Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, May 08, 2002
Info-Tech - Human Resources
Learning to deliver
E-learning is surrounded by much hype, several definitions, hundreds of content providers, literally thousands of products and is further laden with the burden of jargon. eWorld takes a look at the scene to get a clearer picture on how businesses can make the most of the e-learning opportunity and how it can benefit the business and organisation.
The bottom line for profitable businesses is people performance and in today's highly competitive economic scenario, the role of training in an organisation has come under close scrutiny. In the dynamic business world of today, organisations have to continuously train, retrain and deliver learning to their employees, their partners and customers. A large part of the challenge for organisations is in the cost and logistics of organising the training and in delivering the content.
E-learning is an exciting way of delivering quality, specific content and knowledge and training directly to learners through the Internet or the corporate intranet. It is not about pushing classroom-based training down an Internet connection.
It is an intelligent use of the advantages of the two-way communication afforded by the Internet. That is where the `e' in e-learning comes in. The use of this tool enables better delivery of knowledge and a more rich and rewarding learning experience.
It is generally estimated that approximately 80 per cent of the professional workforce already uses computers on the job. The massive reach of the Web and wide usage of corporate intranets will mean knowledge can be delivered to the learner on tap as it were round the clock, around the world. Businesses that spend fortunes on training can now cost-effectively deliver content and knowledge. Cost is not the only factor the two-way communication that e-learning enables means that the employee can receive targeted, specific and timely training.
An estimate by Training Magazine says that businesses can effect savings of 50-70 per cent when classroom-based, instructor-led training is replaced by electronic delivery of content. The structuring of the course material also undergoes a change leading to shorter, more effective sessions when there are no cost constraints associated with bringing and keeping the trainer and students together. Further, the employee does not have to be away from work for days together a blessing any supervisor can appreciate.
There is increasing acceptance of the e-learning concept in India as well, according to educational service providers and corporates. This is due to a shift in the focus from instructor-based training to learner-based learning, says Rahul Thapan, Head, Education Services Division, Tata Infotech Ltd.
Although instructor-led training accounts for 87 per cent of the total delivery media, by 2004, according to IDC, this will have dropped to 74 per cent as instructor-led training is replaced by e-learning and CD-ROM as alternative mediums of delivery.
IDC further predicts that the Internet as a delivery medium is gaining prominence. E-learning as a market is projected to grow at 94 per cent CAGR till 2004 to reach $235 million.
Another reason for the wide appeal of e-learning is the ability to track and monitor the delivery and the learning achieved by individual employees. That the delivery and progress can be monitored is a major relief for organisations that would otherwise have to spend time and money to determine if the training has been effective and useful.
The delivery medium also means that learning can be customised to suit the learner's specific needs providing him/her more control over the whole learning process and an improved learning curve.
Of course, e-learning is no panacea. It is not feasible to replace instructor-led, classroom-based training altogether by e-learning. The very nature of the delivery medium also imposes several constraints on the effective delivery of training. Organisations need to take a common-sense approach to e-learning and make the most of a combination of delivery methods to achieve a balance between current practices and the advantages of newer technology-based approaches.
According to Venkat Ramani of TCS, which is implementing an e-learning system, the company had identified four channels for delivering training classroom training, online delivery, one-to-one training within the organisation and sending employees to external programmes conducted by trainers and educational institutes. This balanced approach will ensure better return on training investment, he believes.
According to Arun K. Singh, e-commerce research and consulting group, Infosys Technologies, businesses will use e-learning to re-skill their employees, keep pace with business changes and for effective content generation and assessment.
Instructor-led training may never be eliminated but e-learning will increasingly complement the former. Called blended learning, this system is in place in a large number of tech-friendly businesses in India. With increasing penetration of computers and infrastructure, the educational organisations too will probably implement e-learning modules. For now, though, tech-savvy businesses lead the way.
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