From the June 2001 issue of Entrepreneur

In today's competitive business world, employee training is a must--whether it's getting your employees up to speed on the latest technologies or making sure your sales department has the tactics to compete. Evaluating all the methods available could save you money and ensure that your employees get exactly the instruction they need. Here's a look at your options.

e-Learning
The statistics are impressive. IDC forecasts e-learning sales will spike from $1.1 billion in 1999 to $11.4 billion in 2003.

It's easy to see why. Employees can learn at their own pace, from the comfort of their own computers and when it best fits their schedules. Training ranges from viewing streaming videos to watching live online classes taught by instructors.

As e-learning has grown in popularity, vendors have poured into the market. The emphasis is on IT and technical training, but no matter how specific your training needs, you're likely to find an e-learning source to fill them.

But what do you give up? For one, your bandwidth. If you have no bandwidth to spare, your employees will have to deal with a slow connection. You also forfeit the team-building aspect of training, which can augment learning and help build enthusiasm.

Pricing ranges widely for e-learning. It's usually based on a per-person model, so look into group discounts.

Cost for streaming-video training: approximately $35 per person.

CD-ROM Training
The pros and cons of CD-ROM training are similar to those of e-learning, but with a few additional benefits. For example, employees can skip sections or review spots they don't understand. Another plus: You don't have to deal with slow connections.

There's also a downside. Although Web-based training can be constantly updated, CD-ROMs can become outdated rather quickly, depending on what type of training you're doing.

When it comes to cost, if you don't want to buy multiple copies of the same disc, look into purchasing licenses. You can even ask your vendor about purchasing a license that would allow you to keep the software on your network for your employees' easy access and unlimited use.

Cost: $80 to $100 per disc, plus possible licensing fees.

Instructor-Led Training
Despite new technology, the traditional classroom is still considered a top-rate method, especially if you're looking for hands-on training.

Instructors get specific: They can give more detailed information about how their training will work in your specific business and help iron out any roadblocks to implementing new methods at your company. If employees struggle with any aspect of the training, instructors can continue on that topic until everyone understands. Though computer-based training may offer support lines for questions, you're likely to get more detailed, pertinent answers from an instructor.

All this hand-holding carries a stiff price tag, but on-site consulting is top-of-the-line in quality. A less expensive alternative is training-center workshops, which can last a full day or more and cost a set fee per employee. Before you shell out the cash, ask to sit in on a class to get a feel for whether the instruction is useful.

Cost: $200 to $2,000 per person, per day.

Audiotapes, Videotapes and Books
Audiotapes may seem archaic, but they're low-cost and a great option for your mobile professionals. A new trend is to order training manuals in MP3 format, which is a less expensive medium than audiotapes. You can fit hours of data on a small MP3 disc and play it on your PCs (with specialized software) or on portable MP3 players.

Training videotapes also suit a tight budget. And many training video vendors now offer streaming multimedia, so you can download lessons and watch them on your PC.

And don't overlook books, which may still be the most sensible option for your business. If your needs are basic, try a good training manual.

Cost:
Audio: $10 to $15 per tape
MP3 audio: $5 to $15 per volume
Books: $15 to $100

Source It
Information sources and
vendors to get you started
in online training
 
Source Description
American Society for Training and Development The e-learning section of this site allows you to search for vendors in your area. You can also participate in discussion boards and link to the online version of Learning Circuits, the ASTD's publication devoted to e-learning.
Click2Learn Offers online courses and allows you to set up an e-learning program for your business. Free tools, such as a glossary and white papers, are great for preliminary research.
DigitalThink Offers a range of online courses as well as up-to-date content about e-learning.
Eduventures.com An independent research firm covering corporate and educational training. Provides research, industry news and analysis on e-learning.
Headlight Offers a variety of online courses. Features an online calculator to show you what the return on your e-learning investment would be.
The Masie Center Training and technology research center offering research and tools for businesses considering e-learning.
OnlineLearning Magazine Covers e-learning trends and development.
Small Business Administration Classroom Free online courses and e-learning information.
TrainingSuperSite Covers all areas of training, including e-learning. Research, participate in discussions and look into upcoming e-learning conferences.
 

Mie-Yun Lee is the editorial director of BuyerZone.com . Diane O'Brien contributed to this article.