Self-paced, Web-based learning and Web conferencing are powerful tools to address an organization’s communication and training needs. Since each tool has its own strengths and limitations, organizations should use these online learning modes in the most e
by Site Staff
July 30, 2004
Online, Self-Paced Learning
Online, self-paced learning is developed in advance and posted on a Web server. It is sometimes referred to as “asynchronous” training because students can access the training whenever they have access to the Internet.
Self-paced learning has the following advantages:
- A complex interactive training experience can be developed. Users can engage interactive exercises, view animations or simulations, listen to audio or watch video, download job aids and more.
- Each participant can learn at his or her own pace and a time that is convenient.
- Users can navigate the course and access information in a variety of ways—via “next” and “back” buttons (also called “linear navigation”), a table of contents, an index or a search function. Different learning paths can be developed for different users, allowing each user to access different materials.
- Participation can be tracked. Information about users (e.g., address, e-mail, employer) can be collected and stored, as can test scores. Users can view their test scores; administrators and managers can view all test scores.
- A consistent learning experience is presented to all users at all times. Content can be updated instantly and globally.
- Content can be presented in multiple languages.
- The course can be adjusted for low- and high-bandwidth users.
- Self-paced learning scales well, offering a low per-person cost over time with large audiences.
Online, self-paced learning is best suited for a large audience requiring critical learning material that does not change often. For example, self-paced learning is an excellent mode to roll out new product information to a large sales-channel group for a new product. However, self-paced training requires an investment of time and money that can render this approach unsuitable for small audiences or training that must be developed very quickly.
A Web conference is training that occurs in real time, with a live instructor who shares a PowerPoint or other visual materials via the Web. It is sometimes referred to as “synchronous” training.
- Web conferencing is very quick to deploy. A subject-matter expert can conduct a Web conference with very little notice.
- Web conferencing is economical. Startup costs and the costs to conduct a training session are low. Visuals can typically be developed using PowerPoint. However, Web conferencing does not scale and can become expensive if repeated sessions must be conducted to reach a large audience.
- Web conferencing supports live events and can allow live discussions, live interaction with a subject-matter expert, polling and collection of feedback.
- Live events can be archived for later viewing.
Web conferencing is best suited for content that will be delivered once and “just in time” to a relatively small, remote audience. For example, Web conferencing is an excellent mode for a small group of technical specialists who need to be informed of last-minute technical changes for a product rollout. However, the lack of development time is reflected in the Web conferencing experience, which is more analogous to a live class than an interactive, self-paced learning course. Also, Web conferencing does not scale well to large audiences, as it does not offer the scheduling flexibility of self-paced learning, does not leverage subject-matter experts’ time, and does not present a consistent message to all learners.
Douglas Wieringa, learning development manager, has been a writer, instructional designer and project manager for 15 years. He currently serves a variety of roles at Knowledge Anywhere—managing the project management and content development teams, writing sites and participating in the instructional design of sites. He is the author of “Procedure Writing: Principles and Practices,” a leading publication on procedure writing.