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Web delivery of interactive learning in the UK
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Survey report

Fastrak Consulting, working with Epic Group plc on behalf of the UK Department for Education and Employment, has been contracted to assess the potential for web delivery of interactive learning materials in the UK. As part of this project, we have conducted a survey of public and private sector organisations, both large and small, to ascertain their experiences to date and plans for the future with regard to online learning. Although the main project report will not be available until later in 1999, we have decided to make available the results from the survey now, as they are likely to be of interest to developers, providers and potential users of online learning technology. Readers requiring a full analysis of the results should contact Clive Shepherd clives@fastrak-consulting.co.uk or John Harris johnh@epic.co.uk.

Contents
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Highlights
Methodology
Reasons for online learning
Subjects
Which training functions online?
Degree of interactivity
Use of media
Networking technology
Time for learning
Learning location
Resourcing of materials
Tools
Web technologies
Balance of training
Experience to date
Factors in success or failure

Highlights
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1 The primary reason for using online learning is to make training more accessible.
2 The main subject to be addressed by online learning is IT user training, though within five years online learning will be used for all subjects to at least a moderate degree.
3 The primary uses to be made of online technology will be the delivery of interactive self-study training, providing access to learning resources, conducting assessments and storing training records; however, all aspects of the training process will be affected to some extent.
4 The degree and sophistication of the interactivity in online learning materials will rise steadily.
5 Although primarily composed at present of text and graphics, online learning materials will increasingly incorporate animation, audio and video as bandwidth improves
6 Both the Internet and intranets will be important means of delivery.
7 The employee's desktop will be respondents' favoured location for the delivery of online learning.
8 Organisations currently obtain more of their online materials off-the-shelf, although within five years the most common method will be the in-house development of bespoke materials.
9 Organisations are using a mixture of web development tools and specialist computer-based training tools to develop online learning materials.
10 Over a five year period the use of online learning will rise dramatically as a proportion of all training, largely at the expense of classroom training.
11 Although it is early days, many organisations are reporting successful experiences of using online learning.
12 The most important factor in the success or failure of online learning is support from senior management, although many other factors were seen as significant, including the availability of sufficient network bandwidth and the attitudes of trainees, trainers and the IT department.

Contents

Methodology
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The survey was conducted by questionnaire in February 1999. There were 74 respondents, divided as follows:

Organisations with 1-500 employees 38%
Organisations with 501-2000 employees 28%
Organisations with more than 2000 employees 34%
Education 30%
Other public sector 16%
Private sector 54%

For all but two parts of the questionnaire ('balance of training' and 'experience to date'), respondents were required to answer each question against a five point scale - not at all, to a small degree, moderately, significantly and very significantly. For ease of reading, these ratings have been converted into percentages, with the following approximate meanings:

Not at all 0-20%
To a small degree 21-40%
Moderately 41-60%
Significantly 61-80%
Very significantly 81-100%

Contents

Reasons for online learning
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We asked respondents how important various factors were in deciding whether to make use of online learning. All of the following were of moderate or significant importance:

Making training more accessible 85%
Reducing the time taken to deliver training 74%
Seeing for yourself how valuable on-line learning can be 73%
Exploiting the organisation’s Internet and intranet facilities 70%
Reducing the cost of training 69%
Delivering a wider range of training content 65%
Interest at senior management level 65%
Demonstrating that the training department is keeping up with leading-edge technology 58%
Demand from users 53%

[0-20%: not at all; 21-40% small degree; 41-60% moderate; 61-80% significant; 81-100% very significant]

Contents

Subjects
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We asked the extent to which respondents would be addressing various subjects with online learning. Currently the most favoured subject is IT user training, perhaps reflecting the fact that currently the majority of off-the-shelf materials are in this area. However, in five years, respondents predict that they will be using online learning to address all major subject areas:

Subjects addressed by online learning

[ 0-20%: not at all; 21-40% small degree; 41-60% moderate; 61-80% significant; 81-100% very significant]

Contents

Which training functions online?
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We questioned the extent to which various aspects of the training process would be carried out online. Currently the major uses of online technology are

  • providing access to non-interactive resources such as papers, videos, tapes of lectures, etc. (30% rising to 69%)
  • providing stand-alone interactive training (30%, rising to 76% over five years)
  • conducting assessments (21% rising to 64%)
  • storing training records (23% rising to 68%)

However, many other aspects of the training process will move online. The following will all be carried out online to a moderate extent within two years:

  • provide training in preparation for classroom events
  • provide refresher training
  • provide performance support
  • deliver real-time, on-line lectures/tutorials
  • provide real-time tutorial support
  • provide asynchronous tutorial support (using email, etc.)
  • allow learners to collaborate in real-time (using chat rooms, etc.)
  • allow learners to collaborate asynchronously (using threaded discussions, email, etc.)
  • manage curricula / learning plans

Contents

Degree of interactivity
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Respondents were asked about the degree of interactivity that will be available in online learning materials. Currently the majority of interactivity is navigational and simple question and answer (such as multiple choice questions). However, respondents expect the following types of interactivity to rise steadily in popularity:

  • sophisticated interactive exercises (drag and drop, interactive animations, etc.)
  • intelligent tutoring (delivering content and exercises intelligently based on user profiles and progress to date)
  • simulations (business sims, walk throughs, equipment sims, IT sims, etc.)

Contents

Use of media
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The questionnaire asked the extent to which various media will be employed in online learning materials. As expected the most favoured media currently are text and graphics, although audio and video are also being used to a small degree. In five years, as bandwidth increases, all available media will be used significantly (rated at more than 68%), with the exception of the rather more esoteric real-time 3D, which was rated at 43%.

Contents

Networking technology
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We asked the extent to which various networking technologies will be used to deliver online learning. Currently respondents are using the Internet, their intranet and their local area network (that is excluding the intranet) to a small degree. In five years the intranet, at 85%, becomes the most significant medium, with the Internet second at 58%.

Contents

Time for learning
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Respondents were asked the extent to which online learning will take place at various times of day. The following times are all used to a small or moderate degree (26% to 42%), rising over five years to between 56% and 67%:

Contents

Learning location
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We questioned respondents about the extent to which they would be using various locations for online learning. Currently the employee's desktop, learning centres in the workplace, colleges, the employee's home and wherever the employee is (using a laptop) are all used to a small degree. Within five years, the desktop becomes the preferred choice, with a 78% rating:

Locations for learning

[0-20%: not at all; 21-40% small degree; 41-60% moderate; 61-80% significant; 81-100% very significant]

Contents

Resourcing of materials
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Respondents were asked how they will be resourcing their online learning materials, i.e. the learning content. Currently more materials are obtained off-the-shelf than by any other method (a rating of 41% rising over five years to 58%), although developing bespoke materials in-house rated 35% (rising to 63%). It will also be common to customise off-the-shelf materials (28% rising to 58%) and to develop bespoke materials using outside contractors (25% rising to 49%).

Contents

Tools
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We asked about the tools that respondents will be using to develop and deliver online learning. Looking first to development, there is currently a fairly even split between those using web development tools and those using specialist computer-based training authoring tools. This even split continues over the five year period. Over the same period, there will be a large rise (from a rating of around 20% to nearly 60%) in the use of both curriculum management / training record systems and courseware delivery / collaboration tools.

Contents

Web technologies
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We questioned the extent to which respondents would be using various technologies, apart from simple HTML, to deliver their online learning applications. The following technologies are already rated at over 25%:

Within two years this rating rises to more than 48% and by five years to more than 60%.

Contents

Balance of training
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Respondents were asked what proportion of training is or will be delivered using classroom, on-job and self-study methods (including online learning). The results show a major rise in the use of online learning and a moderate increase in the application of CD-ROM, largely at the expense of classroom training:

Balance of training

Contents

Experience to date
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We asked how successful respondents' experiences to date of online learning had been. Although it is early days, the results are more favourable than not:

Experience to date

Contents

Factors in success or failure
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Finally, the questionnaire asked how important various factors were to the potential success or failure of online learning. All of the following were seen to be at least of moderate importance, with support from senior management very significant:

Support from senior management 85%
The attitudes of trainees and other employees 76%
The availability of suitable learning content 76%
The availability of sufficient network bandwidth 75%
The attitudes of trainers 73%
Awareness of the benefits of on-line learning 73%
Support from the IT department 72%
The availability of network terminals (PCs etc.) 72%
The time taken to develop learning content 71%
The availability of adequate design and development skills 71%
The availability of adequate tutorial skills 70%
The cost of developing / purchasing learning content 67%
Widespread adherence to industry standards 66%
The availability of suitable tools for managing learning 64%
The availability of suitable development tools 63%
The cost of tools 60%

[0-20%: not at all; 21-40% small degree; 41-60% moderate; 61-80% significant; 81-100% very significant]

Contents

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Epic Group plc, 1999

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