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The Future for Internet-based Training Programmes


Just as the 1980s saw a boom in video-based training materials and the 1990s a boom in CD-based computer training, so the new millennium is bringing a rapid expansion in the variety of training programmes available via the Internet. More than 70 million people across the globe received some form of education via the Internet last year. And this is just the initial impact of online learning on education and training. The UK market is now beginning to pick up pace and new technologies are becoming increasingly important for corporate trainers.

But why should businesses leave behind the traditional classroom when training their staff?

It could be argued that the main drivers for your business to deliver training online are based around minimizing costs and maximising effectiveness and consistency:

Firstly software packages can be developed that allow companies to deliver consistent and up-to-date training content. This keeps content fresh and consistent and gives students immediate access to the most current data.

Secondly e-learning can deliver substantial time and costs savings. When delivered through technology-based solutions, training is less expensive per end-user due to scaleable distribution, typically by 20-25%. Perhaps the biggest cost saving associated with online training is that it eliminates the expense and inconvenience of getting the instructor and students in the same place at the same time.

One of the other main benefits of e-learning is that it is accessible to students at any time and their work can be retrieved on demand, rather than learned in a classroom and subsequently forgotten. Trainees can also maximise the use of desk-top simulation exercises in which they can try new things and make mistakes in a risk-free environment. This characteristic is particularly valuable when learning safety-critical tasks or learning soft skills, such as leadership and decision-making.

E-learning packages can also be adapted to each individual business’s existing Internet and intranet facilities. Many organisations have made considerable investment in their internal network, and delivering training via these mechanisms can help maximise a business’s return on investment in these facilities.

Finally one vital feature of every training package is that it is effective in meeting its stated objectives. Internet-based training delivers real benefits for trainees in terms of quality and richness of training materials and enhances an individual’s commitment to the process of lifelong learning. Technology-based solutions allow more room for individual differences in learning styles. Access to permanently available training means people can learn at their own pace and not be governed by other students in a training session. Additionally they can review course material as often as needed. Since they can customise the learning material to their own needs, students have more control over their learning process and achieve a better understanding of the material. In addition online support can be made available when required.

Elevate your company’s training

Companies involved in delivering e-learning are currently falling into three broad categories: those who provide standard content and deliver it online, those who build bespoke e-learning environments, and those who give full control to clients by offering an authoring software tool which enables them to create their own Internet-based training programmes.

One company which is making an impression in the third category is Oxfordshire based RMR plc. Formed four years ago the company has moved from its original business model of building online conferences and has since expanded and diversified into providing e-learning authoring software.

RMR’s e-learning software package, christened Elevate, provides a fresh approach and gives end-users the flexibility and authority to create their own multimedia-based and highly interactive electronic learning environment.

According to Mark Smith, Business Development Director at RMR, Elevate will become the main focus of the company as it looks to tap initially into a UK e-learning market worth an estimated £446 million by 2003. RMR’s US-based subsidiary, RMR International, will also be looking to maximise its share of a US online learning market which is expected to be worth 11.5 billion dollars by 2003.

Dr Smith says: "Elevate delivers a true multimedia environment, which allows the trainer full control over the content and its delivery. The trainers need no specialist web knowledge as Elevate itself provides the tools to create a compelling interactive online learning environment and enables them to update content across the entire network at the touch of a button, thus keeping the data not only fresh but, more importantly, consistent."

Elevate features a Course Builder system, which enables trainers to import their own content, generate interactivity and publish it to the web or their corporate network. As soon as the trainer presses the upload button, the new content is immediately accessible to the trainee via an intuitive Learner Interface. Elevate incorporates both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ technology, with the trainer being able to push learning material out to the classroom, as well as trainees pulling training material out from the system.

Dr Smith adds: "Trainers can add content to the database and choose the delivery method most appropriate to the learner. Elevate offers a range of multimedia that the trainer can select for content delivery and Elevate’s software automatically converts the selected content into the required format. This allows interactive exercises to be presented using drag and drop, games and animation or tests to be formatted as multiple-choice with check boxes or text input for example. Images, video, audio, slide show style presentations or Flash animations can all be imported to the database and presented to the learner without the need for additional plug-ins.

Human touch

One of the potential drawbacks in e-learning is that the human touch is reduced. However, Dr Smith is convinced that Elevate offers all the elements of interactivity to make it a world-leading e-learning product.

He says "Elevate offers a level of interactivity that enables human tutor support when it is needed, such as real-time (synchronous) modes of interaction, including real-time chat discussion forums, virtual classrooms, an electronic whiteboard for sharing ideas, and audio and video-conferencing. Elevate provides excellent tools for establishing a more traditional tutor/trainee relationship across great distances.

"However, because of the self-directed nature of online learning, asynchronous modes of tutor/trainee interaction are often appropriate and Elevate also provides e-mail communication, message boards and online discussion forums for the times when it is not possible for tutors and trainees to be online at the same time."

Any e-learning product must incorporate a Learning Management System that allows the tutor and the learner to monitor their progress, and Dr Smith says that Elevate’s database-driven format provides a solid backbone for this functionality.

Further information is available from the Elevate website at

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