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-9. How does needing an instructor affect your e-learning solution?

- Depending on whether you need an instructor, you can get very different e-learning solutions.

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Yes, it is always better to have an instructor. And it would be better yet if you had the best instructor in the world all the time too. Instructors can play a crucial role in training, the same role they play in classroom training. Instructors help keep the students focused, help keep them on track, and help motivate them.

Given that,

- You need to realize that instructors are a cost element. Almost all instructors expect to get paid one way or another for teaching courses.

- Also, instructors can be hard to find—some courses need instructors with very specialized skills.

- Finally, instructors are a scheduling constraint. An instructor can handle dozens, but not hundreds, of students at a time.

You don t always need an instructor with e-learning, but if you do need an instructor to make the training effective, then you should by all means get the instructor. Think of it this way: There are hundreds of books on "how to learn to play the piano." But most people who want to learn piano don t go to the bookstore and try to teach themselves. They go to the nearest piano teacher and take lessons.

-10. How does the need for collaboration affect your e-learning solution?

- Depending on whether you think you need collaboration, you can get very different e-learning solutions.

Tell Me More

In general, it s good to have the ability for students to interact with other students while they take the course. This is called collaboration, and it simply means that one student can talk to another. It s the analog of talking to the student in the seat beside you when you re in a classroom.

Collaboration can get more involved than just talking. In a classroom, you sometimes want students to break into small teams, solve a problem, and then report back to the full class. That s collaboration too.

If you need such collaboration, then your e-learning delivery system (or LMS) needs to be able to support this collaboration. It might be implemented by:

- Students posting messages to a bulletin board or threaded discussion page.

- Students using an instant messaging function to send real-time messages back and forth.

- Students using "voice over the Internet" to talk.

- Students using video cameras to send pictures.

The question you have to ask is how much collaboration is enough. Think in terms of classroom courses you have attended: In some, it was crucial to interact with the other students, but in others you might never have spoken to another student because it was designed as a lecture class.

In short, collaboration is always a good thing because having others to talk to can help the students focus, help keep them on track, and help motivate them.

However, you do need to look at how much you really want to spend on collaboration in order to make a course more effective.

-11. How do measurement needs affect your e-learning solution?

- Depending on what you need to measure, you can get very different e-learning solutions.

Tell Me More

As a businessperson, you're interested in e-learning because it can have a positive effect on your business. So you're going to want to know whether that's happening. You're going to want reports that tell you what's going on and whether the goals you established are being achieved.

Some of the things you might want to measure with e-learning are:

- Who's taken what courses?

- Are the new skills or new knowledge actually being learned?

- Are the new skills or new knowledge making a business impact on the job?

If you're only training a few people, then you can handle this manually. But as you start to scale up with your e-learning usage, keeping all this straight will quickly become complex. And you will need an automated assist to manage this complexity. You will need a learning management system (LMS), which is an e-learning application that helps you manage the entire e-learning environment (including reports).

Note: Chapter 9 of this book goes into greater detail about the capabilities of learning management systems.

So if measurements are important, you will almost by definition want to think of your e-learning solution within the context of an LMS.

Summary

There are only a handful of factors that influence how big and complex your e-learning solution will be. These are the factors you trade off in order to come up with an acceptable (but probably imperfect) e-learning solution.

The following factors pull your e-learning solutions in different directions:

Learning problem/budget

Does your budget match your problem—big to big or small to small. Or do you have a mismatch of small to big?

Number of students

Are you looking to train dozens or hundreds of thousands of students with e-learning?

Student time available for training

Can the students spend weeks or only a couple of hours in training?

Time to build

Do you have months or days to develop the training course?

Deadline for training everyone

Do you have a deadline to get people to a certain training level? For example, all salespeople need to be trained by

September. When deadlines are a key factor, you might look closer at less than ideal but still effective solutions.

Long-term versus short-term shelf life

Will the e-learning training you create be good for years, or is it a one-shot deal?

Starting and ending skill levels

Is your training focused on new skills or on update information for people who already have the skills?

Need for an instructor

Do you need instructors for the training, or can you use self-directed e-learning?

Need for collaboration

Do you need students to interact with other students? How should the instructor interact with students?

Measurement needs

What degree of student achievement will be satisfactory for your training? How will you be able to tell?

 
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