Online Learning: The Future of Training

By Marteann Bertrand

In conducting research for this article, I discovered that every single one of the last ten issues of Training Magazine had a least one article about “On-Line Learning”. Some issues had two or three articles on this topic. In the training profession in general, and even specifically in the training microcosm of the call center industry; the Internet and the opportunities provided by it, are hot stuff. So, what’s it all about? Mostly, it’s about time, and, it’s about quality.

In this tight labor economy we are now living in, time is at a premium. It has always been true that providing quality training in our industry is more time consuming than in almost any other industry. It takes anywhere from three weeks to three months to fully train a call center agent, utilizing our old training standby–the one-on-one approach. At today’s labor costs, that’s a lot of money invested in trainees that often don’t stick around long enough to even complete the process. So what is a business owner to do? I would suggest that answering service and call center owners look toward the tool that is rapidly becoming so important to service delivery, the Internet.

If you were to go on line and type in the key word “training” you would be utterly amazed at how many entries you will find. There is training available for almost any skill in almost any industry. There are some caveats; however, to keep in mind before purchasing some of the options available.

First, It’s important to look at the skills being taught, and make sure that they are consistent with your business philosophies. There are courses available on “basic telephone skills” that I have previewed and found to be totally unacceptable for a call center environment. Next, look at the delivery mechanism of the course itself–many of the courses that I have previewed are text only, and thus are more likely to put the trainee to sleep than teach them anything. Some of the courses are text plus music and/or sound affects, and some of that is nothing short of annoying–again, it’s difficult for your trainees to learn when bombarded with annoying audio. And, finally, take a look at the length of the course–longer does not mean better. In fact, recent research into educational products and retention rates suggest that shorter “bites” of information are more readily retained than long sessions of reading, even when the course is billed as “interactive.”

The research indicates that the increased retention rates on short information bites has to do with the “video game” generation of workers that America has produced. While there are many arguments on the negative side of our video game culture, an important, and provable side effect is that young people today have faster reaction times, and far quicker mental “processing” rates as a result of the various media they have been exposed to growing up.

This faster reaction and processing time is exactly the reason why interactive, multi-media training delivered via the Internet is more effective than many of our traditional training mechanisms. When you add this to the time and labor savings you realize by sending your trainees through a twenty minute on-line course, as opposed to sitting with a trainer for two hours, you can quickly begin to see the advantage on-line learning can give you. More on-line learning products go out on the Web almost weekly. I would encourage you to conduct your own research, I’m certain you will find it an extremely valuable expenditure of your own time.

[From Connection Magazine – May 2000]

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