Even with all the hype surrounding the "whiz bang" training technologies now available (see figure* below), most corporate training is still delivered face-to-face. According to the 2007 ASTD State of the Industry Report, 65.3 percent of all training was delivered in a traditional format in 2006, down a little more than 10 percent from 2001 (76 percent). If you had asked a training industry expert in 2001 what the landscape would look like in five years, the estimate of the amount of training delivered via the traditional classroom would have been a lot lower.
As quoted during his 2003 TechLearn Conference, noted expert in learning and workplace productivity Elliott Masie said, "E-learning soon will become as ubiquitous as email." A number of things have kept that vision from coming to pass. One of the reasons alternative delivery methods have not been adopted as quickly as anticipated is inertia - it simply is easier to deliver content the traditional way. For example, organizations commonly maintain the same training program year after year with no consideration of how that content might need to be adapted to changes in work environments, marketplace, or technologies. Often, the result is stagnant, out-of-date programs that do not contribute to individual employee performance or support current business goals. Organizations that do not have the capacity to update traditionally delivered programs do not consider new delivery formats.
Another reason for slower adoption is the information technology infrastructure of an organization - including availability of appropriate bandwidth, security protocols, and networks - which have not been able to support technology-based training initiatives. IT departments have been consumed with more pressing initiatives, such as data security. As time passes, these technological roadblocks are being removed, even for smaller organizations.
So while adoption has been slower than expected, more and more organizations are beginning to migrate content online, and have identified the business need to have content delivered in the most efficient way possible. Hence, organizations have displayed an increased interest in blended learning, which takes the best of all training methodologies from the perspectives of demographics, economics, and instruction.
Demographics. For the most part, the demographic factors that affect learning in the workplace concern the population of learners. Especially in today's globally diverse work environments, organizations need to make adjustments for multiple languages, various time zones, multiple generations, and cultural differences. While the content of a learning program may be the same (basic selling skills, for example), the design or delivery may have to be altered to accommodate varying demographics of the audience.
Economics. Often, training delivery options are dictated by the economics involved. For example, classroom-based training requires travel expenses, the maintenance or rental of classroom space, and the printing and reproduction of materials. Computer-based training options are more economical in many ways; however, they require their own set of economic decisions, such as adequate server space, the hosting of a website, or reproduction of CD-ROMs
Instruction. The design of the actual instruction can vary greatly based on things such as individual learning styles, how immediate the need is for the training, or what access learners have to instructional methodologies. Do they have individual computer workstations? Are they able to leave their jobs to attend a four-hour or eight-hour training class?
Note: This article is excerpted from Tailored Learning: Designing the Blend That Fits.
Jennifer Hofmann specializes in synchronous learning and is president of the consulting firm InSync Training. She holds a MEd in instructional technology and distance education and has been instrumental in developing the synchronous learning expert curriculum. Active in the e-learning field since 1997, Hofmann blends best practices in facilitation and instructional design with her expansive knowledge of web-based delivery platforms and synchronous instruction.
Nanette Miner has been an instructional designer for more than two decades and is the founder of The Training Doctor, a consulting firm that designs learning programs that make subject matter experts' knowledge and skills more easily employed by others. Miner's unique talent allows curriculum to be designed for all delivery mediums, from traditional classroom to e-learning, including a wide variety of blended mediums. She is a popular conference speaker and an accomplished author, as well as founder of the nonprofit organization, The Accidental Trainer, a support group for people who find themselves in training situations.
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