Educating on the Web

Although e-learning may be the next new wave in corporate training, it will never completely take the place of classroom education, according to Bill Rasberry.

Rasberry, president of CDI Corporate Education Services, said training is not an either or situation. The best way for a company to educate employees and save resources would be to mix on-line learning with traditional learning.

“Clearly the high growth area is the Web, but there is a lot of room to grow,” Rasberry said. “To give you an idea, there’s $60 billion spent on corporate training in North America. Web-based learning is only about $2 billion of that.”

He noted e-learning grew at a rate of, “something like 80 per cent over the last year,” and his perception is that synchronous learning will be the fastest growing aspect.

There are may different types of e-learning. There is synchronous learning, where several people attend a class on-line, which is instructor led, with interaction between students and teacher. There is asynchronous learning, where a static course can be taken over the Web and it is just one person reading the material. There are correspondence courses and there is computer-based learning, where the course is on CD or disk.

Paul Debrusk, an IT specialist with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, took part in one of CDI’s synchronous courses recently.

He, along with six other people from across Ontario, logged in to an introductory course on Windows 2000.

“I’m part of a training committee for the Ontario region of Citizenship and Immigration and one of our mandates is to check out and investigate different training methods and procedures,” Debrusk said.

The committee looks at a number of issues, including the cost of training, accommodation and travel.

“We’ve done computer-based training before. We’ve purchased a number of training CDs and so this was just another venue we wanted to look at,” he explained. “Obviously the cost of training when you eliminate travel costs and that type of thing goes down dramatically.”

Debrusk noted people from Niagara Falls, London, Windsor, Kitchener, Hamilton and Winnipeg tested the e-learning module.

The four hours they spent were split between two sessions, comprised of time spent on the computer and time on a conference call with the instructor.

“It worked well in that we were able to communicate. We typed questions in and another instructor would answer,” Debrusk said.

Rasberry noted that often a synchronous course will have more than one instructor so that while one is giving the lecture another can answer questions.

Debrusk said the key was the interaction.

“This is kind of an extension to computer-based training. It gives you the training slides and the training information, which isn’t that much different than the information given by computer-based CDs, but it gives the opportunity to communicate,” he said.

He added this type of training is not for everyone.

“It may not be good for everyone, but it works well for some people. It’s the same as one-on-one training or classroom training or computer-based training, it works well for some people and others do poorly in it,” Debrusk said.

He said the bottom line is that, as far as training goes, this is an excellent option.

Jeffrey Yu, regional president of Bates Asia, was one of 60 Bates employees to enrol in the University of British Columbia’s Certificate for Internet Marketing.

The advertising firm looked to the Internet to find a way to update employee skills and used the 100 per cent on-line course to do just that.

Yu said he originally heard about the course from an ex-employee who is living and working in Vancouver and who was a student of the UBC program.

He noted the course is time demanding, but that most participants are very enthusiastic.

“I would say that 70 per cent of them are making full use of what is available,” he said.

Yu added that Bates Asia is considering a second program when this course ends in September. He said interest in these courses comes not only from employees but from clients.

Ray Miller, vice-president of marketing and sales for CanTrain, said e-learning is now being used more comprehensively, not just for IT training.

CanTrain, through its training site, trains people in delivery of management and service quality.

He said e-learning is about cost-cutting.

“[Someone] said training today is about increasing revenue and reach and not about cost cutting. I disagree it’s about all those things. Most organizations are cutting to the bone. They can’t afford to take people out of the loop to give them training,” he said.

Miller added that in many organizations the first thing that gets cut is the training budget, so they have to look for cost efficient ways of training and e-learning is getting more popular.