Let's discuss some of the delivery methods here. I think there are basically 3 main categories here:
- Blended Learning
Traditional classroom training is where you invite people to attend the training which is set at a specific time and a specific location. According to Marc J. Rosenberg in his book Beyond E-Learning, classrooms are here to stay. Although classrooms have its limitations, there is still a need to have classrooms. We cannot discard the benefits of a classroom. What I tend to use classroom are workshops and I seldom use it for a lecture form of classroom or what my friend and I term it as "spray and pray" training (Meaning we just teach or train the content- the spray and then PRAY to God that they learnt)
Classrooms can be conducted indoors and/or outdoors. The real benefit is getting people to engage with one another, practice, network and have FUN learning. When I first joined the training and development unit back in 97, I attended the Train the Trainer program with SMR Malaysia and I do recommend their Train the Trainer course. Dr Palan introduced how to put the FUN in learning. Best practice is to have 80% activities and 20% facilitated by the trainer.
The limitations of a classroom are logistics and trainer. Sometimes it is logistically impossible to schedule people for training or commit to conduct a number of trainings. Most often supervisors would like to minimize their staff movements to ensure productivity is not "sacrificed" because of the KPI they will have to meet. Other problems are if there is a time limit set e.g. product launch- the content can only be confirmed one week before it launches and you have to train 600 people in 25 locations nationwide before it launches. (That was how I got into eLearning in the first place) After training, people might forget about the subject and many more limitations of the classroom. Refresher classes are often required but sometimes too late because the damage is already done. Lack of trainers is another factor or lack of GOOD trainers- sometimes you get those trainers who works better than the sleeping pill.
There a variety of ways to deliver eLearning content. This includes simple pdf files, powerpoint slides, an instructional email to complex- contents from YouTube, SlideShares, content that you can buy from eLearning and eBookscourse vendors like Skillsoft.
For companies that would like to implement eLearning there are things to consider like a learning management system (LMS) or a learning content management system (LCMS), etc. I started eLearning without the LMS and just basic creating a website of the content for people to just read with no quiz or mastery test. Slowly I played with a few more authoring softwares like Authorware which is difficult for people who are new in elearning content development to Articulate Presenter, Engage and Quizmaker which was easier to create.
For those looking for elearning development tools, whether free stuffs or licensed, you can visit the sites that I recommend in my blog especially Zaid's & Jane eLearning blog which posts a lot of new things available. Some of the things Zaid finds in the internet amazes me and what I particularly like about his blog is that he gives his honest input about the application. You should also read what another blogger wrote about Zaid's blog site in the 4th paragraph.
But what I do advice is to also start planning an eLearning strategy before you start purchasing or developing anything.
The one thing I learnt from Brian Chapman in his session Implementing eLearning Strategy in KL, is to move away from the long hours of web based course and break it up into smaller chunks of content and make it a meta content so that you can re-use the content for a different purpose and save time in development or custom tailor the content for a different audience.
The benefit about elearning is that you are able to deliver contents to anyone and at anytime.
You can create very exciting content with a very dull subject. In terms of ROI (or what the term my team uses ROTI- Return Of Training Investment- which bread translated from Malay ironically for those not in Malaysia), it gives more returns because initial investment is high but once it is rolled out, the returns are enormous. But I keep telling people that there are sunk cost like purchasing hardwares like servers, applications like LMS or LCMS to consider and those are huge costs.
The limitations of eLearning are it is usually self learning so it takes a lot of discipline. That is something a lot of people, especially adults and those higher in management find difficulty in. ELearning can also be one way in some cases, trainer to student but student have no one to ask when they do not understand certain parts of the subject. You can argue that this is the human side and eLearning cannot be at fault in this but still if you look at the objectives of training is to prepare them for their work, and if eLearning is there but cannot help then it is considered a failure. What helps is that you promote eLearning in your company/ institutions daily, monthly, constantly. I have developed a nickname in my company "The Virtual Pain in the..." but I have started to see "fruits of my labour", people are asking me about new contents in eLearning, and some have asked whether we can have workshops based on the elearning and so on. Planning is essential and crucial for the success in the eLearning initiative.
Blended learning is about taking the program and see how you can deliver different sections using classroom and elearning. Basically taking the strength each delivery has to offer and bring the learning to whole new level or retention and success.
Example: You can ask the learners to read about the topic before they attend the class so that in the class, they can start discussing about it or already start practicing like roleplays, etc. After training, you can use forums to discuss about how they are doing, were there any success stories learners can share with each other or learnings from failed attempts and so on. In this sense, learning is not confined to the classrooms (or given back to the trainer after so many days after the training) or to PC.
To me it makes sense to create programs which are blended to ensure learning and continuous development takes place.