Maximise mixed instruction

correct role for e-learning is to support a variety of training experiences,
says Paolo Barone

learning technologies (or e-learning as it is now known) hold out the promise
of inexpensive, convenient training that produces better results faster.

to recent research, training is now moving on-line for the same reason that
companies moved into outsourcing a decade ago. On-line training is not
necessarily better, but it’s usually cheaper and easier to measure.

is a long-standing debate within the field of education regarding the role and
value of technology in teaching and learning. The debate has raged and will
continue to do so with the introduction of each new technology into the

centres on the degree to which technology improves learning, if in fact it
does. There are claims that technology can motivate, that learners can retain
information more effectively and efficiently, but studies have failed to prove
this accurately.

key reason these claims are difficult to prove is that it is not really
possible to compare learning outcomes in a training room versus a
technology-based environment.

e-learning should not be about using technology to replace training rooms and
purely reduce costs.

learning moves closer to the job, mixed-instruction media addresses the need
for more just-in-time and project-based learning, performance support, open and
distance learning, expert assistance and a generally greater variety of events
and experiences.

e-learning technologies should be used to link training to business goals in
order to achieve the best possible business results.

training will continue to play an important role for several reasons: it is the
best delivery approach for certain types of high-level learning and is the way
some people prefer to learn.

emerging learning model mixes on-line learning for information transfer and
procedural skill training, classroom learning for role plays and face-to-face
discussions, and on-the-job learning, integrated with knowledge management and
competency evaluation.

key success factors for any learning – either “e” or “non-e” – initiatives are,
and will always be, detailed need analysis, media selection, good design and
people motivation.

is an active process requiring attention and mental effort. While some learners
may be ready and want to learn, and may be able to do so in spite of the format
of the instruction, other less ready or less interested participants may not
learn, regardless of the format. In other words, when sufficiently motivated
and prepared, individuals continue to learn an amazing amount, regardless of
the media used, but when interest or motivation is lacking, even the best
materials cannot compensate.

are amazingly good at adapting to and learning from a wide range of media. The
role of the instructional designers, trainers and organisations is to provide
them with the best designed, balanced and integrated training media mix to
benefit from any media available.

an organisation is defining its own strategy for e-learning, it should pay
attention to trying to do the right thing from the very beginning, focusing on
selecting the correct media for the correct message. The lesson learned from
many organisations in this area is that early errors will be very costly and
can kill the whole e-learning effort.  

Barone is e-Learning manager at Raytheon Professional Services, e-mail:

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