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Blended learning / Human factorsVirtual Classrooms and Learning Management / Delivery methods

There are enormous benefits to be gained from multimedia and e-learning if used in a "blended learning" approach.  Essentially this means using multimedia to enhance conventional, trainer-led learning.   

Also, because of the flexibility that can be built into the navigation, the same learning materials can be tailored to the needs of a variety of audiences and learners' performance recorded.

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For example, a flexible, media-rich 3-disk CD-ROM package made by Enlightenment for a major building society was used for:

  • pre-course work for experienced branch staff about to attend a course at head office on mortgage interviewing (this saved the equivalent of a day's conventional training)
  • a visual aid for the mortgage interview course itself
  • part of the induction training for junior branch staff
  • open learning for head office staff
  • CPD and refresher training for existing mortgage interviewers
  • training of branch managers and supervisors to assess mortgage interviewers for quality and compliance purposes

There have been some wild claims that e-learning and other forms of multimedia would save businesses a fortune by delivering training to the desktop and cutting out travel time, accommodation costs, trainers' salaries, etc., but experience has shown that trying to cut the human element out of the loop does not necessarily work. Trainer-led learning and e-learning need to be blended.

Problems with e-learning can be that:

  • learners are distracted by colleagues and normal work activity
  • learning at the desktop gets lower priority, lower value
  • there may not be the opportunity to question the trainer
  • interaction with other learners may be missing

Virtual Classroom technology can be used to link trainers and trainees as an alternative to a face-to-face session.  For example, trainees could be required to complete a module by a certain date and then log on to the company's intranet at a given time to discuss the topic with the trainer and other learners.  Virtual Classroom technology is built in to some Learning Management Systems, or is available as stand alone software, such as Webex, available from Qualtix.

Learning Management Systems can be used to control and record access to e-learning and other forms of multimedia. A particular benefit in financial services is to record the trainee's performance and level of understanding of regulated topics. (see the Learning Management section of this site for more information).

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Delivery Methods

E-learning (Internet/intranet)
  • minimal distribution cost
  • easily controlled through LMS
  • rapid to update and easy to manage
  • rarely "media rich" (ie with video, audio, etc) so less appeal to the learner
  • can cause congestion of the network
  • if network busy, graphics and pictures can be slow to download
  • highly interactive
  • "media rich", able to deliver video, audio, etc
  • capacity of 650MB +
  • updates may require re-issue of disks
  • multimedia capable PC required by learner
  • excellent video quality
  • multi-language soundtracks possible
  • capacity >25 x CD-ROM
  • limited interactivity
  • requires DVD drive in PC
  • costs of mastering and replication
  • complex and changing standards
Hybrid (CD-ROM intranet linked)
  • very rapid updates
  • ability to set up Virtual Classrooms, etc
  • "media rich"

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