Qantas flies with hybrid approach

Like any other training initiative, what makes or breaks e-learning is user acceptance. And Qantas' experience shows taking a hybrid approach may be the answer.

Liz Smith, technical training consultant at Qantas said there is an element of belief amongst end users that if it is not classroom-based, it's not kosher.

"This is one of the reasons we haven't gone to technology-based training as the only method," she said.

"Qantas is moving away from face-to-face training but we will have supported, technology-based training."

Smith calls this a hybrid approach towards an online mentoring and tutoring environment that will support e-learning products.

For instance, Qantas is using NETg, implemented by Oracle Education, for computer applications training for all Qantas staff. Infrastructure to deploy these courses is delivered by an intranet solution developed jointly by Qantas College and Adelaide-based Tech Works.

However, rather than delivering training courses solely via the corporate intranet Qantas has taken the cautious approach.

"Even as a large, global organisation with a complex infrastructure we still wanted to deliver courses via diskettes and CD ROMs," Smith said.

"It is important not to simply consider e-learning as delivered via the Internet because some people are little frightened of the Internet still, which is a barrier to learning."

Smith also pointed to technical hurdles, as some users lack the hardware to view the latest offerings.

"Streamed video is nice, but not if you don't have the technical capability to deliver that to end users," she said.

Additionally, many organisations also lack the infrastructure to deliver these technologies Smith added, saying "We still face challenges with our own infrastructure."

To deploy these sophisticated training products, IT managers need to ensure their networks are robust. However, Smith warned most networks that are built into an organisation are usually for operational purposes, and education generally takes a back seat.

Having to consider technical limitations of Qantas' networks meant Smith needed to ensure IT specialists were involved in choosing an e-learning provider and how their products would be deployed across the intranet.

"A lot of these materials are really great, but you have to consider bandwidth and modems as well as be aware how your infrastructure is going to grow and progress before you decide what the deployment options are," Smith said.

And most vendors tend to think that because a technology is available, it should be used, rather than working with what an organisation already has, Smith said.

"When we went to tender for our current solutions, a lot of vendors wanted to show us the latest technology such as video streaming," she said.

"They seemed to want to concentrate only on the Internet solutions. But we had to make sure we brought them back down to earth with the lowest common denominator.

Smith referred to the "Harbour Bridge" syndrome, describing large companies with multiversion software and hardware environments.

She explained: "When we upgrade our software or hardware, we start the implementation at one end of the company and by the time we get to the other end we have several versions. I don't think vendors appreciate that, especially with this type of course ware."

Smith advises IT managers to work with a vendor that is prepared to work with your existing infrastructure, "which may mean using solutions they have put out to pasture that they are willing to bring back to help you with your implementation."

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