Published on 2012/09/19
Co-written with Vanessa Allen | Teacher, Anchorage School District

Online learning options can provide employees a more on-demand approach to their ongoing education while also giving them the opportunity to increase their social interaction, which plays an important role in cognitive development.

As higher education moves deeper into the electronic age, Web-based training has become a pertinent focus. As companies seek the means to bring several individuals together from across the country and to disseminate information quickly, the gaining of time and controlling costs are also central foci.

The question is, how can an organization adapt its learning programming to accommodate this need for providing training while keeping in mind the learner, promoting critical thinking skills, providing ongoing dialogue, and continuing to keep the end user in its objectives to steer and promote educational trainings?

According to Heathfield (2010), the majority of companies currently offer training sessions on Compact Disks (CDs), but, in recent years, the trend has turned to Web-based training. Heathfield believed moving to online learning caused two major changes within the training field:

  1. Electronic Performance Systems (EPSs) that integrated software and individuals by interfacing them with technology
  2. Creating classes where the number of trainees were increased, and as a result, positively affecting the completion rate for self-monitored classes

Heathfield states a negative aspect to the web-based learning trend is that providers of the traditional schools of training only used traditional and manual-based courses online.

Traditional trainers do not take advantage of instant, real-time, current information through the Internet, which keeps traditional methods from moving forward. If training professionals successfully integrate technology with training activities along with a live instructor, they will have the ability to transform the training field. “The training that is provided is often custom-designed with stated outcomes congruent with the direction of the business” (Heathfield, 2010). Heathfield believes online classes, e-mail classes, blended learning, and training CDs are increasing and are very much the future. Also, while approximately 80 percent of instruction is instructor- led, 6 percent of that is remote and mostly done online.

According to Heathfield, “Computer-based training with no live instructor accounts for 13 percent of training. About nine percent is by on-the-job, self-study or other means. You can expect computer-based training to grow. Currently, most computer-based training is via CDs. More training is provided via Intranets than the Internet, but expects both of these delivery systems to expand in the future.” (p. 1). In essence, organizations need to deliver training material to their employees to meet the needs of the company and employee at once. An organization is limited if they are not using subject matter experts combined with CDs, Internet, and Intranet.

The six solution-based alternatives assist employees in making the decisions from critical-thinking skills that have been modeled to them in the workplace via a video, Web-based training, or a CD regarding encouraging critical thinking in the workplace through Web-based trainings.

These activities are taken from McGhee (2010):

(1) “Create a tension release area.” An example can be to give employees incentives to take scheduled breaks from work during the day.

(2) “Encourage spontaneity on the job.” An example can be cross-training employees for different job positions within the department or outside of the department. Employers offer new training or educational classes outside of the workplace.

(3) “Providing a Forum for Discussion.” An example can be open or close meetings sharing funny incidents or teachable moments from the job.

(4) “Encourage employees to develop a skit in which they poke fun at themselves and their work.” An example can be to have employees develop skits from various work situations to create a stress relieving activity on Friday. Employees can act out their skits in the company’s break area.

(5) “Prioritize workload activities.” An example can be employers encouraging employees to prioritize workload and employers offering employees assistance when needed.

(6) “Be aware of cultural or behavioral differences.” An example can be employers understanding not every solution will work for all situations. Supervisors should become beware of what personality type works best within the company’s policies.

Moving students from learning about a topic they care about to thinking about their own learning is not difficult, although it does require the instructor to modify the pedagogy so that metacognition is an expected part of the course. When students are required to think about their own thinking and learning, learning improves (Gardner, 1983).

By helping students understand and practice learning, it empowers the student and enhances the capability for additional self-learning (Gardner, 1983). Being aware of their metacognitive processes helps students organize new information, setting up frameworks to solve problems. The student who learns from the viewpoint of mental images, combined with using reason and logic opens the doors of learning and continues progression towards the self-learning process.

The Role of Social Interaction

As the student gains awareness of his or her own learning through metacognitive activities and exercises, the student must also be aware of the learning of classmates, often through team or group activities. This type of social interaction plays a fundamental role in cognitive development. Web-based training can provide this type of interaction despite the differences in distance, age, and economic background.

Vygotsky (1978) stated,

“Only through our interactions with others do we reach the higher-order levels of thought and learning. Accordingly, the range of skills developed with adult guidance or peer collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone.” (p. 57)

There are many novel insights that arise as researchers gain new data about adult learning, both in terms of retention of material and application in non-school environments. Specifically, it is important to understand how learning occurs and how knowledge is acquired in organizations such as businesses, nonprofits, apprenticeships, and/or work-based learning programs. Organizational learning can be thought of as the essence of real learning, in that it leads to social changes, both individual and organizational; it is a process that is undertaken with peers and seeks to effectively tackle real-life problems (Lynch, 2000).

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References:

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind. New York: Basic Books.

Heathfield, S. M. (2010). Training trends. Retrieved from http://humanresources.about.com/od/trainingtrends/a/training_trends.htm

Heathfield, S. M. (2010). Catch the wave: Six training trends. Retrieved from http://humanresources.about.com/od/trainingtrends/l/aa_train_trend2.htm

Lynch, R. (2000). High school career and technical education for the first decade of the 21stcentury. Journal of Vocational Education Research, 25(2).

McGhee, P. (2010). 25 ideas for building fun into your work setting. Retrieved from http://www.laughterremedy.com/

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Readers Comments

WA Anderson 2012/09/19 at 6:55 am

The point about online learning being delivered through CDs is an interesting one. I wonder if universities could start mass-producing CDs or USBs containing a variety of course content geared toward ongoing learning needs in various industries?

For example, one training USB for executives in the manufacturing industry, one for accountants, one for auditors, etc?

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