From the Publisher: Benefits of Virtual Learning

FRAMINGHAM (07/17/2000) - Is age the sole criteria for promotion within your company? Of course not. But it is in our country's public school system, where not much has changed in the past 100 years. Kids are subject to a ludicrous rationale at the end of a school year--all 8-year-olds leave the second grade and hear the words, "Congratulations, you are now promoted to the third grade."

Some should be going to fifth grade. Others back to first.

Children, like employees, learn at dramatically different speeds. Yet the United States's education system, and probably your company's career-development program, treats them basically the same.

Though I am a strong advocate of the promise of technology in K-12 classrooms, the list of accomplishments created by the introduction of technology to the classroom over the past five years is a short one. Many more classrooms are connected to the Net, but few school districts really know what to do with this tool. Our industry, which has made its share of technology implementation mistakes, must share the blame for this.

It is easy for chief information officers, and people like myself, to critique our country's education system, claiming it is not producing enough IT workers.

But what are we doing, really doing, about it?

The education process in the United States is one-dimensional.

Teachers/instructors teach and students/employees learn. Some do it better than others. Technology has the power, however, to turn the paradigm--allowing teachers to learn and students to teach. But only the most leading-edge schools/companies have the guts to really jump in this pool.

Most are content to keep the status quo and view computers and network connections as the digital blackboard of the 21st century: just another set of tools to reinforce old ways of teaching and career development.

But computers and high-bandwidth network connections have the potential to turn our education system on its ear. My 17-year-old daughter, a junior in the local public high school, takes a course called Virtual High School offered at We live in Massachusetts, but her teacher resides at the University of Michigan. Her fellow classmates--a.k.a. peer teachers--come from as far away as Singapore. And school doesn't end at 2:40 p.m. for this class.

It is "virtually" 24/7.

The title on your business card may read "chief information officer," but in fact all readers of CIO are teachers. And you should start now to look at innovative ways you can leverage technology to help provide customized, individualized, career-based education programs for all of your company's employees.

In this real-time, just-in-time, just-for-me economy, relying on the old ways of career development just will not work. Smart, competitive companies will aggressively adopt innovative ways of e-learning to keep their organizations in leadership positions.Make sure your company is one of them.

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