Discussion Papers

Leopold Reif, Frank Sippel

European Teletraining at Work Lessons learnt from multimedia language courses in European companies
Nr. 152 / September 1995

Summary

This reader deals with a 3 1/2-year socio-technical experiment on European Teletraining. It was supported by the European Union (DG XIII) under the auspices of the DELTA programme on research and development, testing and the market uptake of new learning and training technologies and services.

It draws together the experience and concepts of a large consortium of European pro-viders of distance training courses, telematic products and services. Collaborative action was aimed at pushing advanced telematic-mediated distance learning into the practice of further training departments of large European companies as well as SMEs. The piloting and validation of a special multimedia corporate training application, called Multimedia Teleschool for European Personnel Development (MTS), was conducted between 1992 and 1995.

In the ‘Virtual School' environment of MTS, over 1.400 learners from all of Europe were trained in a realistic training situation. Computer conferencing and interactive television were the multimedia tools used for the delivery of training. The pedagogical essentials of the pilot were interactive group learning and flexibility with regards to time, place and pace.

In this reader, key protagonists and managers of the MTS project report on their work and their conceptional and practical experiences during the exciting process of building up this new training configuration to work. Most of the authors were engaged in constructing and operating the Teleschool courses, others were engaged in project evaluation and were responsible for constructive criticism while the project was still running.

The reader presents insights into the project with regard to 3 different aspects:

- The conceptionalisation and realisation of computer conferencing (chapter 2 to 5)

- The production, delivery and pedagogy of live, interactive TV programmes via Direct Broadcast by Satellite (DBS) (chapter 6 to 7)

- The evaluation results concerning the implementation process, learners’ assessment of the MTS, and visionary trends in future teletraining (chapter 8-10).

The experience gained in the field of research and development showed that teletrai-ning is certainly a feasible mode of distance training. Its functionality and acceptance in corporate environments depend on a number of preconditions. The most important are:

- Sufficient motivation and competence among the employees participating to organise their individual learning appropriately in a flexible and interactive ‘virtual’ class-room setting involving many group work assignments.

- The use of learning technology that fits in with the existing telematic infrastructure of the company as well as with current and planned training applications.

- Comprehensive support for the learners from the course providers and in-company tutors, telematic experts, and further training programme managers.

Introducing teletraining into a corporate environment is a complex socio-technical process which certainly poses a challenge to traditional training practices and learners’ expectations. It has to be carefully planned and implemented in a well coordinated manner. It is not viewed as a direct substitute for learning methods such as face-to-face teaching or computer-based-training (CBT), and as such it can not be said that tele-training is automatically the most suitable mode of learning for every employee in any corporate setting. Instead it is seen as a way of enriching current training methods with a further option. The great challenge facing management is how to integrate teletraining into future training practises in the optimum fashion.

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