Magazine article Training & Development

Learning Technologies: Can They or Can't They?

Magazine article Training & Development

Learning Technologies: Can They or Can't They?

Article excerpt

This quarterly column updates you on the latest best practices from reviews conducted by ASTD's Research-to-Practice Committee. It's need-to-know information just in time.

For many organizations that have tried learning technologies such as CD-ROMs, intranets, and the Internet, the promise of technology-based training has remained just that--mostly promise. The exhibit floors of training conferences are filled to capacity with companies pitching the virtues of the latest electronic tools for learning. Yet, for all their appeal, the watchword for most of those products and services is can: Learning technologies can be more efficient than classroom training, can be more effective, can lead to greater learning retention, can lead to improved performance, and so on. It sounds promising, but can it really?

Any organization that begins down the learning technology road soon arrives at a critical question: We know technology-based training can be successful, but how do we know that it actually is? Where can you turn to evaluate your online programs? You can ask the vendor across the exhibit floor, or you can draw upon the experiences you and other companies have had in evaluating other types of training.

Either choice leads you to a new set of questions. If you turn to an outside supplier, you wonder how to know whether it has a solid, high-quality evaluation product or service. Is it a proven means of evaluating technology-based learning? What makes it better than the next product or service?

Or if you decide to build on your organization's knowledge of evaluating classroom-based training, you wonder whether there's something about technology-based training that means you should evaluate it differently. Are the measures the same? Is it more or less complicated than other forms of training? How do you know that someone hasn't come up with a better way of evaluating technology-based training?

None of the questions is answered easily. An uninformed or unresourceful organization might give up in despair and forget technology-based training completely. But if you look long and hard enough, you'll soon discover that there's a growing body of research out there that has provided the answers to many, if not all, of those questions. …

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