Online learning offers new opportunities for acquiring knowledge and building skills. While its primary advantage may seem obvious to virtually everyone, there are more benefits to e-learning than the convenience of clicking on a classroom. Advantages for All For businesses, e-learning provides a low-cost alternative to conventional methods of employee training. Yet many companies are realizing that financial impact goes beyond the price tag of the program. Because course content can be selected based on the needs of specific individuals and there is more flexibility as far as learning pace, the information acquired lends itself to more immediacy in terms of workplace application. This results in a larger number of employees who can acquire relevant knowledge and skills faster, which can significantly impact a company’s bottom line. For many individuals, e-learning provides access to programs that would otherwise be unavailable. This is true of college courses and of training-based instruction. E-learning also offers a new tool when it comes candidate placement. Skills and knowledge that may have been difficult or impossible for a candidate to acquire, in order to meet job requirements, are now available. For recruiters, e-learning also offers opportunities for personal career growth. Many Choices and More to Come There is already an array of options when it comes to online learning. But this is just the tip of the keyboard. The demand for education and training delivered in this way is so great that the research firm IDC predicts the worldwide e-learning market will exceed $23 billion by 2004. According to IDC, the number of colleges and universities offering e-learning will more than double by 2004, and student enrollment in these courses will increase by 33% annually. The firm bases its analysis on statistics as of December 1999, when more than 1,500 schools offered online courses. Peterson’s includes many college and university online learning programs under the heading “Adult/Distance Learning.” But not all programs listed in this category are completely computer-based. Some require minimal on-campus participation, usually in the form of residency meetings, which typically occur once a semester. In this category you’ll find listings for schools like University of Phoenix Online. An early pioneer in e-learning, it offers undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs that are completely Internet-based. With programs in accounting, administration, business, education, management, marketing, nursing/healthcare and technology, University of Phoenix Online is a viable learning alternative for many busy professionals. Peterson’s also provides information about Capella University, another school offering online degree programs. At Capella, the focus is on graduate education. Students can choose from various graduate programs in business, education, human services, psychology and technology. Undergraduate degree programs are available in technology. Nova Southeastern also offers several online programs, including an undergraduate program in business and professional management and graduate programs in accounting and education. In addition, many of Nova’s distance-learning programs that involve limited residencies feature online courses. E-Training Peterson’s now features a “Training & Exec Ed” section. Selecting “Search Bricker’s Online” leads to several search areas, including the opportunity to view the listings of over 14,500 distance-learning courses. When it comes to professional training, eMind is another site to keep in mind. eMind features over 1,200 courses in insurance, securities, accounting, information technology and professional development. Courses in certain fields, such as insurance, are structured to meet licensing exam requirements. But eMind does more than offer a library of online tests. The company also creates custom content for organizations and provides tracking and reporting. The Personalized Tracker records each employee’s courses, and Corporate Reports provide summary information for all employee learning within a given organization. Sample documents can be viewed at the site by selecting “Tracking & Reporting.” At the eMind site, you can also “Demo a Course.” This allows you to view a catalog course. Selecting “Take a Tour,” on the other hand, leads to a presentation, which details the company’s custom-tailored solutions. With a Particular Focus Many companies are supplementing onsite training offerings with e-learning options. One such organization is Red Hat, a provider of Internet infrastructure technologies and services based on open source software. Selecting “Training” at the Red Hat homepage returns a variety of options, including “eLearning.” The Red Hat e-learning Course Catalog features seven categories: “Red Hat Linux,” “C, C++ Programming,” “Java Programming,” “Networking,” “Object Programming,” “UNIX” and “Web Programming.” Various courses are listed under each category heading. While most e-learning is asynchronous, which means that, like email, content can be reviewed at the learner’s convenience, the Internet is also being used as a learning tool in other ways. The International Institute for Learning is an organization that offers various project management seminars and training courses for a global audience. IIL bridges the distance by making several courses available through satellite/Webcasting. Focused on the Future When it comes to e-learning, courses currently exist in almost every field and subject area. Entering an occupation and the term “e-learning” at a search engine, such as Google, returns links to training sites, associations, job boards and other locations where information can be obtained. And this is just the early stage of learning evolution. Given the demand for online education and training programs, options ? and opportunities ? will continue to increase in every field.