The Internet and intranets offer some wonderful alternatives for the delivery of training. This FAQ is designed to cover the basics of this technology. Good luck with your Distance Learning!
What is Distance Learning?
E-learning is instruction that is delivered electronically, in part or wholly — via a Web browser, such as Netscape Navigator, through the Internet or an intranet, or through multimedia platforms such CD-ROM or DVD. Increasingly — as higher bandwidth has become more accessible — it has been identified primarily with using the Web, or an intranet’s web, leveraging the Web’s visual environment and interactive nature.
How do I determine whether Distance Learning is right for our training?
Here are several questions you can use to assess the viability of e-learning for your training:
- Do you have management support?
- Do you have enough potential users to justify the cost of purchase or development?
- Do you have a target audience who can use or learn to use a computer?
- Will they accept a Web-based program?
- Will they learn from this particular program?
- Will the program provide a method of instruction that is easier, faster, cheaper, safer, or more engaging than the alternative?
- Did you come to this page looking for the answer to this question?
What are the advantages of Distance Learning?
Flexibility, Accessibility, Convenience – Users can proceed through a training program “at their own pace and at their own place.” They can also access the training at any time, and only as much as they need – known as “Just in time and just enough.”
Cross platform – E-learning can be accessed by Web browsing software on any platform: Windows, Mac, UNIX, OS/2, Amiga, etc. You can deliver your training program to any machine over the Internet or intranet without having to author a program for each platform.
Web browser software and Internet connections are widely available – Most computer users have access to a browser, such as Netscape Navigator and are connected to a company’s intranet, and/or have access to the Internet.
Inexpensive worldwide distribution – No separate distribution mechanism is needed. E-learning can be accessed from any computer anywhere in the world, keeping delivery costs low.
Ease of update – If changes need to be made in the program after the original implementation, they can be made on the server which stores the program and everyone worldwide can instantly access the update. Courses can be designed to access designated current information, such as the latest new product specifications from any other server worldwide for an on-the-fly update whenever the program is run.
Travel cost and time savings – There are no travel costs for bringing remote employees to a centralized workshop because the Web is available from the desktop. And according to the report “Return on Investment and Multimedia Training” the actual time required for training by computer averages about 50% that of instructor-led training, lowering costs further.
What are the Disadvantages of Distance Learning?
Bandwidth limitations – Limited bandwidth means slower performance for sound, video, and intensive graphics, causing long waits for download that can affect the ease of the learning process. The problem is greater over the public Internet where more traffic jams occur, and less on a company’s intranet which usually has greater bandwidth. Future technologies will no doubt help to solve this problem.
Are computers replacing human contact? – There’s a general concern that as we move towards more computer usage, a glowing terminal replaces a friendly face. Decreasing instructor-led training makes some trainees uneasy. If this is a concern, consider a gradual introduction of the technology.
Today’s e-learning programs are too static – As with any emerging technology, the level of interactivity in e-learning is too-often limited. This is gradually improving, and as it does the impact of the training on performance improves also.
Takes more time and more money to develop than expected – Like any first-time challenge, learning about and implementing new technology takes more resources (and more aspirin) than expected. You can make it easier by starting with a simple program and building on success. Also, remember that the greater portion of costs associated with e-learning are start-up costs. Programs can be delivered and re-used with fewer costs than with traditional methods.
Not all courses are delivered well by computer — Some training topics are not best served by computer-based training and require a more personal touch. Team building activities and dealing with emotional issues such as downsizing come to mind. E-learning and other technologies for training are mainly for assisting the learning process and are not for replacing methods that already work well. more>>