Monday, 8 October 2007

When e-learning is not appropriate

I firmly believe that e-learning can offer something to suit every learning style preference – the notion that it is only useful for factual, information-based learning is based on a limited understanding of the scope of e-learning (see my previous posts on different e-learning models). However, there’s no denying that passionate advocates of a new approach – in any field – can get a bit carried away. When dealing with specific situations, there are bound to be many where e-learning is not the best option.

A work-based approach is often best. And classroom-based learning, face-to-face, may not be very fashionable, but it can still be one of the most powerful approaches to learning. For example, when you need to get people out of the workplace, away from the day-to-day pressures, but also need to get them involved in a collective discussion.

I’ve recently been working with a client where learning has taken place predominantly on-the-job, and they are anxious to develop a culture of off-the-job training. E-learning should have its place in the mix, but the imperative is to have some highly-visible training activity, and that means classroom-based. Am I missing an opportunity to by-pass the traditional approach and advocate going straight to online? I don’t think so. Advocates of e-learning from ten years ago would have been keen to replace the classroom with the digital alternative, but I think most of us now see the benefits of deploying a range of approaches, including the tatty old classroom.

In the situation I’m handling, the client expects to have lots of face-to-face training. Why divert them from that, when the company will glean enormous cultural benefits? E-learning can wait until the time is right.

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