Bringing people together even when they're thousands of miles apart, cutting costs and reducing the environmental impact of business travel, corporate eLearning is the way of the future. Instead of physically assembling employees for training sessions, business leaders can use technology like video, learning management systems and social media to create collaborative learning environments.

eLearningCorporate eLearning is not just about sharing informational content, like a virtual version of a boring slideshow at a business conference. It emphasizes hands-on learning using online knowledge databases, one-on-one support from knowledgable tutors, self-paced training without a live instructor or real-time, instructor-led group learning activities over the internet.

Benefits of corporate eLearning

The clearest benefit of corporate eLearning is the ability to simultaneously instruct large groups of people located in different areas of the country or even the world. Eco-friendly online meetings, video conferences and online or CD-ROM-based learning management systems are an eco-friendly alternative to the waste and greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional business conferences.

But just as important as convenience, cost and environmental impact is the fact that corporate eLearning can often make the dissemination of knowledge much more effective. While this green technology can sometimes involve solitary self-study, corporate eLearning shines its brightest when it transforms learning into a social activity, making the individual knowledge of each member of a group available to the collective.

Corporate eLearning fundamentals

How do you facilitate the transfer of knowledge between colleagues, in business-to-business interactions or from a company to the end user of a product or service? Traditionally, this process involves tedious instruction manuals and other learning materials that can be difficult to navigate. This type of learning doesn't engage the trainees, allowing them to witness how the knowledge is put to use and try it out for themselves.

The trick is to foster a learning-working environment that not only makes knowledge accessible on demand, but places it in real-life context using interactive training exercises. Rather than attempting to memorize information, trainees retain important facts and concepts with the aid of varied content, interaction, visuals and feedback. Corporate eLearning also allows companies to keep their training materials up-to-date, especially when the knowledge comes from a live source rather than static written materials.

Video conference roomTechnology: videos, software and social media

As technology progresses, corporate eLearning is increasingly effective and prevalent in companies of all types and sizes. In the early days of eLearning, companies relied upon email, CD-ROMs and digital documents to transfer knowledge and information to trainees, but today, eLearning options have multiplied, incorporating video conferencing, fun interactive learning programs, instant messaging, multi-authored blogs, games, social networking and even animations.

Video conferencing enables face-to-face collaboration, whether using webcams and headsets for person-to-person interactions, video conferencing kits for small businesses or broadcast-quality setups for larger groups. Free video chat programs are readily available, and remote desktop viewing lets trainees see a program in action.

Learning management systems make it easy for companies to create virtual courses on just about any subject including tools like forums, wikis and quizzes. They can be as basic as the free open-source Course Management System Moodle, which is often used by educators to create online courses, or as complex as the many options offered by Saba. A program called Trainersoft makes it easy to incorporate video, narration and quizzes.

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Photos: austinevan/Flickr and andrewrendell/Flickr

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