Corporate Training Dramatically Transformed by E-Learning in Little More Than a Decade, Say Experts

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Special issue of Sloan Consortium’s Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks examines the state of the $31 billion corporate training industry.

In little over a decade, corporations moved rapidly from face-to-face instruction—as practically the only actor on the training stage—to sharing curriculum significantly with e-learning.

In the latest issue of the Sloan Consortium’s (Sloan-C) scholarly periodical, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN), noted experts assert corporate training has been transformed by technology-based instruction. In this JALN special issue on corporate e-learning, top scholars and practitioners report on the current status of the $31 billion corporate training industry, which now represents one-quarter of training worldwide.

“In little over a decade, corporations moved rapidly from face-to-face instruction—as practically the only actor on the training stage—to sharing curriculum significantly with e-learning,” writes special issue Editor Robert Ubell of NYU Polytechnic Institute. Ubell, a member of the Sloan-C Board, is vice president of Enterprise Learning and heads the school’s online learning unit, NYU-ePoly.

“The change was largely due to the overwhelming economic advantage of Web-based instruction in corporations over conventional classroom teaching,” Ubell continues. “Web instruction has also helped propel worldwide corporate expansion. In companies, self-learning modules are easily circulated to a globally scattered workforce at relatively low cost.”

Contributors to the special issue include: John Ambrose and Julie Ogilvie of SkillSoft; Allison Rossett and James Marshall of San Diego State University; Kent Barnett and John R. Mattox of KnowledgeAdvisors; Frank Mayadas of the Sloan Foundation; and Kee Meng Yeo of Amway.

SkillSoft’s Ambrose and Ogilvie say companies are now giving employees a much wider choice of learning options beyond conventional face-to-face classroom training. Owing to sweeping global labor changes, corporations are “blending” online, social learning, and other options to accommodate a multi-generational workforce, remote employees, off-shoring and contract workers—all contributing to transform human capital landscape.

In an exploratory study, Rossett and Marshall of San Diego State University discovered that learning professionals largely adopt e-learning for familiar instruction, such as product information, compliance, and standardization. But e-learning, they conclude, is less effective at tackling “murky” challenges, such as teaming and cultural understanding.

While Barnett and Mattox of KnowledgeAdvisors recommend an e-learning outcomes plan that covers strategy, assessment models, company resources, and corporate readiness, Mayadas of the Sloan Foundation and Amway’s Yeo propose industry adapt standards introduced more than a dozen years ago for university online learning. Mayadas and Yeo claim that “Sloan-C Pillars” offer company-wide assessment, covering employee access, learning and cost effectiveness, and employee and management satisfaction.

Tracking the difference between online learning in corporations and universities, editor Ubell reports that companies and schools took different paths from the start, with different philosophies and methods. Ubell writes that at companies, “e-learning is highly mediated by technology, with trainers disappearing entirely, replaced largely on monitors by instructional design elements, presented in text, multimedia, games, simulations and other displays. By contrast, in online courses at universities—often equally media rich—instructors and students take their virtual seats online, interacting continuously with one another in text and real-time. Online, workers are on their own, while college students and faculty learn together.”

Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN), published by the Sloan Consortium, is a major source of knowledge about online learning. The aim of the JALN is to describe original work in asynchronous learning networks (ALN), including experimental results. For more information, visit

The Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) is an institutional and professional leadership organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education, helping institutions and individual educators improve the quality, scale, and breadth of education. For more information, visit

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