There is no doubt that the face of training has changed worldwide. Whether HR
departments are seeking ways to train employees to operate sophisticated
software programs, improve projects or general management skills, e-training is
catching up rapidly. According to an article in Training Magazine, a survey by
the American Society for Training and Development had predicted that by Year
2000, only an estimated 54.8% of training would be instructor-led, compared to
80% in 1996. By contrast, the market for training delivered via new technologies
was expected to grow from 10% in 1996 to over 35% by Year 2000. Even Web-based
training (WBT) was expected to account for a sizable portion of these electronic
course developments and conversions. Today, that number has grown even larger.
There are several significant reasons for this sudden surge in e-training.
Employees can pace their own learning, and can do much of the learning in their
own time, which reduces the dollars lost in training time. Finally, corporations
can train a much larger audience and much more effectively, when each employee
in the training program has all the information available at his fingertips. In
short, corporations can invest once, in a training system that pays for itself
over and over again.
Employees benefit enormously from this new e-learning direction as well. More
employees can now increase their knowledge base by taking courses in everything
from Java and technologies required for Microsoft Certification to project
management, via the Internet. There is no doubt that in a knowledge-based world,
employees who take the time to invest in certificate programs and new courses
are more marketable and more valuable to the companies they work for. The
emergence of e-learning has made it easier for employees to compete, and become
more valued by the corporations they work for.
IT and HR professionals should however remain cautious. There is a great
difference between non-instructor and instructor-led training. One hears about
large companies like Disney and HP complaining that the computer based training
(CBT) they have in place is not working well. Employees don’t seem to benefit
as much in instructor-less training situations, and complain that they feel
isolated when they train alone on a computer. This issue has led some HR
professionals to reassess how, when and in what form CBT or WBT is offered.
In this new environment, HR professionals, particularly those in IT, need to
keep a close watch on a number of issues. Every IT and HR professional should be
asking how well what is offered meets specific training needs. Take for
instance, training on the use of accounting software. There are a number of CBT
providers who develop CD-ROMS that walk new employees through the process, and
even tell them when they’ve made the correct key stroke at the correct time.
Other skills, such as programming, Oracle and network skills can be taught in a
virtual environment, but could be done better in an instructor led classroom.
Training professionals in more complex skills requires some give and take, and
students seem to learn best in a classroom environment, whether that classroom
is virtual or made from bricks and mortar. There is a sense of community that
develops when a group of employees are trained together, and the learning
process experienced in a group environment, as well as the networking and
sharing of ideas, can be invaluable. Ther’s no question that IT professionals
need to stay ahead in the knowledge game, and e-Learning, particularly
instructor based e-Learning may just be the best way to do that.
The author is director of I-University, and has been in the field of higher
education administration for over 20 years