The impact of global economy brought about a drastic change after e-learning came into focus in India. Earlier people, organisations were trained face-to-face with respect to their domain or specialisation. However this was not found to be very effective since it was time consuming and the process was slow, especially on a global platform. As a result organisations were willing to try out a simpler, less time consuming and more economical method of imparting knowledge or training their employees. There have been several articles addressing this issue in Online courses: a learning opportunity with a broader outreach and Online courses as a learning opportunity. In this article I have attempted to address some issues from an Indian perspective.
In this process several companies invested in introducing alternative methods to provide training. E-learning was one of the most popular methods which provided companies with an opportunity to train people at their convenience. They did not have to rely on human resource (trainer) to initiate the training process . Most of the delivery process was automated and simple so that it did not require a face-to-face training approach. E-learning also provided the flexibility to evaluate a person’s performance based on a series of test and online reviews. This provided immediate results to organisations who wanted to increase their workforce based on competency.
A person had the flexibility of being trained in multiple domains. Trainings could be customised to include the trainees, domains, time-zone and setting expectations on a global platform.
E-learning in domains
The concept of e-learning provides an opportunity for a person to get engaged in learning multiple domains from one location. Since most of the domain requirements for training are not available in one location, a person sitting in one location can access the training from different geographical locations.
The following are some domains that adopted e-learning as a medium of training:
- Written communications – use of appropriate grammar, structuring content for a particular audience
- Health and fitness – to create awareness about products or products available in the market.
- Professional etiquette – This training is usually provided to new employees and anyone who requires it. For example there are instances when a person shifts from a blue collared job to a white collared job. They require enhancing their existing skills in order to meet this requirement.
- Product launch and to showcase the product in an appropriate manner – used by advertisement agencies
- Marketing and sale of services – used by sales departments to help them sell a service to an individual or corporate.
According to Albert Lewis, Head, Products, Strategy and Business Excellence, Tata Interactive Services (TIS), “A traditional learning structure does not guarantee the delivery of a consistent message, whereas consistency is assured in e-learning.”
E-learning and individuals
In today’s competitive world it has become imperative that every professional has to constantly upgrade the required knowledge to scale the desired career path. This is not easy, if the person is multitasking, commuting long-distance or has a job that compels frequent traveling.
The need for this constant update on knowledge indirectly reflects on the need for continual training. Organisations cannot train people at random; they need to have a process in place which will ensure the training is delivered to many people at the same time. Individuals vary as per domain expertise, willingness to learn, tactical and practical knowledge etc. Based on this, the training needs to differ in regards to content and delivery technique. Experts can grasp information at a much rapid pace and implement it as well. Whereas, beginners require time to grasp the same amount of information.
Zeinab Sabet in her post on Online courses: a learning opportunity with a broader outreach clearly explains the benefits of doing online training. In addition to this, I would like to add the benefits of e-learning to individuals are numerous. Some of the benefits are listed as follows:
- Self-paced – the trainee can pace their learning based on their comfort level. Clara Richards has clearly drawn some excellent points in Online courses as a learning opportunity
- Improved attention – since there are only a few trainers involved (usually one or two), the concentration level of the trainee increases. This ensures better retention of the training delivered.
- Flexibility – the trainee can even pause the training, complete other tasks, and continue with the training later.
- Self-evaluation – This is not possible in classroom training as the trainer cannot dedicate time only for one trainee.
Though many individuals feel e-learning has been beneficial there are still a few who feel classroom training (face-to-face training) results in better learning. Some of the limitations of e-learning are:
- Technical snags – Systems failure or software malfunction
- Complex training process – technical words used, no logical flow in topics, topics having very short descriptions, topics out-of-scope being discussed, can complex the understanding of the trainee.
- Long training process – For a working professional this means, they have to compromise on other tasks to ensure the completion of the training.
- Domain – when a new domain is involved, there are bound to be confusions as the trainee is following an automated process .
- Clarifications of doubts – doubts need to be addressed only via e-mail, chat, telephone, or by raising queries. There is a time delay in responding and usually not all queries can be addressed via these modes.
As technology grows, man and machine will have to interact with each other to a greater extent compared to today’s scenario. When this cyclical process comes in to play, the society in India has to be ready to accept the change and adapt to the new environment that will define their lifestyle. E-learning has gained a great momentum in India in a large way. Based on the experiences of other countries, India is fashioning the e-learning industry to suit the vast panorama of individuals, universities and organisations.
[Editor’s note: For more blog posts on CSTEP’s experience dealing with think tanks’ decisions read Acknowledging a prominent think tank: the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) in India.]