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Monday, October 16, 2006

Implementation: E-Learning for the Non-Wired

While e-learning has a number of distinct advantages, one issue frequently encountered is providing course access to line workers when they don’t even have an email account. Fortunately, there are a number of methodologies that can be used to provide a solution. Here are three methods that have been used successfully by a large multi-national manufacturer of healthcare and hygiene disposables for the consumer and pharmaceutical markets who I worked with as a client.

These methods include the use of existing training classrooms, the placement of kiosks on the production floor, and the innovative creation of a Virtual Lab. Each of these methods has advantages that have helped the multi-national manufacturer maximize its e-learning efforts.

Existing Classrooms

The first method was to utilize an existing training room within some of the facilities. Since many different types of computer training occur within the different plants, several already had computers in their training rooms. In these cases, all that was need was an internet browser. The line employees would simply “travel” to the internal training room and take the e-learning instruction when needed during designated "learning times" or unexpected down time on the line.


Not all of the production facilities had computer-enabled training rooms, in fact, the majority did not. To accommodate the lack of computers within the training rooms some of the facilities created and/or purchased kiosks and placed them near certain functional areas. Each kiosk contained a computer with internet access and the required software for the e-learning classes.

With the kiosks in place, line employees didn’t even need to leave the floor to take an e-learning class. They simply go to the stand up kiosk or the sit down version (depending on the facility) and take the e-learning. Typically, two kiosks are placed near the functional areas to provide access to e-learning.

Virtual Lab

Not all plants had existing training rooms or space to place e-learning kiosks on the production floor. Additionally, some facilities had limited space so that creating computer-based training facilities was not an option. However, these facilities did have cafeterias, conference rooms and meeting rooms. The decision was made to purchase a wireless mobile lab with 12 laptops. This provided a tremendous amount of flexibility. The lab could be rolled into an empty conference room, it could be used in the cafeteria and the individual laptops could be taken off the cart and checked out when needed. This solution provided flexibility and mobility of the e-learning.

Additionally, the solution of the Virtual Lab was created for less than $10,000 because of the decreasing cost of laptops and wireless technology. The laptops don't need a lot of software, just a browser since the client's e-learning was housed on the vendor's server.

Managing the Process

While each of these solutions is effective, the experience of the multi-national manufacturer was that the e-learning deployment process was only as good as the management of the learning process itself.

Since line employees did not each have individual access to an email account, the e-learning system was set up to alert managers of the need for their direct reports to take an online module. The managers where then given the responsibility of making sure the line employees took the classes in a timely fashion. When managers were directly responsible for making sure the learners participated with the classes, the process was successful.

Hope this gives you some ideas for implementing e-learning within your organization, in places where the employees don't have immediate internet access for everyone.

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