Skills training is constantly evolving

The term "e-learning" means many things to many people. Mike Maunder, vice-president for alliances at e-learning supplier Saba,...

The term "e-learning" means many things to many people. Mike Maunder, vice-president for alliances at e-learning supplier Saba, says that until four years ago, e-learning used to refer to the delivery of training content via the Web, writes Ross Bentley.

"It was the same content that you would find in the classroom or in a training manual only it was in electronic form," says Maunder.

Nowadays, he says, e-learning systems have evolved into much more sophisticated applications that don't just replicate training content per se but manage "human capital development".

"It's about managing competencies," says Maunder, "allowing people to progress in their skills development and career and managing and tracking that process.

"Normally Saba works with companies of 5,000 or more staff. With companies of this size, there is a need to manage the whole training process as they will have sites dispersed around different locations, countries and continents."

Maunder details how five companies have used these modern e-learning systems for different reasons.

Standard Chartered Bank has traditionally been very decentralised, with offices dispersed around the world.

The bank wanted to become more unified and as part of this plan it implemented a worldwide human resources and e-learning system to consolidate its training programmes.

Wartsla is the world's largest manufacturer of diesel engines for ocean liners. This is a clearly defined industry so Wartsla, which is a Finnish company, has set up a parallel business in the training sector.

It now offers training to people in the merchant marine industry. Courses range from health and safety, technical skills, engineering and seamanship certifications. Because the merchant marine industry is highly regulated Wartsla uses the system to manage the delivery of this training scheme.

Proctor & Gamble is a global manufacturer of household and health products. Many of the people it employs in its factories have few qualifications and staff retention is a typical problem.

Proctor & Gamble has put time and effort into coming up with ways of keeping its staff happy. It has concentrated on building a reputation as a firm that looks after its people.

It wants people to think that they can progress their career with Proctor & Gamble. The company has used e-learning to put a system in place where people's progress can be tracked.

Braathens is Norway's largest airline has deployed e-learning to 5,000 staff. During an extremely difficult period in aviation history complicated by new, stringent, federal regulations Braathens is using the system to cost-effectively manage certifications and maintain regulatory compliance.

Other training will be delivered on a range of topics such as security, safety, ticketing, information technology, simulations, dangerous goods and maintenance.

Alyeska Pipeline Service operates and maintains the 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline System, which the US depends on to deliver about 17% of its domestic oil production.

With responsibility for such a vital connection in mind, the company has adopted a system that allows its workforce to be trained in disaster continuity. Alyeska hopes that this should prepare its employees in the event of an oil spill or fire.

Maunder says that these examples underline the changing face of e-learning. The systems today are used by organisations to encompass a whole enterprise.

"Whereas before companies would kick off a training project in, say, one country at a time - now organisations can consider managing a global roll-out," says Maunder.

"Recently, Saba has been talking to one company that wants to reach upward of 250,000 employees," he comments.

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