There has been much debate around the office recently over what online learning is or isn't and of course if it truly is it an effective means to train. I myself have gone back and forth on this issue over the years. In my last position with a large telecom that was spread all across Canada we did a great deal of web based training. The obvious reason for this was the vast distance our company spanned and the number of points of presence was large as well. Trying to get 10,000 people in 2000 locations under one roof for training is a logistical impossibility. For that organization eLearning just makes sense.
The current client that I'm working for is an organization that is hundreds of employees in one location. While online learning may eventually be an option for this organization, they have not officially rolled out their LMS. This particular project is a curriculum of hundreds of short courses that need to be rolled out in the next few months for a business transformation project. While most of these employees already work in similar jobs, the changes in their responsibilities mean subtle differences in what they are used to doing. Our training will make them ready for these changes. I feel we not only can deliver a more robust classroom solution in the short term, but we can avoid the pitfalls of launching a new online learning solution for them as well. I personally would rather spend my time building the training and not troubleshooting if the author-ware will publish results that will upload properly with their LMS and so forth.
If you rely only on online learning, you are also missing several learning domains. If you were given the task of changing an organizations attitude for example (affective domain of learning), I’m not sure you could accomplish this in an e-learning module. Even if it was really well designed, I daresay you could only change the attitude of some of your audience. It also isn’t a very good tool for the psychomotor domain (physical skills), unless the group is learning computer skills. If the group needs to learn how to rebuild an engine, you will never really know if they can rebuild an engine upon completion of an online learning module.
I see online learning as a tool rather than a complete methodology. Even when I worked for the telecom with all the points of presence across the country, we still ran classroom training; we still brought people in for specialized training events. No, I feel that online learning is a training tool, in the same way that flip-chart paper or conducting role plays are training tools. You can use them from time to time when it’s appropriate, however you cannot rely on them exclusively.