Twenty Essential Questions for Deciding If Your Organization Is Ready for E-Learning

By Watkins, Ryan | Distance Learning, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Twenty Essential Questions for Deciding If Your Organization Is Ready for E-Learning


Watkins, Ryan, Distance Learning


E-learning takes on many forms and functions in organizations. Although e-learning is often closely associated with Internet-based training, the true range of e-learning delivery options is much broader (such as Internet, CD, DVD, satellite, digital cable, PDA, and Blackberry), as are the types of e-learning events (such as seminars, job aids, tutorials, audio books, quizzes, and study guides). That's why e-learning in your organization may include such diverse opportunities as brown-bag lunches facilitated by desktop video or certification programs delivered on DVDs. This diversity also highlights why e-learning decisions must be based on holistic (or systemic) business models (Watkins & Kaufman, 2003).

Making practical decisions requires multiple perspectives on what e-learning can and cannot achieve for your organization. Both a systemic model for ensuring that all e-learning activities lead to useful results and a holistic framework of a complete e-learning system can be useful tools as you try to determine if your organization is ready for e-learning. Even if e-learning in your organization will include just a few vendor-purchased online courses, assessing your organization's readiness for e-learning multiple perspectives is an essential step toward success.

As a foundation for making useful decisions, begin with a model for aligning all that you and your organization uses, does, produces, delivers, and contributes. This gives you a valuable systemic perspective on e-learning success-aligning inputs, processes, and results. Use the Organizational Elements Model as a framework for viewing these relationships (see Table 1). The Model helps you to align the resource that you use (i.e., inputs) and the activities that you participate in (i.e., processes) with the results that you create (i.e., products), the value they add to your organization's deliverables (i.e., outputs), and the expected contributions of clients, community members, and others (i.e., outcomes).

The Organizational Elements Model helps you relate and align organization resources, activities, and results. Yet, because e-learning initiatives are complex systems with many variables critical to their success, you will want to also view your organization's readiness from a second perspective. This second, e-learning specific, perspective adds structure and context to your readiness decisions. From this perspective e-learning initiatives are viewed in relation to eight distinct, yet closely related, dimensions (based on Kahn, 2005 and Watkins, 2006). These dimensions are:

Organization-focuses on the alignment of results at the individual/team, organizational, and societal levels (accomplishing results that contribute to success at each level is essential).

Pedagogy-refers to issues related to goals/objectives; design approach; instructional strategies and tactics; e-learning activities; formative, summative, and goalfree evaluation; and media selection.

Technology-comprised of infrastructure planning and installation, as well as hardware and software issues.

Interface Design-focuses on all aspects of how the learner interacts with the learning technology, instructor, and peers in the learning experience (e.g., Webpage design, videoconference layout, content design, navigation, and usability testing).

Evaluation-relates to issues concerning assessment of learners, return on investment, and formative evaluation of instructional materials (i.e., finding what works and what doesn't, so results can be improved upon).

Management-focuses on successful maintenance of learning environments, distribution of information issues, management of personnel, and leadership.

Resource Support-examines issues related to online support and resources for learners, instructors, developers, administrators, and others.

Ethical-evaluates issues of plagiarism, social and cultural diversity, geographical diversity, learner diversity, information accessibility, etiquette, adding measurable value to our shared society, and legal issues. …

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