Business Reasons for using Distance Learning
The first question to be asked is what is Distance learning? Distance learning, or e-learning is recognised today as a method of transferring skills & knowledge, via the internet or other technology, to deliver learning and training programs. With recent advances in communication technology the method used may be e mail, skype, video-conferencing, snail mail or perhaps a combination of all of these, plus other technology currently being developed.
The next logical question is, ‘Does it work’? The answer has to be, ‘Yes’ because so many respectable and famous colleges and universities around the world (e.g. Cambridge, Oxford, Yale, Harvard) now include courses and qualifications that rely either partly, or heavily, on distance learning to deliver courses. The most effective learning uses a blend of methods and materials to ensure that the knowledge is transferred in a way which best suits both the topic and the student.
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On one hand, face to face teaching is hard to beat but it may not be convenient for the student, and it rarely has access to the teaching support tools, such as video, inter-active exercises and a library of past recorded lessons which distance learning can provide. The ideal solution would be a mixture of face to face and distance learning using all its technological support but this is rarely possible because of the geographic distance separating the trainer from the student. If a choice has to be made then distance learning should be chosen because of its 6 key advantages which we will consider after one last important question every business leader needs to ask about training:
‘Why bother to train the staff – Why not just recruit suitably trained staff in the first place’?
No matter how effective, qualified and competent staff are, there will always be a need for further training. As businesses grow and expand their range of services, compete with rivals, or even discover a need for more staff to deal with extra work-flow they discover that it is cheaper and more effective to train their own staff to deliver the exact range of skills and services needed rather than continually recruit form a shrinking and ever-more expensive labour pool. Internal training also has the huge benefit that it ensures that the new skills are then provided by employees to customers in the style and format they want company employees follow.
So why use Distance learning to achieve your training goals?
From the introduction of new products or service, implementation of new procedures, through to the development of new goals or simply improving existing operations - training is essential - The question being which method of training works best?
Scheduling traditional classroom training has become more problematical and difficult as the business gathers pace. The geographical dispersal of staff adds a further complication – how do you ensure that all staff are trained in exactly the same style, subjects and methods?
Distance learning is fits perfectly into a traditional training program and, in many cases now, can replace it. Whilst a company may still have need for mentoring and personal interaction for most subjects distance learning is an ideal means to communicate information, simulate real life situations and test ability and knowledge of geographically distant staff.
Key Advantages to Businesses of Distance Learning
- It saves time and money by cutting out wasted travel and expenses. In face to face training, the greater the number of students and the more dispersed they are, the more training costs. Usually the expense isn’t even the actual training; the money is spent on airfares, accommodation and refreshments, and hiring a conference venue. In Distance Learning, the cost is the same whether you’re training 1 person or 100 and all of the training budget is spent on the actual training rather than travel or other incidentals.
- Condensed intensive training. Distance Learning lets students concentrate on the exact skills and knowledge required. As a rule of thumb a face to face training programme that requires 2 days of the participant’s time to deliver can usually be converted into 6 to 8 hours of Distance learning time. If there are 8 to 10 people in the class then that is a huge saving of man hours and time away from the workplace.
- Improved use of time and productivity. Distance Learning can be delivered anytime and anywhere at the convenience of the participants or their employers. The y can be at work, home, or commuting to and from work or meetings. It can be arranged so that it causes the minimum disruption to work schedules.
- Consistent. Distance Learning can ensure that all participants receive consistent information and instruction, which can be stored and retrieved whether for revision or for examination by H R Depts.
- Knowledge and Skill retention can be measured. Distance Learning provides facilities, through its library of stored exercises and tests, a way of measuring employee knowledge, effort, skill and ability. Pre-assessments, on-going tests and final exams are usually built into all courses.
- Provide risk-free simulations. Distance Learning allows participants to experience real-life situations in order to simulate real conditions, when they make mistakes, but has the safeguard of allowing them to make these mistakes without the risk of costing the business its customers or its money. Employees can be trained how to deal with technical or complex, touchy situations risk-free to the employer
The cost of Distance Learning
Distance Learning programmes work best when they are specifically tailored for the needs of each employer. They are not one-size-fits-all. Identifying the purpose, participants, and the complexity of the topic before deciding on questions such as the number of units or modules, topics, level of skill or knowledge to be transferred should all be considered before a decision is made on a particular course. We can help you with this and will be glad to talk through your ideas and concerns for free without any obligation to yourselves.