Online, Self-Paced Learning
Online, self-paced learning is developed in advance and posted on a Web server. It is sometimes referred to as “asynchronous” training because students can access the training whenever they have access to the Internet.
Self-paced learning has the following advantages:
- A complex interactive training experience can be developed. Users can engage interactive exercises, view animations or simulations, listen to audio or watch video, download job aids and more.
- Each participant can learn at his or her own pace and a time that is convenient.
- Users can navigate the course and access information in a variety of ways—via “next” and “back” buttons (also called “linear navigation”), a table of contents, an index or a search function. Different learning paths can be developed for different users, allowing each user to access different materials.
- Participation can be tracked. Information about users (e.g., address, e-mail, employer) can be collected and stored, as can test scores. Users can view their test scores; administrators and managers can view all test scores.
- A consistent learning experience is presented to all users at all times. Content can be updated instantly and globally.
- Content can be presented in multiple languages.
- The course can be adjusted for low- and high-bandwidth users.
- Self-paced learning scales well, offering a low per-person cost over time with large audiences.
Online, self-paced learning is best suited for a large audience requiring critical learning material that does not change often. For example, self-paced learning is an excellent mode to roll out new product information to a large sales-channel group for a new product. However, self-paced training requires an investment of time and money that can render this approach unsuitable for small audiences or training that must be developed very quickly.
A Web conference is training that occurs in real time, with a live instructor who shares a PowerPoint or other visual materials via the Web. It is sometimes referred to as “synchronous” training.
- Web conferencing is very quick to deploy. A subject-matter expert can conduct a Web conference with very little notice.
- Web conferencing is economical. Startup costs and the costs to conduct a training session are low. Visuals can typically be developed using PowerPoint. However, Web conferencing does not scale and can become expensive if repeated sessions must be conducted to reach a large audience.
- Web conferencing supports live events and can allow live discussions, live interaction with a subject-matter expert, polling and collection of feedback.
- Live events can be archived for later viewing.
Web conferencing is best suited for content that will be delivered once and “just in time” to a relatively small, remote audience. For example, Web conferencing is an excellent mode for a small group of technical specialists who need to be informed of last-minute technical changes for a product rollout. However, the lack of development time is reflected in the Web conferencing experience, which is more analogous to a live class than an interactive, self-paced learning course. Also, Web conferencing does not scale well to large audiences, as it does not offer the scheduling flexibility of self-paced learning, does not leverage subject-matter experts’ time, and does not present a consistent message to all learners.
Douglas Wieringa, learning development manager, has been a writer, instructional designer and project manager for 15 years. He currently serves a variety of roles at Knowledge Anywhere—managing the project management and content development teams, writing sites and participating in the instructional design of sites. He is the author of “Procedure Writing: Principles and Practices,” a leading publication on procedure writing.
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