Where To Start

Dec. 21, 2004
Focus on the business issues to be solved with e-learning, experts say.

Companies that want to adopt e-learning strategies must take a longer-term view of training investments. "E-learning requires a multiyear commitment rather than single year expenses," says John Humphrey, chairman, Forum Corp., Boston. Once top management understands and supports that commitment there are technological investments to be made: a common computer platform, computers with sound cards, headphones for each potential e-learner, and adequate bandwidth -- which varies based on the number of employees and Internet use within the company. "If everyone in the company has different technology platforms, you have to look at the difficulties of integrating electronic training into your entire network system," explains Jeanne Meister, founder and president of Corporate University Xchange, New York. And, if you are sharing information with customers and supply-chain partners, you must build the proper firewalls to prevent the information from going beyond those walls. Next, you must alleviate the fears. "The culture thing is the biggest barrier and will continue to be the biggest barrier," says Cliff Purington, manager of learning and development at Rockwell Collins, a division of Rockwell International Corp. "You must get people to accept new ways of doing things and new standards for what constitutes successful learning. It has nothing to do with seat time or the average hours of training, but rather whether they are getting the information they need to do their jobs." Corporate University Xchange's Meister agrees. "Corporate educators need to create a whole new set of e-learning measures," she says. "They need to measure success by asking people: Did they get the information they needed, were they satisfied, and were they an active participant? The success of e-learning is measured by how many people say they would take another e-learning course." Those with successful programs suggest you focus e-learning on the business issue you want to solve. "If you are focused on technology, you are destined to failure," says Purington. "You must focus on business problems you want to address and find technology to solve them." What's more, don't try to develop all the courses on your own, because poorly developed, outdated, or boring content will kill an e-learning initiative. "It is too expensive and too important to be reinvented from a blank page," says Ron Dickson, training benchmark manager, Intel Corp. John Con, president of Dell Computer Corp.'s Dell Learning Center, agrees. "You have to get people who know how to do what you want to do. That is much faster than waiting for in-house people to get up to speed."

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