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Online Training

Read about online training and software-based programs.

Online training allows employees to update their skills while remaining at work. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Online training allows employees to update their skills while remaining at work.

Online training is a convenient way for employees to learn while remaining at work. This type of training usually involves software-based programs installed on a computer network or available at a third-party Web site. Online training can also be conducted off site at a school run by a third-party resource. As technologies emerge and rapidly evolve, businesses and their employees need to keep pace with these changes. Upgrading employees' technological skills can help established businesses remain competitive.

Control Data Corporation is often credited as an online employee training pioneer, developing its PLATO education platform in the 1960s. One of the first and largest online training programs is offered by GoLearn.gov for U.S. government agency employees.

What are online training courses?

Today's online training courses are typically structured with accessible teaching reference materials, informal pop quizzes and formal testing or a final exam. Common online testing questions can be structured as multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank or even essays. Online training program styles can be simple and text-based or they can include more sophisticated presentations employing Flash animations and audio-video content.

The online employee training instructor role can vary. Instructors can serve as course architects or authors, course navigators or guides, traditional course lecturers, teacher-to-student individual mentors and/or testing administrators.

Employers may choose to create their own employee e-learning programs using authoring tools provided by training companies. For example, www.learn.com develops and sells tools that easily create Flash-based interactive courses that include quizzes, tests, learning games and simulations. Even giant technology companies offer online training courses and platforms; for example, IBM and its Lotus Learning Management System.

Who uses online employee training courses?

Common online employee training objectives include:

  • Professional certification for IT employees
  • Employee skill upgrades for Web design as well as application simulation tools for learning other types of office software
  • Compliance training for employee safety (OSHA and HIPAA) as well as other employee human resources issues
  • Customer service training for call center and help desk employees
  • Project management training
  • Online training for human resource professionals
  • Electronic performance support systems (EPSS), an intranet information platform, that enable employees to immediately access on-the-job information and performance improvement tools
  • Workplace knowledge management systems (KM) that serve as a collaborative employee-to-employee learning tool within a company
  • Online employee performance assessment and training workflow management
  • Centralizing professional information into an accessible online library
  • Employer tracking and evaluating employee professional development

Why does a company need online employee training courses?

There are many questions for employers to ask before launching online employee training programs, such as:

  • What are the specific employee skills and marketplace needs that require upgrading?
  • Should the employer hire an outside online education consultant to match employee needs with a training platform?
  • Should the training program be exclusive to the company's computer network? If so, should maintenance and administrative duties for the training program be done in-house or by the training program vendor?
  • Should employees author their own in-house e-learning course work or should the employer purchase existing course work from a third-party online training company?
  • Should online course work be aimed at single or multiple users?
  • Should online course work be completely self-directed or coordinated with a live trainer available via chatroom or by phone? Can the course content be delivered online coupled with a live on-site lecturer? (The latter approach is called blended learning.)
  • Should online course work include additional collaborative technologies like teleconferencing, whiteboards, online chatrooms, podcasting, wikis, e-mail, online forums, listservs, newsgroups and blogs?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of online training courses?

The main disadvantage of online training is that, like all emerging technologies, computer networks can experience a variety of problems that could make the experience more trouble than its worth.

The main advantage of online training is that course work can be easily and immediately updated to accommodate business technology and operation changes; also, mistakes in the materials can be quickly corrected. Another advantage is that learning materials can be accessed in bits from a variety of online delivery platforms (mobile and otherwise) when needed from anywhere.

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