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Designing World-Class E-Learning

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Designing World-Class E-Learning

How IBM, GE, Harvard Business School & Columbia University Are


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Beyond technology: how to create e-learning that meshes with the way people really learn.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


E-learning expert Roger C. Schank describes the secrets of a good e-learning program. He emphasizes using e-learning to train in-house employees, although his methods could work in any setting. Schank clearly establishes the basic principle that makes e-learning work: learning by doing. He outlines methods using scenarios and simulations that permit the learner to put new ideas into practice immediately. He’s a little too fond of failing and trying over as a learning method, when one might learn just as well by studying others’ failures and successes. However, he supports his approach with education-based examples that demonstrate how children learn, along with an inside look at IBM and GE programs. Visuals in the book show the computer screen in a teaching mode as displayed to the user, so you see how your e-learning material should look, whether on a Web site or on a local intranet. recommends this solid hands-on instruction manual for training and development managers, and for those who are building e-learning experiences.


The Value of E-Learning

E-learning can be effective, economical and convenient, in that it permits learning any time. It is thrifty, because once you build a training program, you can deliver it continually to any number of learners over a long time. However, effective e-learning is more than just throwing your training manual up on a Web site. To make e-learning work, incorporate natural learning principles based on how things are actually done.

Learning by doing is critical; that’s how humans learn and that’s how human memory processes work. People learn by doing and then by finding out if what they just did is wrong or right. That’s why people become more effective in a particular role as they become more experienced. Thus, the best way for an employee to learn is by working on a job requiring the skills you have prioritized. Through practice, the employee will eventually learn.

The downside of learning by doing is that it can be dangerous and expensive. When you put an inexperienced employee in a job, he or she can make costly mistakes, such as damaging an expensive piece of equipment. Also, employees may not learn all they need to know through simple random...

About the Author

Roger C. Schank, Ph.D., is a Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and the founder and chairman of CognitiveArts, a leading e-learning development firm. He also runs Schank Learning Consultants, and is an author and lecturer, as well as the inventor of powerful multimedia training tools. He founded the Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University and directed the Artificial Intelligence Project at Yale University. He has published more than 125 articles and books, including Coloring Outside the Lines, Dynamic Memory and Engines for Education.

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