eLearning

What Is E-Learning?
E-learning can be defined as instructional content or learning experiences delivered or enabled by electronic technology; it is a structured, interactive approach to educating and informing the students, employees, etc. More specifically, eLearning refers to the use of Internet, Intranets or Extranets to deliver a broad array of solutions that enhance knowledge and performance.

Why are people interested in eLearning?
In a recent survey about eLearning the following results were obtained. Respondents were primarily interested in eLearning because it increased access to learning (86 percent). Two-thirds of respondents noted that growth in employee skills, ability to track learner progress through a learning management system, and increased job performance were key reasons for their interest. Slightly more than half perceived distinct advantages of Web-based learning including the standardization of content and assessment procedures, enhanced interactivity, and learner satisfaction. Employee retention and keeping up with the competition were aspects chosen by approximately one-fourth of respondents. Other responses included cost savings, reduced travel time, greater flexibility in delivery, and the timeliness of such training.

What are the pundits saying about eLearning?

"There are two great equalizers in life: the Internet and education," said John Chambers, Cisco president and CEO. "The governments and companies that understand this will survive in the Internet economy; those that do not will get left behind.
Jonathon D. Levy of the Harvard School of Business http://people.cornell.edu/pages/jl63/. "We are using a model that no longer works. It's a model that says learning occurs at some specified time, that some individual will put it all together in a package for us, and that we go out and obtain this package. But there is not enough time to capture all this knowledge. We have to think about a new way of making knowledge available to people." September 2002, Online Learning 2002, Anahiem.
Alvin Toffler: The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.'

How large is the eLearning Market?
According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the market for corporate elearning is expected to be worth almost US$233 million ($431 million) by 2005, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25 per cent.

WHAT IS DRIVING ELEARNING?

Technological changes increase complexity and velocity of work environment. Technology has changed the way we live, work, think and learn. Todays workforce has to process more information in a shorter amount of time. New products and services are emerging with accelerating speed. As production cycles and life spans of products continue to shorten, information and training quickly become obsolete. Training managers feel the urgency to deliver knowledge and skills more rapidly and efficiently whenever and wherever needed. In the age of just-in-time production, just-in-time training becomes a critical element to organizational success.

Lack of skilled labor drives need for learning. With unemployment rates at historic lows and widening skills gap among the workforce, corporations compete fiercely for skilled workers. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 70% of Fortune 1000 companies cite lack of trained employees as their number-one barrier to sustaining growth. Business managers realize that corporations that offer ongoing education and training enjoy a higher rate of employee retention and the benefits of a better-skilled workforce. As a result of the rising importance of training, an increasing number of corporations have hired Chief Knowledge Officers (CKOs) or Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) to plan and coordinate training programs.

Social and demographic changes direct education toward older target groups. Organizations and training providers need to evaluate whom they train and how. Today, traditional students in higher education - age 18 to 22 - make up less than 20% of all students. The fastest growing group attending higher education institutions are working, part-time students older than 25. This new group of learning adults is seeking education principally to advance their careers and increase their salaries. For universities and business-to-consumer (B2C) training providers, these individuals are excellent candidates for education delivered to their homes or offices. Declining birth rates, aging population, and lack of skilled labor also require an objective evaluation of the training needs of older age groups. In the new economy, even senior workers, including those nearing retirement, need to be trained. Broader acceptance of new training delivery options among older workers should facilitate the training process.

Fierce competition in most industries leads to increasing cost pressures. With traditional training methods, companies generally spend more money on transporting and housing trainees than on actual training programs. Approximately two-thirds of training costs are allotted to travel expenses, which represents a major drain on bottom-line profitability. In todays competitive environment, organizations can no longer afford to inflate training budgets with extensive travel and lodging. If opportunity cost is taken into account, the actual costs of training are even higher. Time spent away from the job traveling or sitting in a classroom reduces per-employee productivity and revenue tremendously.

Knowledge workers require greater flexibility in the workplace. Globalization, competition, and labor shortages cause employees to work longer, harder, and travel more than previous generations did. At the same time, these workers require more independence and responsibility in their jobs and dislike close supervision. Todays knowledge workers have a nontraditional orientation to time and space, believing that as long as the job gets done on time, it is not important where or when it gets done. By the same token, they want the opportunity to allocate time for learning as needed. Modern training methods need to reflect these changes in lifestyle.

Learning has become a continual process rather than a distinct event. In the new economy, corporations face major challenges in keeping their workforce current and competent. Many past training practices are unable to meet these challenges. Traditional training is often unrelated to new business initiatives or key technology drivers. In just-in-case fashion, courses are given and then forgotten, often without improving the performance of workers. While learning is not a one-time activity, training has traditionally been treated as such. To retain their competitive edge, organizations have started to investigate which training techniques and delivery methods enhance motivation, performance, collaboration, innovation, and a commitment to lifelong learning.

Explosive growth of the Internet provides delivery vehicle for education. The emergence of online education is not only a matter of economic and social change, but also of access. IDC estimates that, by 2003, the number of Internet users worldwide will grow to about 502 million, up from 87 million in 1997, representing a CAGR of 34%. Through its increasing reach and simplicity of use, the Internet has opened the door to a global market where language and geographic barriers for many training products have been erased.

Technology making quantum leaps and standards emerging. Technology infrastructure, especially for bandwidth, varies widely. Lack of compatibility between existing learning technologies and current IS infrastructure is one of the main barriers to adopting Web-based training. We are convinced that the move to defined, open standards is crucial to the continuing successful adoption of eLearning, especially as it begins to transition beyond early adopters into the rapid growth phase of the market. Authoring tools will need to operate across different platforms and communicate with other tools used to build learning systems. Content and courseware must be reusable, interoperable, and easily manageable at many different levels of complexity throughout the online instructional environment. Enterprise learning systems have to accommodate numerous and varied learner requirements, needs, and objectives. Corporate customers need to be able to easily track content created by multiple content providers through one training management system and search vast local or distributed catalogs of content to identify learning objects or modules on a particular topic. The race for education technology standards is on. Advances in a wide range of technologies supporting diverse education and training tasks are currently being made. Issues such as content interoperability, metadata tagging, and bandwidth are being addressed. But the industry still has some homework to do to create the flexible, adaptive, and integrated learning systems needed to push eLearning into the mainstream.

Globalization of business is resulting in manifold challenges. Advances in information technology and falling trade barriers facilitate business around the globe. As borders become less meaningful, global competition intensifies. International expansion and accelerating MA activity have led to larger and more complex corporations. Todays businesses have more locations in different time zones and employ larger numbers of workers with diverse cultural backgrounds and educational levels than ever. Thus, more information has to be delivered in increasingly larger organizations, challenging internal planning, logistics, and distribution. Corporations worldwide are now seeking more innovative and efficient ways to deliver training to their geographically-dispersed workforce.


What are the advantages of eLearning?

Technology has revolutionized business; now it must revolutionize learning. In the 21st century, people will 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 companys education and training objectives. We estimate that 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 two years from now. 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 scalable 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 learners level of proficiency. With 24x7 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%. 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, storytelling, demonstrations, role-playing, simulations, streamed videos, online references, personalized coaching and monitoring, 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. 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 where/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.