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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Online Training vs eLearning

I don't remember what I was reading, but the post/article differentiated learning as what the learner does and training as what we do to the person - and hopefully they learn.

What's interesting is that eLearning has become pretty much synonymous with Online Training as opposed to use of technology for various kinds of learning.

In a world:
  • where we have to be responsible for our learning,
  • where learning and work are often not separate activities,
  • where there's just too much for each of us to learn so we have to make choices,
  • where we have to continually evaluate our sources of information,
  • where we have to Stop Reading and instead Skim Dive Skim
How relevant is Online Training as compared to supporting Personal Learning?

This really relates to the questions being discussed in this month's Big Question (Instructional Design - If? When? How much?) where I've argued that Common Sense and Intuition Not Enough to justify ID. But maybe my concern stems partly from the targeting of smaller audiences, niche learning needs, diverse backgrounds - all that suggest a hard time for instructional design - although not necessarily for the right kind of instructional designer.

I'm not sure where I'm going with these thoughts, but it really struck me that confusing eLearning with Online Training is problematic. This relates to the discussions in Learning Systems and EPSS and ePerformance.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that you had this post. My class was just discussing the difference between distance learning and distance education. One of my students made the distinction, saying that distance learning involved using sources at a distance from the learner. This include self-directed learning, learning in virtual groups without through experience, or using software to learn. Distance education is the systematic learning in which some sort of assessment and instruction is involved (this definition is still evolving as others in the class join in).

E-learning in academia seems to work with a different definition than e-learning in the professions or workplace. Having worked in both, I think I agree with the post where the focus is on the level of student guidance. "Training" usually implies achieving some definable goals and objectives (similar to distance education) whereas learning is student directed, especially in terms of goals and objectives (distance learning).

I also think of online training as a means of indoctrinating students into a corporate or discipline's culture, whereas elearning has to do with individual growth.

Paul said...

xxvcjIn my experience "elearning" is usually confused with or identified by others as WBTs or other modules of self-paced learning material. It has been quite rare for me to encounter someone who encompassed all forms of technology-driven learning in their definition of "elearning".

I think that because WBTs were the first widely used form of elearning to come about, the term elearning was stamped onto that format. It took a while for tools like WebEx and Interwise to add to the "e". I see the confusion being generated by a right place-right time scenario.

Regarding distance education versus distance learning, I treat "education" as the larger process, and "learning" as the action to achieve "education".

Guy Boulet said...

As mentionned by v yonkers, there is a difference between learning and training.

Training is a "push" process where the trainee must achieve some objectives defined in a training plan and generally through an specific training process. As an example, if someone is trained on operating a specific piece of equipment, there are normally established procedures to do so.

Learning on the other hand is a "pull" process where the learner is in charge of what is being learned. Although learning can also happen in a "push" context, not much can happen is the learner blocks the content.

You can train people but you don't make them learn. You can say "I want to learn this" but not "I will make them learn that". The latter woud rather be "I will show them that".

Elearning being nothing more than learning through electronic means, it its therefore the same as learning: a "pull" process while online training is simply the same "push" process than training but done online.

Therefore, in my mind, they are two totally separate thing.

Tony Karrer said...

Jack Pierce on his blog commented on this post and others and said - "So! eLearning, online training, eperformance, performance support, courses, wikis, social networks, search, YouTube...the colors on a palette tend to run together, don't they? The real question is, "what's the picture like?"

This is a great point and so I wanted to respond, but I also wanted to make sure I didn't lose my response which I'm posting here and there ...

"Good points, but is there a picture or is it a trillion little pictures. Can we understand the pictures at another level? What do they look like when you zoom out? And what does that mean for those of us used to thinking about things in terms of Online Training?"

We are right now being challenged to define the forest and unfortunately that process is showing that our lives are shifting in the new forest.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm....I'm really struggling with this one. As much as I try, I just don't see a clear distinction between online training and. elearning. Sure, with training, there are corporate goals that may result in more of a push, then an optional pull, but isn't knowledge enhancement the ultimate goal for eiterh of these? I would contend that training can be aligned with personal goals as little or as much eLearning. Sure, there may/may not be requirements around one or the other, but that doesn't seem like enough to really place them in different baskets.

Say, corporate says that employees need to have increased proficiency in HTML scripting. We do the needs assessment, define the target audience and create the course. Now the course content itself, may vary in delivery method. Perhaps it's offered via WebEx or perhaps it's completely self-guided. Although this course may be aligned with a corporate directive and technically it is defined as training, what's keeping all the other non-targeted people from attending the same class and since they are outside the target group of trainees, how does this differ from eLearning? Can't individual growth and corporate goals be addressed in one course simultaneously? If yes, then where is the distinction between training and eLearning? They can both be interesting and fun, offer creative ways to assess knowledge, provide users with what they need to script a simple line of HTML, be intrinsically tied to individual motivation, include knowledge assessment components, can be explorative in nature, may or may not involve a live instructor...etc.

As a technical trainer and eLearning designer, what I struggle with most is the idea that just putting words in a PowerPoint is somehow perceived as "learning". This challenging isn't only applicable to training environments, but I see it more often associated with traditional training departments than with eLearning departments. Seems to go back to a time when there was a heavy reliance on instructor rather than student-driven content. I would contend that a shift toward the latter is necessary for any successful learning program, regardless of whether you call it elearning or training.

Tony Karrer said...

LyndieLou - I understand your struggle with this because like you I want to try to figure out how these things interact and your point is good.

"Although this course may be aligned with a corporate directive and technically it is defined as training, what's keeping all the other non-targeted people from attending the same class and since they are outside the target group of trainees?"

Nothing - you can certainly create training / content that will be available to other audiences.

"How does this differ from eLearning?"

There are many other resources that will be available to learners other than your HTML course. Will learners find your course? Will it be right for them? Will they use other sources? How will they define their own learning?

Likely your eTraining is one part of their eLearning.

"Can't individual growth and corporate goals be addressed in one course simultaneously? If yes, then where is the distinction between training and eLearning?"

I think we should look to create content that will be used by different learners in different contexts - including those outside of our core audience. We hope the answer is "yes, we can align what we are doing around eTraining with eLearning" - the difference is who defines the scope of what will be involved - the learner or the corporation.

Realistically it's both.

Great discussion, questions, provocation!

Anonymous said...

The topic was really covered very well and was interesting.The difference between online training and elearning was distinguished well.

Ben Ray said...

You really struck a chord with me as I beleive that e-learning that is targeted at the job task does provide learning, many times better than facilitated or instructor led long as it is not conducted in a vacuum.

One of the first courses I created involved teaching trainees how to log in and use a myriad of tools concerning computer engineering design software.

According to our standards today the template would be deemed boring...yet the content and delivery are such that the workers are still using the unoffical training that I stored on a shared drive before I left the company.

The key was to target the training to use real life examples for learning combined with exercises which required them to use the software in day to day tasks.

The funny thing is that the corporation's training organisation runs the same course with an instructor and refuses to change despite input from over 200 trainees.

I was asked a simple question by a peer the other day....why don't we use small videos to show how to perform maintenance or installation tasks that we can reuse to watch the process on the job if we become confused?

My answer......our traditional educators are refusing to acknowledge the benefits of the opportunities to use a host of learning tools to provide a blended solution that targets the inidvidual learner.

The best thing that we could do for e-learning is to drop the "e". All of us should focus on the best tools to enhance the learning process ...just ask the learners what works and they are quick to give you an honest opinion :)