The e-learning

The development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) at the end of the 1990s has drastically modified the landscape of vocational training with the birth of a new field of activity, e-learning.

Image provided to Microsoft by iClipart. Used with permission from MicrosoftThis business, however, has encountered hardships at its start as companies lacked the material equipment in addition to the inadequacy of the products to informatics tools, with service providers settling with the conversion of paper content into digital aids.

But in a few years, the generalisation of broad band internet, the cost cuts and the emergence of more game-oriented online tools have sped up the process.

In order to meet the ever-growing different demands, e-learning had to engage in an industrialization process to reduce the so-called pedagogical engineering. In terms of content, office automation and foreign languages cater for most part of online-training, but other more acute special crafts are more and more considered. For instance, a consortium of European universities has set up a Euro MBA in 1996 which stands among the best e-learning curricula.

E- learning: A market that is building up

Used with permission from MicrosoftE-learning involves a whole chain of service providers and the implementation of varied and cross-disciplinary competencies: software creators, content producers, telecommunication operators, trainers, new learners' profiles.

With the proliferation of stakeholders and supplies, the business still looks like a market that is building up, lacking structures and economically unsettled. The sector involves ill-assorted practices with unequal budgetary constraints and profitability calculations. For producers, the key issues are the schemes' production costs, the systems' efficiency and return on investment.

Fashion-compliant, the business is subject to numerous investigations and surveys in Europe as well as in the United States. In most cases, conclusions underscore the economic merits of e-learning in comparison with traditional learning. In light of the sector's early age, its advantages can neither be transformed nor generalised.

In the United States, for instance, the main factor accounting for the infatuation about e-learning is the reduction of learning costs. For 70% of corporate business, transport and accommodation savings top the list of satisfaction motives. 

E-learning is still practiced as part of the syllabus. Currently, the most widespread scheme in large companies consists in a combination of attendance-bound and e-learning.

Yet, the trend is towards a further expansion of e-learning. Breakthroughs are achieved on a daily basis to improve the format of the content through the integration, within the programs, of flash technologies, videos and interactive exercises which create a more lively and game-oriented environment which is getting closer to video games.

Everywhere, renowned training and consulting institutes are turning into e-learning entities where new tools are adapted and products are diversified.

E-learning : a new technique, new practices, a new culture

Used with permission from Microsoft

Thanks to the internet, e-learning is radically modifying the traditional teacher-learner relationships. Apart from the democratisation of the procedure, e-learning's major innovation is the introduction, within corporate milieus, of an exchange culture which has shattered the vertical and horizontal patterns of the classical transmission of data and knowledge.

At the level of the community, the creation of plans designed for all wage earners regardless of rank has contributed to the development of know-how and to the integration of the corporate comprehensive strategy at all levels. The involvement of managers in the plans, in particular, stands as a driving force for the dissemination of good practices among collaborators. 

At the individual level, the system's flexibility enables each participant to dig deeper into precise issues at a suitable pace and to have permanent access to information, statistics and databases.

Corporate world, experiment laboratories of e-learning

The big companies endowed with training entities have been used as laboratories where new procedures were tested.

The implementation of e-learning has required a considerable preparation upstream for the assessment and the definition of needs, the updating of information and the adoption of coaching measures of legal, hierarchical, pedagogical, technical natures as well as for the organisation of work, …

Main benefits to e-learning

  • Reduction of training and learning costs
  • Time saving: suppression of daily commuting and the physical presence of trainer
  • Smoothness and flexibility of the scheme: Tailor-made, customized, module-based training
  • Efficiency: defining the objectives, progress assessment and validation of knowledge
  • Possibility to reuse programs
  • Mutualisation of structures and knowledge
  • A wider target population
  • Faster, easier, interactive learning
  • Knowledge standardisation in corporate milieu
  • Creation of a corporate culture
  • Creation of team's spirit
  • Higher competency among collaborators whose needs are satisfied

Constraints and limitations of the e-learning

When setting up an e-learning system, the first constraint pertains to the conditions of realisation which require a clear identification of the project and of its structure to make it accessible to learners.

The scheme management means the adoption of practical measures of adaptation of the learners' professional environment through the provision of training time and space outside the working framework in order to stimulate motivation.

E-learning, the future solution

Used with permission from MicrosoftDespite the constraints, e-learning stands as the real solution of the future, especially in the countries where companies are faced with a heavy deficit in human competencies. In the absence of appropriate teaching tools and plans and above all of coaching staff, the basic learning of insurance crafts and the introduction to management are poised to be high potential niches for e-learning.

The last example illustrating the growing interest in this tool and its more and more obvious efficiency is the decision of a company like Generali which announced the creation of an e-learning plan for 6 000 of its staff members in 2008.

New crafts

Out of need, new professions have been created. Henceforth, many universities are proposing certificate courses of designer-moderator of online training with a view to:

  • designing and conducting e-training projects
  • acquiring methodological skills for the coaching of projects in training engineering
  • elaborating module-like training programs adapted to needs
  • making use of multimedia technological potential to create teaching resources
  • developing the competencies required by the new training situations
  • create and moderate a learning community
  • set up a certification book and ensure control of its use
  • testing a training environment

Insurance e-learning, the AXA example

A real pioneer in the field, the French group started e-learning since the 1970s when a total of 98 000 staff members scattered around 25 countries managed to benefit from it.

Used with permission from MicrosoftThe implementation of the e-learning has been carried out progressively. It led to a large consultation designed to convince, sensitize and mobilise leaders, trainers and human resources officers, explaining to wage earners the scheme and its benefits.

The company set up a resource centre for the creation of content with tutorial on request. In this new context, the learner determines with a trainer/tutor the plan that is appropriate to his or her needs. The training lasts between 40 and 400 hours per learner.

The topics are duty-oriented: drafting a claim letter, strategy for the conquest of a market share, reorganising a service or launching a new product.

Each module is designed as a case study endowed with a scenario, a structure and a plan whose objective is to cover all situations and provide appropriate responses.

AXA developed “cross knowledge” curricula which include e-learning sessions for seminars; the scheme has the advantage of upgrading all learners to basic notions.

E-learning: a new field, a new lexicon

E-learning: A learning method requiring a combination of interactive contents and multimedia, distribution aids (PC, Internet, Intranet, Extranet), a set of software tools which allows the coaching of a learner, the processing of online information and eventually tools for the animation of interactive training.

E-training or online training: A training program that is accessible on the Internet or Intranet. The Internet technology enables us to be trained in a visual and interactive environment.

Attendance-based training: It is also called “Classroom training”. The term “attendance-based” is used to refer to the time when the individuals taking a course are gathered in the same area with a trainer. It corresponds to the traditional learning method, with a top-down approach for a pre-defined period of time. 

Virtual classrooms: Distance exchange in real time between a trainer and scattered learners. The lesson operates through the sharing of applications thanks to a specific software, and the tutor may intervene on the learner's screen.

Blended e-learning: A mixed setting combining online training with an intervener acting as a tutor and classroom lessons.

Cross knowledge program: Internet training coupled with seminars to align everyone on the same level of basic notions.

Training customisation: The learner is regarded as a unique individual with a certain level, a set of competencies, needs and ultimately preferences. The training customisation takes into account the characteristics of each learner tailoring to everyone the environment and the context of training, a course and resources as well as the methodologies of learning.

Teaching engineering: A set of procedures and tasks which defines the substance of a training course. It means identifying the targeted knowledge and competencies, realising a teaching setting for the course activities, and defining the infrastructures, the resources and the services required for the provision of the courses with quality assurance.

Learner monitoring: Monitoring consists in following the learner's course of activities during his or her training period. This follow-up is set according to the significant data gathered in the course of the training, in keeping with the syllabus and the frequency integrated during the design of teaching resources. These data reflect the learner's working methodology, the hardships encountered, acquisition and periods of slowdown.

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