Monday, May 12, 2008

Applying Classroom training to eLearning

Over the web, it is much easier for the extroverts to
dominate the conversation and for the introverts to hide. One of the
big advantages of eLearning is precisely that the students can study at their own
pace and NOT be forced into someone else's as is the case in classroom
training. What you need to think about is how, when, and if you want to apply classroom metrics to web
based training.

I have talked to very many customers who are dealing
with regulating bodies that are applying the following requirements from
classroom training. Perhaps they need to think a little more deeply
than just transferring classroom concepts to the web.
1. Track how long a student takes a course. (This is supposed to be
self-paced. Does everyone have to work to the average time? It should
be about what they learned; not how long it took them to learn it.)
2. Ensure that the person didn't cheat. (If you assume everyone is
dishonest, then DON'T do distance-based testing. If you're willing to
accept people's affidavits of being who they are, taking the test alone,
and taking the test "closed book", then distance-based testing is
acceptable. Most people are honest.)
3. Make sure people don't steal the content and re-use it. (Just as
with published books, there is no sure-fire way of protecting published
material. These days, printed material can just be run through an
optical character recognition package with a cheap scanner, and it is
now easily reproducible.)

Some ideas that will work on the web:
1. Test test test. Give several tests throughout the course (not just
at the end of the chapter/course). It is OK to repeat the questions.
At the minimum the students will learn the material because they had to
answer the question so many times.
2. Test questions should be tied to the content. If you want to force
the students to read the content (rather than just skipping to the
tests), make the quesitons content-sensitive. That is, instead of "What
regulation applies to a company exporting widgets of Type B to India?"
the question should be "What regulation applies to Widget's
Incorporated, discussed on page 3.6?"
3. Randomize questions and answers to that answer keys posted by the
copier are useless.
4. Require that material be presented in 3 or 4 formats: Bullet points,
white-paper, step-by-step procedure, interactive exercise, etc. Since
different people learn from different expository styles, a variety of
styles will make the content more effective.
5. Blend self-paced study with moderated sessions. It would be easy to
require a 1 hour session with a live moderator as part of a training
program. The classic requirements can then be applied to the moderated
6. Web-based tests must capture what the student answered. Many systems
only provide a "score". I believe this is lame. By tracking all
answers provided, the students can be evaluated better, and the test
questions can also be evaluated.

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