E-learning in Business: the New Social Collaboration Network

by Jill Foster on February 24, 2009

Mary Fumento

Mary Fumento

Guest post from Mary Fumento, regular guest contributor to Women Grow Business and a librarian by trade. She thinks and breathes digital libraries, resources, and technology. And on a great day, she writes about it all. Best yet, she likes to explain these resources to others on how they can help their work or enterprise.

In case you’re always the last one to find out …
-the global economy is under a long-term siege. Businesses must use cheaper and yet still quality means, of educating both customers and staff. The answer is information technology, specifically e-learning.

Here’s how to maximize it.
E-learning describes the fields of online instruction, delivered online or via software packages.

Formats include webinars, podcasts, PowerPoint presentations, text or software such as a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). And ever more specifically online, there’s Synchronous Virtual Collaboration like:

• Live Online Learning
• Online chat/IM sessions
• Web interface conference calls
• Video conferencing

E-learning considerations for your business
Before using any e-learning program, I suggest being aware of below to create the best learning environment possible.

1. Determine and clearly describe your learning goals for potential participants.
For example: “This free webinar will teach you how to use our online banking system.” For online content, provide an outline and examples. Tip sheets are also useful.

2. Consider group sessions.
It lets students also be instructors.

3. Test technical logistics.
Then tell would-be users the minimal and optimal hardware and bandwidth required.

Challenges that could occur
The quality of training is a combination of content and delivery. E-learning may suffer from problems of traditional training, including poor planning, poor presentation, and little opportunity for interaction.
But the convenience of learning from a computer may be outweighed by circumstances. Taking a webinar at work with the phone ringing, co-workers interrupting, and the boss wondering what you’re up to may not be the best educational environment.

Encourage your clients [using e-learning programs or tools] to consider the best ways to find blocks of free time or to break up their study into bite-sized chunks.

If you are setting up an e-learning program:
1. Beware of technical issues.
Test, test, test. For Internet-based courses, please remember not everybody uses your web browser.

2. Provide ways for your course participants to contact you during the actual session.
If that’s not possible, at least make available ways for you to be reached after the program. Keep in mind that communication barriers bury many courses into ineffectiveness.

3. Be mindful of time zone differences.
…especially if anyone lives in Hawaii.

4. Details? Yes, that’s where the Devil is.
Forgetting to provide dial-in phone numbers for conference calls can make your e-learning session go up in smoke.

Mix it up
You can blend styles to maximize learning opportunities.

For instance, if you would like to incorporate an online experience into a traditional classroom experience for staff, you may also offer a follow-up session in which employees can learn on their own via the company Intranet.

Post a tutorial where people can learn at their own pace.

More and better learning tools continue to appear. And Elearning!, a business-oriented e-zine, just named its 2008 award winners including: Learn.com, Outstart, Meridian, and Blackboard.

For an open-source application, consider Moodle. A remote school in Canada uses it to teach students via video and PowerPoint. It also allows parents to keep up with their children’s work, lets students share questions, and even keeps the school business office paperless.

Universal tools have certain advantages. The University of Maryland uses Wimba to provide synchronous lectures and discussions to students as far away as Taiwan.

Value of assessment
No matter how you teach your audience, remember also to listen. Request feedback on the current quality of your e-learning package and solicit suggests for improvements. That’s what your competition will be doing.

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