There are many drivers that regularly rear themselves (economic recession, missed contracts, higher share-yield, industry contraction, etc.).
Effectiveness of eLearning
But the result is the same world-wide: managers are required to get more from less. So, when a rail organisation invests in training, the question is, "How do we get more from less?"
With the drive towards competency in the rail industry, the question of getting more from less is very pertinent. Quality eLearning (on-line learning, distance education, etc.) has many advantages, with few downsides.
Reduced travel costs:
Eliminate most costs (time and money) travelling to a venue, by doing as much as possible on-line.
No meal or accommodation costs:
Reduce, if not eliminate, all accommodation expenses and meal expenses by reducing in-class training.
Reduced trainer costs:
Trainer costs are reduced as quality interactive eLearning will still have some monitoring and input from trainers, especially in the skills-development component.
No venue costs:
Venue costs are totally removed along with training infrastructure. Many organisations would love to convert training rooms into more meeting rooms. By the way, the cost of hosting eLearning is far less than training room costs.
When training (such as induction; graduate, track safety awareness, site safety or compliance training) have to be repeated to different work groups, work sites or at different times, then the savings of a well-constructed eLearning program is realised each time it is offered — repeatedly. What is saved? All of the above, and that's a huge repeatable saving!
Caters best to different learning preferences:
We know that people prefer to learn in different ways. Some learn best by reading, others need to see or hear in order to learn best, and yet others can only learn after engaging in activity. Educators have struggled for years to bring all these modes together in the one classroom, but with eLearning it can be done easily.
Advantages of resource-rich learning:
eLearning can provide links to web sites, documents to download, videos, Flash animations, drawings, technical manuals, forums, learning games, quizzes, case studies, testing and progress-tracking (to name a few). This resource richness inspires and motivates learners to progress through the material by catering to their learning preferences.
Allows self-paced learning:
With all the resources at hand 24 X 7, learners can progress through the learning at their own pace. The resources are available to review as many times as required and at any pace or in any chunks that the learner feels comfortable with.
Objective learning and assessment:
eLearning is delivered to participants by computer and participants are assessed by computer, so by its very nature, eLearning is very objective. This objectivity qualifies eLearning to be fair, consistent and flexible. eLearning can also objectively assess participants throughout the learning material (diagnostic/formative) as well as at the end of the learning (final/summative grading). Pre-tests (to ensure participants are ready for the learning) and post-tests (to measure what has been learnt since the pre-test) are also easily-used strategies.
Creating an eLearning environment has a cost. Purchases such as secure web servers, Learning Management System software, employment of a web master and creation of backup and storage sites need to be made. These costs may be cheaper overall than establishing a physical training venue, but some organisations choose to have both a physical and a virtual classroom, giving them both the costs. Affiliate hosting of the eLearning will remove extra establishment cost.
Higher single-lesson development cost:
To design, develop and assemble all the required resources and media into structured eLearning is much more costly than face-to-face training. In fact, a cost-benefit analysis should be conducted before any eLearning is started. But, given any situation like a repeatedly offered course, then the return on investment soon comes.
The workplace situation:
Computer access and computing skills are rarely an eLearning issue in today’s workplaces. But the heavy workloads of participants (and thus their capacity to take time out and complete any eLearning) are a problem. eLearning still needs participants to devote enough time, but unlike a face-to-face class (where attendance is expected) the eLearner requires discipline to find this time. We have found that eLearners need to book out their diary as if they are attending a traditional class and thus give themselves the opportunity to succeed.
In summary, eLearning has many advantages over conventional learning. When eLearning is correctly designed and costed; it is delivered by experts; and it specifically suits the needs of a rail organisation or the industry, then the benefits are there to be had... repeatedly.