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ABCs of e-Learning: Reaping the Benefits – review


Title: ABCs of e-Learning: Reaping the Benefits
Author: Broadbent, Brooke
Publishers: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer in association with ASTD
Format: Paperback, 229 pages
Price: £22.50
ISBN: 0787959103

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There are more than a few books about online learning, web-based learning or e-learning around at the moment. Some are a bit too theoretical, others a bit too technical, and many (usually published in the USA) don’t really have anything much to say at all, but shout very loudly anyway. Fortunately, this book does not fall into any of those categories. The inside cover contains an impressive list of review extracts from big names in the field, and all are very positive - “I’d recommend this book to anyone”, “I will recommend it to all my students and clients” and “if you are going to buy one book on e-learning, this is the one”.

The reason for their enthusiasm is easy to see straight away. It’s a very well-designed book that you can dip into anywhere and find tables, lists and diagrams that cover all aspects of planning, running or evaluating e-learning. There are dozens of check lists, forms to fill in and other practical tools to use in the real world. Each chapter contains a few case studies from companies or other organisations. Most case studies conclude with a short list of lessons learned, or tips for others.

The book starts by outlining some key concepts and terms. It introduces four types of e-learning – informal, self-paced, leader-led and performance support tools - and then looks at a number of case studies of scenarios where each might be appropriate. This leads into a practical approach to blended learning – selecting different combinations of approaches to suit particular situations. From the start, the author takes care to consider the e-learning experience from all angles, looking at the learner, the trainer, the manager, the developer and others involved in the process. There are lists of the kind of things that each will find valuable, and also lists of what to avoid. The bit on e-learning materials that require browser plug-ins is interesting – Broadbent's advice is to avoid them, a lesson learndirect in the UK should perhaps have followed !

For managers, there are sections on project management, setting all the stages involved in implementing e-learning within critical paths. Managers who are new to the area will also find the sections on selecting and evaluating vendors, using consultants and measuring the return on investment useful. Each of these sections has applications beyond e-learning, as does the chapter on the role of champions in leading change.

Trainers will like the sections on learning styles – Broadbent takes several of the familiar approaches to adult learning (Kolb, Gagne etc) and applies them specifically to e-learning. There’s also a chapter on managing the virtual classroom which will help trainers who are new to synchronous e-learning environments. Finally of course there is a chapter on evaluation which keeps up the high standards elsewhere in the book. The four stage Kirkpatrick model is clearly explained, and there are models and equations for calculating the return on investment (ROI) from e-learning projects for the beancounters.

The book is sponsored or jointly published by the ASTD, American Society for Training and Development, whose web site is always worth checking.

Overall, this is a book that anyone with an interest in e-learning will learn a lot from. The examples come from a variety of sources. There’s an interesting section on e-learning in the armed forces which uses the UK as an example, although the more extensive Finnish experience might have been more illuminating. As always, most of the examples are North American - a few from those European and Asian countries that are equally far advanced in using e-learning wouldn’t have gone amiss, and some general discussion of cross cultural and language issues would have been interesting. But those are really the only major criticisms of this book - it’s definitely worth buying.

David Evans
E-Learning Consultant
Financial Projections Ltd


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