Easy As ABC

No more teachers, no more books. Welcome to the wide world of online learning.

The new wave in employee training is everywhere. "A couple billion dollars a year is [already] spent on Web-based training," says Kevin Oakes, president and chief learning officer of Asymetrix (http://www.asymetrix.com), a Bellevue, Washington, leader in the field of online training.

And that represents just a sliver of the nation's estimated $60 billion employee-training marketplace. But this train is just beginning to pick up speed. "As much as half of all training will be happening online by 2002," predicts Brandon Hall, the Sunnyvale, California, editor of http://www.brandonhall.com, a site that provides technology-based training information, industry developments, trends and ideas.

Why this mushrooming of Web-based training, where, instead of attending a class on how to use Corel WordPerfect, employees are now logging on to the Web to get the same information? There are two big reasons, says Kenneth Brown, an assistant professor of management and organization at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. "Web-based training is more accessible--people can do it when and where they want--and the costs are substantially lower than classroom-based learning."

How much lower? "Cost savings are about 50 percent from classroom training to Web-based," says Hall. That's good news at a time when most experts say employees will need virtually continuous retraining to keep pace with today's dramatic workplace changes.

But the real argument for Web-based training isn't price; it's convenience. "The student can take a class when it fits into his or her schedule," says Kristina Lumsden, a product marketing manager with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Distributed Learning Business Group, a division of online training products developer Lotus (http://www.lotus.com).

"Web-based training can be `just-in-time' training," adds Colm Darcy, director of curriculum development at Redwood City, California-based CBT, a leading provider of online training solutions for the business, government and higher education markets. "With Web-based training, the student can take it when he or she needs to."

Robert McGarvey writes on business, psychology and management topics for several national publications. To reach him online with your questions or comments, e-mail rjmcgarvey@aol.com.

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Easy As ABC.

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