Computer-based instruction is touted as an effective tool to support knowledge dissemination within predefined learning environments. Indeed, many see it as a way to overcome geographical or social barriers to knowledge transmission and educational institutions. However, its domain of application has traditionally been restricted to basic skills and educational contexts. Recently, dynamic and complex business environments shaped by technological changes and the downsizing trend of the ’90s placed new constraints on the underlying assumptions (Fuglseth, 2003). Organizations are now pushing for skill flexibility, demanding specialized knowledge and requiring faster learning curves from employees. Many advocate Internet-based education materials as one way to meet those challenges (Bernardes & O’Donoghue, 2003; Karoulis et al., 2004; Storey et al., 2002; Strazzo & Wentling, 2001). However, this raises important questions concerning both effectiveness and efficiency of such tools and materials. Indeed, developing interactive multimedia-based courseware remains pretty much a black art, consuming enormous resources. So far, there is a lack of established models to predict the performance and evaluate how adequately courseware can meet user needs. In fact, developing courseware should take into account the target constituency requirements, organizational context, and the stated educational or training goals. Developing the wrong training materials can lead to costly investments in creating and maintaining content to match the increasing expectations on e-learning. Perhaps this can explain the recent rash of failed e-learning projects—current results do not measure up to business and individual expectations yet. A better understanding of the many factors affecting e-learning performance would allow individuals and organizations to achieve the expected benefits. In so doing, development teams need methods, techniques, and tools to evaluate in advance which features are needed to achieve higher outcomes, namely, performance and satisfaction. Thus, the need to develop predictive models to improve learning effectiveness is in order. This overview includes four sections. “Background” presents a proposed e-learning theoretical framework to guide our analysis based upon the reviewed literature. “Key Issues” section describes main issues arising from the proposed elearning conceptual framework. “Future Trends” describes our vision on how to approach e-learning initiatives and future trends. Finally, we present a general conclusion.
Organizational investment in e-learning strategies reflects strategic choices regarding skill development through e-learning. According to Wentling, Waight et al. (2000), e-learning involves acquiring and using distributed knowledge facilitated by electronic means in synchronous or asynchronous modes. As shown in Figure 1, knowledge could be distributed geographically within varying time frames.
Proposed types of e-learning in terms of time and place
Thus, the effective use of technology-based instruction would provide to organizations the ability to succeed at operational levels. This justifies the adoption of a holistic approach to courseware evaluation as a diagnostic and managerial tool. We propose a framework, shown in Figure 2, which comprises three basic entities, business processes, people, and information systems, and three main relationships: (a) interaction between people and systems, (b) process-based roles played by people during this interaction, and (c) having the learning task be executed, as part of the e-learning experience, by people performing their process-based roles. This framework could lead to working techniques and approaches that assist development team members in designing work-related e-learning experiences within organizational contexts. To motivate a workable approach, we will now discuss each of these entities and relationships.
Proposed e-learning framework
Key Terms in this Chapter
Learning Task: A set of steps with a defined learning goal addressing specific training needs identified within business processes driving the definition of proper instructional design and e-learning system requirements.
Just-in-Time Learning: Strategic knowledge acquisition enmeshed in business activities to support employees in learning new skills when performing day-to-day tasks, while fostering the alignment between learning outcomes, technological and strategic business issues.
E-Learning Experience: A process by which people identify work-related learning needs, formulate related goals and the associated internal level-of-success criteria, search for feasible online options to achieve defined learning goals, select and acquire choices, and engage into and complete them successfully by achieving the related goals in a productive and satisfactory manner.
Business Process: A set of organized work-related tasks and resources to pursue a specific organizational objective influencing learning experiences by defining two specific relationships: process-based roles (between business process and people) and learning tasks (between business process and information systems).