RSS icon

Top Stories

Interview The Online training Revolution

In an interview with Workforce, Steve Zahm, the co-founder and vice president of DigitalThink, talks about the new world of digital training.

June 4, 1999
Recommend (0) Comments (0)
Related Topics: Basic Skills Training, Training Technology
Reprints
Are you thinking about moving some of your skills training online? In an interview with Workforce, Steve Zahm, the co-founder and vice president of DigitalThink, talks about the new world of digital training.

 

What should a company look for when choosing an online training company?
Look for "true Web-based training." This means training that includes all lessons, exercises and collaboration within the Web browser. Also, look for tutor support of courses by real experts -- people who review student exercises and provide feedback throughout the course.

What infrastructure should a company have already in place to begin?
True Web-based training is effective because it doesn’t require any additional infrastructure investment. Students should simply have a computer that is connected to the Internet and can run a Web browser. If a student can access a search engine such as Yahoo!(R), they should have everything they need to take a Web-based training course.

What types of training are being done online?
Nearly anything that can be taught in a classroom can be taught online. The exception? Face-to-face teaching that involves reading body language, gestures, or facial expressions.

What about videoconferencing, which allows you to see another person online?
Videoconferencing and other synchronous tools have their uses, but not for training. They’re useful for making presentations or communicating information using "audio-graphics."

Again, remember what the advantages of Web-based training are -- collapsing time and distance. Synchronous tools collapse distance, but the whole time challenge, i.e., scheduling meetings between several people, still exists with these tools.

For example, you can easily have a conference call using the phone. Has this made it any easier to schedule a meeting? If you’re like everyone at my company, it’s just as hard to schedule a videoconference as a face-to-face meeting.

I’m not saying it’s not simpler with regards to not having to travel, and so on. I’m just saying that people are always busy, and I can send an e-mail or voice-mail much more easily than I can schedule either a meeting or a teleconference. E-mails and voice-mails are asynchronous, and that’s why they’re used so much more than synchronous forms of communication. Face-to-face instruction online will occur, and much of it will have to be synchronous. But the asynchronous variety (e.g., streaming video) is not really effective today.

Are trainers trained enough?
Interestingly, classroom trainers often do not make the best online tutors or instructors. The skills required for online instruction are the ability to communicate effectively via e-mail, and the talent to conduct an engaging dialogue in text. Classroom trainers often rely on in-person dynamics to teach effectively, and may find that training via e-mail support is not their preferred means of teaching.

Does Web-based training have potential for laziness, with the trainer thinking they don’t need to offer human help?
We’ve found that online training succeeds because of human help, and rarely without added human help. Online training should never be about removing people from the training experience. Instead, it’s about collapsing the twin factors of time and distance. Note that getting rid of time and distance as limitations has nothing to do with getting rid of people. It simply makes training more convenient for the learner.

Is there a lack of employee skills (i.e. Internet savvy) to do the training itself?
Well-designed training doesn’t require technical skills. The Internet did not get to have more than 120 million people using it because it’s difficult to learn. For example, online training that requires users to start off by installing "plug-ins" to their browser is poorly designed online training. The Internet is becoming a ubiquitous part of everyone’s life -- employee skills in using the Internet should have nothing to do with the ability to take online training.

How is Web-based training saving companies money?
The reason why companies should investigate online training is because it’s convenient and effective for students. This means students actually enroll in courses and, most importantly, complete those classes. This helps companies create and retain skilled workers. Readers should ask themselves, "Is there any other way to significantly increase the amount of training our company does each year?" and "Can our company stand not to significantly increase the amount of training we do?"

What’s the one area or thing HR professionals could do tomorrow to improve employee skills?
Use the Web to buy a book or airline tickets online. Once you have an appreciation for what it means to use the Internet, learn about online training. Go to one of the many sites online and learn about online training. Once you understand the power of the Web for everything from shopping to research, get your employees online. Stop coming up with reasons not to be online, and start empowering people to be on the Internet.

Recent Articles by Todd Raphael

Comments

Hr Jobs

Loading
View All Job Listings