E-learning passes, but it lacks personal touch

E-learning passes, but it lacks personal touch

Online training is becoming a routine affair for government employees.


The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on e-learning is based on a telephone survey of 100 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as e-learning users.
For the most part, they like it. It's easy: You log on, enter a password and, presto, you're in a cyberclassroom.

'It's convenient. That's the biggest point for me,' said Geoffrey Golden, an engineering technician with the Navy's Engineering Field Activity Chesapeake in Washington, who has taken a variety of Navy classes online.

Golden said short courses were more effective when done online because they can be completed anytime, anywhere'echoing the sentiments of 72 percent of participants.

But he said a traditional classroom setting might be more effective for complex subjects.
Indeed, the absence of real-life classroom energy and personal contact was the biggest drawback of online training for 61 percent of survey participants.

'It's hard to get questions answered because the help buttons can only answer so much,' said an Army supply technician in Concord, N.H.

'There's no one to ask a question of,' a Postal Service telecommunications specialist in Manchester, N.H., said.

Slow Web pains

An Air Force system administrator in Arizona said that trying to download class materials when the Web is slow is a nuisance.

In Hopkinsville, Ky., Social Security Administration district manager Irvin Mull said doing coursework online is tedious, especially for people who spend their days in front of computer screens anyway.

'We get a lot of reading material that comes in daily on the computer,' he said. 'It's constant. So we're on the computer most of the time looking at something. From that standpoint, when you get these courses where you're sitting there for hours at a time, it's kind of difficult.'

On the other hand, Mull, who has taken an assortment of online courses, including computer-related training and classes on sexual harassment and workload control, found numerous benefits to online learning.

'I like being able to go back and take another look at the material,' he said.

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