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E-learning

Definition
Background
Key Characteristics
Our Experience
Examples
Resources
Design Suggestions
Contact Us

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Definition

E-learning refers to the use of electronic technologies to deliver, facilitate and enhance both formal and informal learning and knowledge sharing at any time, any place and at any pace. Such tools include the Computer, Internet and their applications including CD-ROM, E-mail, Web sites, and multimedia

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Background

Organizations began using networked computers (mainframes) to deliver computer based training  (CBT) in the 1980s. In the mid-1990s with the advent of Internet technologies and their potential as a delivery method for learning, the term Internet-based training arose. Shortly thereafter, the term was changed to Web-based training. This was done to clarify that the delivery could be via either the Internet or Intranet. The next change was to online learning, to indicate that one was connected to the network as opposed to offline or not connected. Finally, in the early 2000s, during the dot com boom, the term e-learning was adopted. The e enabled the industry to raise hundreds of millions from venture capitalists who would invest in any industry that started with the letter e. In early 2003, several leading education and training experts recommended dropping the e, as its presence tends to focus too much on the technology and not, as is most important, on the learning.

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Key Characteristics

E-learning can provide a single experience that accommodates the three distinctive learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. E-learning can offer individualized, as well as group instruction.

E-learning allows you to combine knowledge management, content management and performance management to support the business processes; it is not a process in itself. The key to e-learning success in an organization is to tie e-learning to the business needs and then measure its impact on those business needs.

E-learning can be considered a process of combining content with support and community. Networked technologies are used to create, foster, deliver, and facilitate learning anytime and anywhere. In addition to providing a delivery mechanism for content, Internet tools are also used to mentor and monitor learners, facilitate interaction among dispersed learners, introduce subject matter experts, evaluate the learning experience, and foster virtual communities among practitioners.

Because content and information delivered through the Internet is instantly updatable, e-learning allows people and organizations to keep up with the rapid changes that define our global world.

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Our Experience

Course teams have used e-learning to train globally dispersed audiences. They have found that e-learning reduces publishing and distribution costs as well as the costs of travel and time away from the workplace.

Course teams have used e-learning for the delivery of individualized, comprehensive and dynamic learning content. They have used it for self-paced learning as well as interactive discussions among groups of learners.

Course teams have found that, in conjunction with face-to-face meetings, e-learning aids in the development of communities of practice. They have used e-learning to link learners with practitioners and experts to create, foster and expand specific communities of practice.

Use it if…

  • Your participants require 24x7 on demand access, at off-hours or from home, to the content and information.
  • You need to update your content on a frequent basis.
  • Your participants prefer to learn at their own pace with some coaching.
  • You want to ensure consistent delivery of content.
  • You want to foster peer-to-peer dialogs and knowledge sharing
  • You want to automate proof of completion and certification.

Forget it if…

  • You do not have the budget for the up-front investment required for e-learning development.
  • Your participants do not have easy access to or familiarity with the technologies you are considering.
  • Your participants are socially/culturally averse to using technology.

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Examples

  • World Bank Institute examples of E-learning

An online course on Introduction to statistics for educational reform 
An online course on 
eDevelopment
An online course on  Corporate social responsibility.  
(Click on Logon to WebCT and then type student  for both user id and password.

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Resources

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Design Suggestions

Research has shown that effective e-learning provides for all learning styles. Thus, an effective e-learning activity takes full advantage of the variety of tools and methodologies available. Good designs will incorporate audio, video, simulations or animations, as well as text.

The following questions should be asked when considering e-learning.

  • When should instruction be used?
  • When should information be used?
  • What is the best combination of approaches?

Consider the following as you plan your e-learning activities.

1. What are the objectives? How can I ensure that the set goals will motivate and compel participants?
2. Is completion critical? Is completion of the e-learning activity is required as for job performance? Alternatively, will the learner use this as a “just-in-time” learning activity – entering and leaving where and when s/he needs?
3. How will I handle the coaching/feedback?
4. How will I bridge learning and working – as research shows that learning by doing is often most effective.
5. What reuse after learning will there be for the content and information?
6.How can I best bring in expert stories and models?

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Contact Us

Send us your questions or comments. Tell us of your experiences using e-learning.

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