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Is There More than One Successful E-Learning Model?

E-learning as described in the previous question/ answer section (the IBM management development training curriculum) is certainly not “the only way” to do e-learning.

The e-learning approach you take will depend on understanding what learning situation you need to address from a business point of view and then adjusting e-learning to meet the needs of that situation.

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Yes, there are many other ways of applying e-learning besides the IBM management development training example in the previous question/answer section. The IBM management development training example is a robust solution. It’s useful to think of the IBM management development training example as a “full-course banquet.” It has all the meal courses—from appetizers to dessert—and it’s aimed at a large crowd of people. But you don’t always need to be serving “full course banquets.” Sometimes you might want:

  • A simple meal at a restaurant for a medium-size group of your friends and relatives
  • A home-cooked meal for your immediate family
  • Fast food for yourself

The bottom line is that the way you apply e-learning to your business will depend completely on the “learning situation” (or situations) your business is facing. If you only have time to grab a fast food hamburger, you’re not going to step into a restaurant that serves leisurely full-course meals. Here’s a quick summary of the main areas where e-learning can be used effectively today:

Type of Training Features Needed

Technical Training You can teach how to use products like Microsoft Word and Excel, or how to program in C++, or how to be a Linux System Administrator. This type of training can include parts that are self-study, parts that are instructor-led, and parts where the student practices the technical skills on a simulator

Type of Training Features Needed

or with a virtual connection to a real system running the application or product being learned.

Professional Knowledge and Skills Training

You can teach such professional skills as negotiating, running meetings, coaching, and team dynamics to students in many locations in your company. This type of training can include parts that are self-study (for knowledge transfer) and parts that are instructor-led (for skills transfer).

New-Job-Role Training

You can teach employees how to perform a new job role. New managers, for example, generally require new knowledge and new skills. So do “new hires.” This type of training can be partly self-study and partly interactive where the students work with an instructor or with other students.

“Update” Training

You can update employees who have already been trained in a topic but now need to get up to speed on the latest state-of-the-art developments. Again, this can be self-study or instructor-led.

“Tip of the Iceberg” Training

There are many situations where an employee needs to know “a little” about a topic but does not need to become an expert. For example, a technical employee can learn the basics of marketing, a project manager can learn the basics of databases, and a manager can learn the basics of corporate finance. This "tip of the iceberg" type of learning lends itself to a self-study, on-demand style—but can be successful as instructor-led also.

The key thing to realize from a business point of view is that these training scenarios are not all equal. Some will have higher stakes for your business than others. And for a specific scenario, there is often more than one way of implementing it. Note: Let’s Be Specific—Some E-Learning Case Studies contains a series of e-learning case studies that gets very specific about how e-learning can be used in specific situations. Look there for more about how e-learning can be applied.