Web-based training, sometimes called eLearning, is instruction accessed through computerized electronic technologies, such as the Internet, intranet, compact disc, mobile devices, or other digital media. It is typically delivered to a geographically dispersed audience via the Internet to somewhere other than the traditional classroom, and requires active engagement and interaction by the learner to meet objectives and achieve intended outcomes. There are the four established levels of interactivity in a web-based environment, covering training that is linear and does not allow learners to choose their own learning paths, to training that fully immerses the learners in the training content in order to help conceptualize an idea and apply it in specific situations. Examples of interactivity tactics used to get learners involved range vastly through the levels, and include graphics, simple animations, quizzes, navigational menus, pop-up boxes, exercises, animated videos, decision trees, scenario-based cases, and simulations.
It is also important to understand the difference between asynchronous and synchronous web-based training. Asynchronous web-based training includes learning that allows learners to complete the instruction in their own time using any time of electronic delivery medium (e.g., desktop computers, mobile devices, tablets, social media, alternate reality, etc.) This allows courses to be developed so that participants can go through on their own with little or no help from an instructor. Although this allows for extreme flexibility and lower cost, the downfalls are there is no immediate access to an instructor for questions or issues, there is lack of collaboration, and it requires a lot of self-motivation to complete. Synchronous web-based training requires that learners and instructors be online at the same time to interact and participate. This allows for instructors to provide help or additional instruction for participants who are confused, and provides an environment for group work and activities, but the pace of the course must be at the pace of the slowest learner, which prevents more advanced move ahead more quickly, and the training is only as good as the instructor is at delivering it.
Virtual hands on training is a form of distance learning that mimics actual hands on training with a number of benefits such as offering vast number of troubleshooting scenarios without impacting actual equipment use or availability and extending the instructor span to teach. It also supports increased individual learner practice. Virtual hands on training was developed by the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research and is used by the Florida Department of Transportation through a partnership with the Florida Department of Education, transit agencies, and industry associations for training transit technicians. It is being used as part of a curriculum framework that includes classroom, other online training as well as physical, in person hands on training.
Web-based training can be combined with other methods, such as printed materials and instructor-led training to reinforce learning. This is considered blended learning and is used when the one size fits all approach to training does not work for you. There is not one standard definition of blended learning, but education innovators have come to a consensus on three primary components that blended learning has – Some sort of in-person classroom activities facilitated by a trained educator, online learning materials, and structured independent study time guided by material in the lectures and skills developed during the classroom experience. It is up to you and your organization on how to interpret these guidelines to meet the needs of the training. All forms of web-based training can be paired with other training solutions (like traditional classroom-based training) to create a blended learning solution that best leverages face-to-face time with peers and instructors.
In addition, Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are increasingly becoming more prevalent as a tool for learning. A MOOC is an open, online course with a large number of participants typically exceeding the number that would participate in a traditional course of study, whether that course of study is offered online or face to face. What makes a MOOC open is that it is accessible to all, without requiring participants to apply and be granted access to the course through a screening process. MOOCs are viewed by some as bringing education in synch with the ubiquitous internet by providing continuous, anytime-anywhere access at no cost. Many cite the high number of drop outs from courses as an indicator that MOOCs are not beneficial to the learner in spite of the fact that more students may be served overall as contrasted to the expected on site enrollment capacity. Although the most significant development and use of MOOCs is currently higher education, the corporate sector is growing and has been showing a higher completion rate. Some companies are leveraging existing MOOCs to educate their customers, to identify, develop and recruit scarce talent and to provide training opportunities for their technology professionals.
The below chart describes examples of web-based training used in transit and non-transit industries, as well as possible applications for the transit industry.