The Truth in E-learning
What is e-learning? According to Cari Mathwig, interactive team
leader and Instructional Designer at The AVS Group, "Maybe the
question should be, 'What is not e-learning?'"
According to the American Society for Training and Development
(ASTD), "e-learning is a wide set of applications and processes
used for the purpose of learning," including those that are Web-
and computer- based, virtual classrooms, NetMeetings, satellite
or fiber-optic-connected classrooms, e-mail, bulletin boards, or
chat rooms. The delivery mediums may be the Internet, Intranet
or Extranet (LAN/WAN), audio and videotape, satellite broadcast,
interactive TV, or CD-ROM.
In a time when computers and classrooms are merging, e-learning
has quickly gone from buzzword to a regular part of the
vocabulary in the business world. The key now is to know how to
To use e-learning effectively, you need to ask yourself the
following questions. The answers to those questions will
determine how e-learning can best fit your needs.
Question #1: What is the goal?
"You can't do anything without a goal or objective," notes
Mathwig. "The goal determines everything, including the topic,
the information presented, how the information is presented, and
if participants are accountable for learning the information."
"Many people do this backwards by starting the process with the
information that is to be presented," Mathwig adds, "but a goal
still needs to be determined in order to establish the rationale
for presenting the information."
Question #2: Who is the audience?
The medium used should meet the needs of the audience to better
accomplish the goal. Some questions that one should ask about
the audience include:
1. Where is the audience located?
2. Are they spread out or in one location?
3. What technologies does the audience have available to them?
4. What is the audience's level of technical expertise?
Question #3: What resources are available?
Resources include time, talent, and budget. This will also
determine which medium is used. For example, if there are two
days to prepare, you need to consider what can be done in two
days to accomplish the goal.
Available resources can be a big factor in how sophisticated the
e-learning can be. The more sophisticated the
e-learning--applications that include animated demonstrations,
simulations that allow participants to practice what they have
learned, or assessment and learning management--the higher the
"The return on investment from a well-planned and well-developed
e-learning program is high and well worth considering," Mathwig
adds. "In any case, the capabilities of the delivery medium
versus the goals must be assessed."
So, which medium is best for e-learning? "Any electronic medium
has its own advantages and disadvantages and should be used
based upon its effectiveness, costs (in terms of both time and
money), and ultimately the return on investment," says Mathwig.