Those who try it like training online
April 5, 1999
by Alexandra Barrett
(IDG) -- Internet-based training, or IBT, is getting a big thumbs up from participants, according to a recent survey by International Data Corporation.
Almost all those surveyed said they would would recommend Internet-based training, and a full 60 percent said they would recommend it highly. Respondents included training managers, information system managers, and business unit managers.
Lack of desktop access keeps some companies from trying IBT, IDC also found. The survey also questioned companies that have not participated in IBT. Some respondents doubted IBT's effectiveness, or bemoaned the lack of human interaction. However, neither the respondents nor IDC considered these obstacles significant.
Three factors contribute to IBT's success, says IDC analyst Ellen Julian: "Flexibility, convenience, and cost-effectiveness." With IBT, as opposed to classroom training, trainees take a course whenever they have time, wherever they are. Business can enjoy dramatically lower travel-related costs by using IBT, she notes.
IBT is useful to a variety of fields, although respondents to the IDC survey represented the business world. Scientific Learning, for example, develops Fast ForWord, an Internet-based program that teaches speech and reading skills to learning-disabled children. From the comfort of their homes, children can do their Fast ForWord exercises while the company monitors and logs their performance over the Internet, says Jim Mills, Scientific Learning's marketing director. The software generates daily progress reports sent over the Internet.
Similarly, Act360 Media has developed an Internet-based course called TestBed for potential TOEFL test-takers. "It's very convenient," says Ester Wang, Act360's president. "Anyone anywhere can access the test whenever they want." It's also inexpensive, relative to TestBed's classroom equivalent, Wang says. For $69, particpants can practice their English online for up to 60 days.
Ultimately though, IBT will survive only if it proves itself a good teacher. Initial impressions suggest that it is.
"Children who do the program in a clinical setting and children who do it off-site [that is, at home, connected to the Internet] do not display significantly different results," says Scientific Learning's Mills. This may be because it's possible to customize the learning experience to the test-taker's particular needs, Wang suggests. Trainers can send learners personal e-mail messages of encouragement. "You're just not going to get this level of attention walking into a classroom," Wang says.
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