A survival guide for classroom trainersby
The forecasts for the growth of e-learning are becoming more extravagant by the month, says Clive Shepherd, writing in this month's IT Training magazine. Shepherd says that classroom trainers have a right to be sceptical about the figures being given out, arguing that "the world is changing fast, but not that fast." Training and IT Departments are both likely to resist speedy moves towards embracing e-learning, due to the amount of money and potential support involved. Learners themselves are used to turning up for a training course and knowing exactly what to expect - asking them to take greater responsibility for their own learning "requires self-discipline and a willingness to face the reality of an uncertain future", says Shepherd.
Nevertheless, he argues that e-learning is going to play a greater part in IT training in particular, because it allows people to try things out for themselves.
If and when e-learning really takes off, Shepherd says that classroom trainers have to consider the implication that the global reach of e-learning means that the market trainers are operating in grows from building customers by being the best trainer locally to having to compete with trainers from all around the world - a potential opportunity as well as threat. To survive as a classroom trainer, Shepherd says you'll need to make sure you deliver the best classroom training around, making the most of face-to-face tuition and group interaction.
Alternatively, Shepherd suggests moving into the e-learning market as well, by offering added value to existing e-learning as an online tutor to help learners to tackle the organisation-specific needs of software packages, by presenting real-time seminars online or by exploring limited opportunities to invigilate online examinations or assessing portfolios. Another possibility is to look for a market where there is currently no online learning:
"Who's providing online training in systems for accountants, dentists or librarians? If the market is relatively small, it may be that customers will pay a hefty premium for training materials, as long as the overall cost benefits are greater than for a more traditional classroom approach."
To conclude, Shepherd says that a classroom trainer has plenty of opportunities to contribute to e-learning, although the change is likely to mean that there will be less face-to-face contact with learners and more attention to detail required. Those who already design learning materials will find it easier to make a transition. At the end of the day, Shepherd says that some will leave training altogether and others will join, but that "one thing's for sure: training will be the richer for it."