PC-based training motivates students

Projects to introduce computer-based training need leadership from senior management. And, despite initial falls in productivity,...

Projects to introduce computer-based training need leadership from senior management. And, despite initial falls in productivity, the outcome is more motivated trainees, writes John Kavanagh

These are the findings outlined by Lotus Development, which manages computer-based education, and UK users of its Learningspace software.

"As with other IT projects you need endorsement, leadership and participation at a very senior level for success," says Lotus manager Jim Moffat.

"In addition, the senior management should be stable. The organisation shouldn't be getting a new chief executive every 18 months. This can be a problem for many companies these days.

"Commitment is needed at this level because the project is a change in culture and, as with any culture change, you must be ready for a productivity drop.

"Sometimes such change will be sabotaged by a middle manager. Or if people are doing the training in the office there are pressures to get on with the work instead and comments from colleagues that you're not actually working."

Hilary Chilton from Staffordshire University, which is using Learningspace for its students, adds that people teaching traditional courses also need to be ready to change.

"Students can go at their own pace, and this often means they get ahead of the tutor - and that's scary for lecturers," she says.

"You must be dynamic. For example, we get students commenting on navigation, and we've reacted.

"Be wary of preconceptions," Chilton warns, "We thought older people might not be able to adapt, but this has not been so. In fact some young IT students have not liked the change."

Chilton says Staffordshire does not want to be purely a virtual university. Computer-based education is important but teachers still prepare courses and teach. The big benefit is that they are freed to work more closely and inspirationally with their students.

She adds, "At the same time students become more independent as learners. They are already reporting that the system is bringing the learning process to life and giving fresh insights into their subjects. They are finding new scope for collaborative learning."

Ilana Ron, a manager at Hewlett-Packard, which has set up training via Learningspace for its systems houses, agrees. "People meet in class over the Net to discuss issues. This has been a key benefit, and they now ask for extra discussion time," she says.

Ron also points to the idea of being able to work when it is most convenient.

"In the past it has been difficult to convince sales people to take three days' training. They can now study when they want, 24 hours a day. This immediately makes the prospect of training more alluring to busy people."

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