Back of the class for Irish e-learning

30 Jan 2003

Touted as the ‘anywhere, any time’ training solution, e-learning has yet to make a serious impact among Ireland’s training community.

The idea that it would replace inexpensive ‘chalk and talk’ techniques is largely unrealised according to home-grown training specialists.

Even the vendors of e-learning courseware accept that its capabilities are still limited.

“In the beginning we all probably put too much emphasis on the ‘e-‘ and not enough on the ‘learning’ part,” says Paul Colbert, director of the Educational Multimedia Group.

A similar acknowledgement is made by Jonny Parkes, managing director of The Electric Paper Company: “E-learning is maturing and we are ourselves learning all the time. What we are sure of is that this kind of training works – and works very well – but only for some types of content, some people and in some contexts.”

Emmett Hedigan, managing director of training specialist Unlimited says: “To date, e-learning has failed to deliver on its promise. It is very effective for PC literacy and the ECDL (European computer driving licence) and IC3, fundamentals which in a sense should or could precede traditional forms of training so that students would get better value because of the groundwork. It is also proven to work well in induction programmes. For example, where new employees are introduced to procedures and desktop interface to the organisation’s systems can be readily simulated.”

The strength of e-learning in his view is that it is scalable, infinitely repeatable and consistent – especially in testing – in a way that is not possible where the human factors predominate.

Where the technology is used for in-company training, the key to value is to choose content areas that will not change too much or too quickly.

That ‘human factor’, on the other hand, is the basis of the effectiveness of traditional training. “A full 95pc of the demand we see is for instructor-led training,” says Mike Prendergast, managing director of Dublin’s Eden Training which runs courses across the IT skills range.

“People are more comfortable with it, quite simply, and so more confident to invest in it. But e-learning and old fashioned teaching are not in competition – they are complementary and each subject area and type and level of training will find its natural balance,” he says.

By Leslie Faughnan