Link to Learn

March 1, 2005

A new e-learning initiative succeeds more often when upper management supports it.

Tammy Weidner, vice president of Six Sigma at Mount Carmel Hospital in Ohio, says that her hospital system has not used e-learning for its Six Sigma training. Instead, she says, "the culture [of the organization] has benefited from the interactive approach that the traditional classroom environment offers."

These are the issues facing senior executives today as momentum to implement learning and training solutions grows in the new millennium. With innovative learning solutions emerging as a result of new audio and visual technologies for Intranet and Internet platforms, executives find e-learning to be a cost-effective and high-return-on-investment tool to maximize knowledge transfer to the organization. E-learning also has turned out to be a low risk and defensible way to maximize training in order to cope with the regulatory environment facing global healthcare today.

E-LEARNING DEFINED E-learning is best defined as "distance-learning-structured content or learning experiences delivered or enabled by electronic techniques." Such a definition includes courses delivered by the Internet, an Intranet, a CD, streamed audio and/or visual video and virtual environments with or without a mentor. The content can be delivered synchronously (live) or asynchronously (at a time convenient for the learner, at his or her own pace).

BLENDED LEARNING AND THE CHALLENGE OF LEARNING The cost savings in adopting e-learning solutions should be balanced with pragmatic approaches that augment traditional classroom teaching and text-based learning.

Most people would agree that the ideal learning environment in most cases is a superb teacher who interacts with the students. The drawbacks of live teaching are cost, the inability to accommodate different paces of learning, the difficulty in standardizing information, geographical separation in a large organization, the fact that some teachers are not always inspiring, the inability to provide each student with feedback along the way, and the tendency of students to slip into the passive mode of listening to a lecture.

UniversityOf HealthCare had the task of transforming costly instructor training for one area of pharmaceutical regulations to asynchronous online training for thousands of Bristol-Myers Squibb employees around the globe. They used stories, humor, interactivity, text, and graphics to provide most of what all but the best instructors could deliver, at a savings of millions of dollars.

The combination of synchronous (live and Internet-enabled) and asynchronous learning is called "blended learning." A variety of media can enhance any of those modalities. Blended learning is an ideal framework for action; training professionals call upon the most effective combination of learning delivery media and modality to engage learners in the most successful way possible. A good example would be a HIPAA training course on fundamentals delivered asynchronously online, followed by a synchronous Web-based lecture and classroom training, and contact with an expert on a message board, finally concluding with an online test to verify understanding.