current data. Information can be retrieved just before it is required, rather than being learned once in a classroom and subsequently forgotten. Training Magazine reported that technology-based training has proven to have a 50–60% better consistency of learning than traditional classroom learning (c-learning).
Higher retention of content through personalized learning.
Technology-based solutions allow more room for individual differences in learning styles. They also provide a high level of simulation that can be tailored to the learner's level of proficiency. With 24 x 7 access, people can learn at their own pace and review course material as often as needed. Since they can customize the learning material to their own needs, students have more control over their learning process and can better understand the material, leading to a 60% faster learning curve, compared to instructor-led training. The delivery of content in smaller units, called "chunks," contributes further to a more lasting learning effect. Whereas the average content retention rate for an instructor-led class is only 58%, the more intensive eLearning experience enhances the retention rate by 25 - 60%.1 Higher retention of the material puts a higher value on every dollar spent on training.
Improved collaboration and interactivity among students.
In times when small instructor-led classes tend to be the exception, electronic learning solutions can offer more collaboration and interaction with experts and peers as well as a higher success rate than the live alternative. Teaching and communication techniques which create an interactive online environment include case studies, story-telling, demonstrations, role-playing, simulations, streamed videos, online references, personalized coaching and mentoring, discussion groups, project teams, chat rooms, e-mail, bulletin boards, tips, tutorials, FAQs, and wizards.
Distance education can be more stimulating and encourage more critical reasoning than a traditional large instructor-led class because it allows the kind of interaction that takes place most fully in small group settings. Studies have shown that students who take online courses are typically drawn into the subject matter of the class more deeply than in a traditional course because of the discussions they get involved in.2 This engagement is further facilitated by the fact that instructors do not monopolize attention in an online environment. Another study found that online students had more peer contact with others in the class, enjoyed it more, spent more time on class work, understood the material better, and performed, on average, 20% better than students who were taught in the traditional classroom.
Online training is less intimidating than instructor-led courses.
Students taking an online course enter a risk-free environment in which they can try new things and make mistakes without exposing themselves. This characteristic is particularly valuable when trying to learn soft skills, such as leadership and decision making. A good learning program shows the consequences of students' actions and here/why they went wrong. After a failure, students can go back and try again. This type of learning experience eliminates the embarrassment of failure in front of a group.
With all of these advantages of taking classes online, it is hard to imagine why anyone would opt to sit in a lecture to learn new information. There are online classes available free on a multitude of topics, just start surfing, find one to your liking, and start learning!
1 Jack E. Bowsher, "Revolutionizing Workforce Performance: A Systems Approach to Mastery," 1998; D. Peoples, Presentations Plus, 1992; Training Magazine, 1998.
2 Greg Kearsley, A Guide to Online Education, 1997; Dennis A. Trinkle, "Distance Education: a Means to an End, No More, No Less," The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1999; Colin McCormack and David Jones, "Building a Web-based Education System," 1997.
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