E-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age

By Broadbent, Brooke | Talent Development, August 2001 | Go to article overview

E-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age


Broadbent, Brooke, Talent Development


Marc J. Rosenberg

Go to your favorite online bookstore and search for e-learning titles. Inevitably, Marc Rosenberg's book appears at the top of any list--and well it should. His vision of e-learning includes a heavy dose of knowledge management, and so does his book, which is why it is earning a spot at the top of the knowledge management bestsellers. If your vision of e-learning doesn't include knowledge management or if you need to learn about KM, check out this book. Chances are you'll come away convinced that e-learning includes far more than formal learning through synchronous or asynchronous, self-paced or instructor-led, online courses.

According to Rosenberg, e-learning isn't exclusively online learning, CBT, WBT, EPSSs, KM, or whatever; it's an alphabet soup of digital approaches. But of all the books I've read about e-learning, including titles by Margaret Driscoll, Kevin Kruse, and William K. Horton, Rosenberg's is the only one that places KM at the center of e-learning. Rosenberg believes that if training professionals heed his advice and place knowledge management at the core of their e-learning strategies, they'll increase their value to their organizations.

The rationale for knowledge management is simple: Due to the rapid pace of change, there's a huge need for workers to have new, current information on demand. To help us understand what he means by knowledge management, Rosenberg includes examples of KM Websites--sites you might know but have never considered to be e-learning sites: travelocity.com, expedia.com, Ask Jeeves at ask.com, purina.com (a site that provides information about pets and helps you select the best one for you), and carpoint.com (an automotive industry site). Rosenberg tells us that "accessing KM systems is much more efficient than relying solely on training, even online training."

What lessons can learning professionals glean from those sites and apply to e-learning? The answer seems simple enough: The Web is a huge library. With specialized search tools such as Ask Jeeves, purina.com, and carpoint.com, users access the information they require quickly and with relative ease. If search tools and Websites like those are good for all Web users, why not make similar tools and Websites available for workers in your organization?

Rosenberg introduces his broad, learning-oriented approach carefully. The foundation: a clear explanation of the difference between learning and training. Learning is the way people process information internally to make knowledge; training is the way instruction is conveyed. Training, according to Rosenberg, has four main elements: 1) an intent to enhance performance, 2) an instructional strategy, 3) selected means and media, and, in some situations, 4) a formal assessment or certification process.

He also cautions us about confusing information with instruction. Though both aid learning, instruction is a structured intervention that focuses on facilitating learning systematically. Information emphasizes how to organize the content, in databases for example, so that it's accessible by users. …

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