E-learning opens up a world of advantages
For decades, the business training environment has largely revolved around the seminar or classroom model; an approach for which most learning experiences occur through in-person contact. In the Information Age, however, businesses can elect to train personnel using an e-learning model instead. Online training modules, for some aspects of learning, offer both small and large businesses, significant advantages over their traditional counterparts.
Business training can be quite expensive. Employees travelling out of town to receive instruction usually expect their hotel, meal, and transportation costs to be fully funded. Perhaps even worse, whilst they are out of the office, productivity can suffer. When trainers are brought in instead, their fees have to be high enough to encompass all of their own expenses related to travel and lodging.
In an e-learning environment, however, nobody needs to travel. Trainers and participants ‘meet’ in an online environment, usually using infrastructure the company already has in place. Because training sessions require no advance travel, it becomes feasible to schedule them for a half-day, or even an hour, instead of for several days in a row. This means that workers can manage a large part of their normal workload even on days when they will also participate in training activities.
Very few people suggest that e-learning should replace all face to face learning – not least because many people don’t want to be taught in that way – but the best e-learning courses do provide a valuable adjunct to face to face learning, for good reasons.
Asynchronous course delivery
Whilst a traditional course format can be shifted to the online environment, with some changes, e-learning also opens up new possibilities for course delivery. Because online courses can be highly personalised, participants do not need to move through the learning materials at the same rate. Indeed, individual workers can begin courses at different times, work through lessons at their own pace, and finish either after or before their co-workers.
With some courses, it is not even necessary for participants to meet at a pre-arranged time. Course lectures can be recorded instead of delivered live: rather than speaking via Skype with a teacher, course discussions can take place using online forums that allow trainers and students to converse in an asynchronous manner.
A major drawback of traditional classroom learning is that all students must wade through material together, even if some of them have already mastered it. With e-learning, students with some background or expertise in a subject area can learn faster because they can skim over unnecessary lessons. This effect is more powerful than businesses may realise: according to expert Jennifer Salopec’s article in Training and Development Magazine, e-learning can move students through material as much as 50% more rapidly than is the case with a more traditional approach.
This in turn has implications for productivity levels: workers who need to spend less time mastering new software programs or skills will miss fewer working hours.