Though high-tech companies—as well as those in financial services, professional development, and manufacturing—are the leading users of elearning, more and ever-smaller companies are using the Internet to supplant at least some of the traditional learning environment, according to Brennan. IDC estimates that four out of five organizations using elearning for employee training started within the last four years, so the market is early in its life cycle. In addition, recent IDC research suggests that many organizations have demonstrated short-term returns by integrating elearning into their training methodologies in the form of cost savings and speed of productivity.
For example, Harvey Industries has 3,500 employees, far smaller than the typical company using elearning, according to Obrey. New employees used to spend nine months shadowing veteran workers. This was expensive, Obrey says, because it took a long time for the novice to learn in this environment. Now, with elearning, new employees don't need to work with a veteran to learn the job (though shadowing has not been completely phased out).
Even with the growth in elearning to date, traditional classroom-based training still reigns supreme as the most used by organizations, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Business Practices, the research arm of project management consultancy PM Solutions. The survey showed that organizations spend 40% of their project management training time delivering onsite, classroom-based courses.
Despite the prospects for elearning growth, no one predicts that it will ever completely replace traditional learning via shadowing, classrooms, and other forms of face-to-face teaching. But undoubtedly, elearning offers engaging content, flexibility, low cost, and convenience that can enhance the learning process within organizations of all shapes and sizes. And, with the right tool and strategy, companies can leverage elearning to the benefit of employees and the organization alike.
Sidebar: Elearning Goes to College
Not surprisingly, an increasing number of higher education institutions are also relying on the Internet to deliver content to students, either as supplements to the traditional program, part of a hybrid class that has online and offline sessions, or part of the growing distance learning curricula.
Traditional learning environments employ an enterprise-elearning and content-management style all their own, according to Jodi Prins, director of product marketing for WebCT, a developer of online learning software for higher education institutions. Learning institutions are now purchasing enterprise-wide software packages that enable them to present learning content as well as record grades and interact with students.
These software packages provide specific access levels for different users. A professor might be able to see all grades for all students in his class, while the student will have access to only his grades, and a course developer might have no access to grades while having full access to content and course materials.
Many traditional learning institutions are delivering this content via wired and wireless connections. For example, the United States Military Academy at West Point provides an 802.11a wireless connection for elearning in the classroom because it offers the security, range, and speed the academy needed to have. When more than 1,000 cadets begin English class in more than 50 different classrooms at 7:30 a.m., they all connect simultaneously to access the same activities and information via the wireless connection. West Point chose the 802.11a wireless specification specifically so that it could install a wireless access point in each classroom and, because of the shorter range of 802.11a, divide access streams with minimal overlap, roughly by classroom.
Sidebar: Companies Featured in this Article
Cisco Systems, Inc. www.cisco.com
PM Solutions www.pmsolutions.com