E-learning is fast becoming as popular as traditional methods of acquiring skills, according to a survey of human resources (HR) professionals.
From a survey of more than 100 HR directors and training managers in late February, online learning consultancy and publisher Echelon found that interactive multimedia training has overtaken both books and video as the preferred way of gaining new skills.
Only traditional classroom-based teaching is considered more effective.
When it comes to acquiring information and knowledge, books remain the most favoured means, but interactive multimedia is again rated a close second - just a fraction ahead of text-based online learning and classroom training.
The survey also asked which methods people considered best for resolving an immediate business need.
Here, text-based online learning came out on top. This fits one of the survey's other findings: respondents cited 'depth of content' and 'speed of access' - two key features of searchable, text-based systems - as their most important considerations when looking to solve a problem or acquire knowledge and skills.
The survey said the complexity of jobs is "leading towards the recognition that individuals cannot be expected to carry the necessary skills and knowledge in their heads. Just-in-time learning has become an important tool."
Organisations that had already planned or implemented a blended learning programme were asked to rate the overall importance of different delivery mechanisms. Once again, interactive multimedia learning came second only to facilitated classroom training.
But David Hill, Echelon's managing director, remained cautious about the findings. "Interactive multimedia learning clearly has its part to play in the overall remit of learning delivery mechanisms, but it's by no means the only one," he said.
Hill expressed doubt that e-learning would ever overtake face-to-face training. "In a classroom, people can practise a skill and share experiences with other people, which is obviously going to be more rewarding than simply interacting with a pre-programmed piece of software online," he said.
And, while some advocates of e-learning claim technological advances allow for sophisticated 'virtual classrooms' to simulate the traditional format effectively, Hill remains sceptical.
"I've yet to find a company that has found virtual classroom-type training works to anything like the same degree as facilitated training in a real classroom. It just doesn't appear to have caught on," he said.
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