Some businesses are beginning to utilize online learning as a way to help train their workers and develop existing or new skills. Thanks to the convenience of distance education, employees can now complete courses without taking a huge amount of time away from their work day, as many online professional development programs can be accessed anytime, from anywhere with an Internet connection. These advancements can also allow companies to save money on training by creating their own Learning Management System (LMS), or hiring a third party to help build the platform.

“Forward-thinking businesses are already embracing these techniques and the expectation is that the use of virtualization will become commonplace in the near to mid-term,” said Kevin Young, general manager for Africa, the Middle East, and Europe at Skillsoft.

Businesses can now adopt a wide range of online technologies, from e-books and video lectures to virtual role-playing exercises, to keep workers properly trained on new processes, skills, and organizational shifts. By building and using a LMS, employers can even monitor the learning progress of employees, see who is completing the training programs, and how well people are performing and retaining the skills they learn. Companies can then alter their training program for different types of learners, or adjust it if certain aspects aren’t successful.

The head of the Association of Accounting Technicians, Robert Donelan, feels that there are many benefits for companies that utilize online learning. “In a competitive marketplace it is crucial to be continually meeting demand so that your offerings and your organization can evolve,” he said. “The future is bright in the virtual learning world but we need to be bold and allow new methods of learning to flourish.”

Of course, organizations shouldn’t rush into ventures like this because of pressure to innovate, or push technology on their workers without a firm training structure already in place. Young added, “Tools need to be both easy to use and powerful with clear learning objectives, while learning systems also need to be unified, friendly, intuitive and highly visual.” When done the correct way, online learning programs can benefit both employees and employers.

Recently, prominent MOOC platform Coursera announced plans to begin offering online professional development courses for K-12 educators. These programs, which vary in length, will be free to enroll in, and offer training in such areas as blended learning strategies, curriculum development and subject-specific instruction. Along with a variety of academic institutions, several museums, including the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art, have also teamed up with Coursera to provide course content.

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