Institute of IT Training, Code of Practice for e-Learning Providers, www.iitt.org.uk.
The Training Foundation, Certified e-Learning Professional, www.trainingfoundation.com.
Somewhere, A Place To Learn
The promise of e-learning to provide
, anyplace learning
us with an
lot of options. But
and learners alike have to make a choice – what is the ideal environment in which to be an
? In this chapter, I explore the advantages and disadvantages associated with learning at the desktop, at home or in the learning
, and reflect on whether all options can work given the right conditions.
A time and place for us
Way back in the mid 1990s, the Internet was beginning to
the attention of a wider public. Educationalists, who, in universities and research establishments around the world, had actually been using this technology for 20
, were woken up suddenly to the potential of computer networks as a channel of communication that had a purpose beyond shopping and pornography. And so e-learning was born, and no sooner was the ‘e’ word uttered than the educationalists showed their age and trotted out that Martini thing (you know – ‘anytime,
, any place’, three sentiments, two of which mean the same thing).
Now, the Martini claim is a grand one and, of course, overstated. If anything, the claim applies more appropriately to books, which are more portable and require less sophisticated connectivity than computers (although they can’t mark your assessments in a nanosecond or allow you to engage in chat sessions across continents). Yes, online learning does add something unique and
to the educational toolkit but no, not really anyplace.
As we all know, the idea of independent,
learning is hardly new. People have sat
and reflected on experience for thousands of years, and with the aid of books for hundreds. In 1840, Sir Isaac Pitman taught shorthand by mail, heralding the arrival of correspondence
. The idea that this form of learning requires a special place, away from the madding
, came in the early 80s, with the first
learning centres. Forgive me if I reminisce. Was it really 20 years ago now when I opened the pretentiously-titled ‘computer learning centre’ at American Express, complete with an on-screen
of resources, navigated with a light pen, and induction courses running on Apple II computers connected to VHS players? With a blaze of launch publicity, the centre was well used, particularly at
times and after work. Is it there now? No, of course not. People don’t really use learning
, do they?
Learners have choices
Although ‘anyplace’ learning seems a little far-
, learners really do have choices about where they e-learn. They can learn at their desktops, if they work at a desk, or, if they’re out and about, practically
they can take their laptop and get a connection. They can learn at home, where a large proportion of the population now have access to the Internet, or in a learning
– at their workplace, a college or a library – which is designed
for the job.
That’s the theory. We’ve had a few
now to test this model out in practice and see where it is that learners actually want to learn and, perhaps more importantly, where they are actually able to learn. So, what do we now know?
We do know that learning at the desktop is easier said than done. In particular, learners complain that continual interruptions are an annoying distraction. As significantly, others feel embarrassed that learning at the desktop can appear to their managers and colleagues as if they are playing rather than working.
But some organizations do make a success of learning at the desktop. Steve Dineen is CEO of e-learning developer fuel: “The culture of the company makes a big difference – how far on the road it is to becoming a learning company and adopting e-learning fully. For example, 70% of learning at Cisco is online and the CEO is a great advocate. As a result, when people are learning at their PCs within Cisco it is seen as acceptable by their peers and their management.” According to Ian Ruddy, Head of Human Resources, Cisco Systems UK and Ireland: “We offer additional incentives and rewards such as stock grants, promotions and bonuses to employees who
specialisation, certification and qualifications earned with the help of e-learning. We monitor Cisco executives on their deployment of e-learning as a strategic top-down metric. Our aim is make e-learning a part of
’ daily life at Cisco, by making it easily accessible via the Web.” The result? Cisco was ranked the number one Best Company to work for in the UK in February 2001 and e-learning was mentioned as one of the contributory reasons.
Dineen: “The style of office also has a big part to play. For example, a survey that we
of 300 employees at Cable & Wireless in the West Indies, told us that 85%
to learn at their work PCs. Their environment was really conducive to e-learning, with lots of space between desks, a friendly atmosphere and a supportive management team. On the other hand, an environment such as a trading floor will be far too loud and busy to allow learners to concentrate.”