A recent study by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) concluded that U.S. educational institutions will need networks that deliver broadband performance of 100Mbps for every 1,000 students and staff members in time for the 2014-15 school year.  The reasoning behind the huge demand relates to the increasing use of online content, online textbooks, and collaboration tools in the classroom (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2012/060412-schools-need-100mbps-per-1000-259811.html).  As schools make this move away from traditional instructional methods, some firms still ponder the return on investment of transitioning to e-learning.

Although private industry pioneered many of the current tools and techniques for electronic learning, multiple industries still rely on traditional, “one size fits all” methods for professional education.  The 2010 American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) State of the Industry Report found that 39 percent of training hours were electronic media, 28 percent online, and 59 percent involved live interaction. This distribution is changing, but incrementally.  Companies spend in excess of $125 billion on training in the US alone and the effectiveness, low cost, and convenience of electronic and online delivery continues to make it a very desirable option.  E-learning is projected to make up more than $100 billion of the total industry by 2015, according to Bersin and Associates.

If you work for an organization considering the transition from some of its traditional offerings to an e-learning approach, consider the following:

Supports Customization

Unlike a classroom environment, e-learning allows the student to progress at his or her own pace and emphasize the topics most relevant to their current capabilities and future needs.  By simple assessments and feedback routines, the material adjusts to meet the student’s needs instead of adopting a “one size fits all” approach.  By focusing on what is more challenging, the student feels more engaged and rewarded by the educational process.

Leverages Social Media

One of the initial concerns with e-learning related to the perceived removal of the interactive dynamic that occurs in the classroom.  Early on, most training professionals imagined a sterile computer lab filled with “cookie cutter” workers sitting in front of computers watching the screen.  Current approaches to e-learning leverage social media and incorporate discussion boards, blogs, and wikis to facilitate greater interaction.  Moreover, numerous products, many that are free join those attending training, conferences, or other educational events during and after the experience to create learning that is more continuous.  As a result, the initial training leads to attendees gaining new relationships like a traditional classroom, yet grants an easy and accessible method of future interaction.

Improves Outcomes

Advances in training delivery corresponded with improvements in tracking and predictive technology.  Learning Management Systems (LMS) have significantly improved our ability to deliver, track, and manage corporate education.  Similarly, Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) unified the efforts of multiple trainers and in many cases organizations to author content that is reusable.  Although both systems increased the efficiency and effectiveness of corporate education and helped to facilitate the e-learning revolution, the current generation of innovation involves conducting assessments to identify optimal action.  For example, a current employee’s abilities, deficiencies, and potential areas for growth can be joined into a single plan and linked to available courses or learning objects.  By customizing to meet the overall educational planning needs, we invest in the areas that have the highest return on investment.

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