From e-learning to blended learning

Master's Thesis, 2003

51 Pages, Grade: good



I. Introduction – “From E-Learning to Blended Learning””

II. Theoretical Background
2.1 Learning theories of E-Learning
2.2 E-Learning
2.2.1 Benefits and Limits of E-Learning
2.2.2 E-Learning Organizations
2.2.3 Blended Learning

III. Best Practice: Case Studies of E-Learning and Blended Learning
3.1 Case Study I: Management Training at IBM
3.2 Case Study II: BAE Systems – Virtual University
3.3 Case Study III: U.S. Military – Transforming military training
3.4 Case Study IV: Harvard Business School – Blended Learning

IV. Pilot Project “E-Learning at XXX Spain”
4.1 Current situation of Training at XXX Spain
4.1.1 The Survey
4.1.2 General findings
4.2 Implementation of E-Learning at XXX
4.3 Return on Investment of E-Learning
4.3.1 The Value of E-Learning Training
4.3.2 The ROI of E-Learning
4.3.3 Example of E-Learning ROI at XXX Spain

V. Implementation of Blended Learning at XXX Spain
5.1 Options of Blended Learning
5.2 Implementation of Blended Learning – Pilot Course “English”

VI. Conclusion

VII. Bibliography

VIII. Annex

I. Introduction – “From E-Learning to Blended Learning”

In today’s economy, companies are increasingly facing new challenges. High competition in a global market, shrinking corporate resources, rapid shifts in technology, and the recruitment and retention of talented and skilled people are just few of these challenges.

The economy demands that people’s knowledge and skill levels be constantly updated. A growing number of companies are developing a new learning culture. In the past companies have viewed training as a necessary expense rather than an investment. Emphasis was placed cutting on the expense of training by making it more efficient. Now, in response of these challenges, companies are beginning to view training as an investment. The knowledge and skills of the organisation’s employees are now being held on equal basis with the company’s monetary asset. Learning faster than other companies represents one of the most important competitive advantages.[1]

Here the Internet technology represents an unprecedented opportunity for training departments to add value to the organization. E-learning combines education, information, communication, training and knowledge management.[2] It represents an all embracing and cost effective way of training staff. It can deliver on a global basis, while tailoring content to suit the needs of the individuals. It also allows an organization to regularly assess skills gaps. Its benefits have already been realised by a number of the world’s leading companies who prepare their workforce with e-learning. Some case studies will be described in this report.

The training department of my company, XXX SA , is planning to implement e-learning and blended learning, but there is a lack of information about these new learning methods. To implement a new learning system will require a clearly defined strategy and the support of the senior management. Therefore, the training & learning department has to justify the initial investment and ensure that learning is aligned with business goals. In essence, it has to describe the organizations current situation versus the desired situation, and how the organization can achieve its goals.

This Management Report will deliver theoretical and practical information about e-learning and blended learning in order to accelerate the implementation of this training tool at XXX SA . XXX SA should avoid the mistakes of those companies, which poured money into the mere cataloguing of knowledge and giving access to this information. But if XXX SA does not embrace these new learning strategies, it will not be able to keep its employees skills current enough to compete.

The aim of this report is to perform a successful project and to give a guideline about the implementation of e-learning and blended learning at XXX SA .

II. Theoretical Background

It is necessary to understand some important points about learning theories when implementing an e-learning or blended learning project: the definition e-learning, the importance of an e-learning organization and the new combination of old and new training methods, blended learning.

2.1 Learning theories of E-Learning

Behaviourism is a theory of animal and human learning that only focuses on objectively observable behaviours and discounts mental activities. Behaviour theorists define learning as nothing more than the acquisition of new behaviour. B.F. Skinner is considered the "grandfather of behaviourism". Skinner and others viewed the teacher's job as modifying the behaviour of students by setting up situations to reinforce students when they exhibit desired responses. Behaviourists viewed learning as a sequence of stimulus and response actions in the learner.[3]

C ognitive psychology is one of the major approaches within psychology and can be contrasted with the behavioural view, the psychoanalytic view of the unconscious, and the humanistic view (a focus on personal growth and interpersonal relationships).

It represents the branch of psychology that attempts to explain the underlying processes of human intelligence. Research is focused on information processing as opposed to the stimulus-response methodology of behavioural psychology .

Many educational psychologists found the behavioural approach unsatisfying. In the areas of problem solving and learning strategies they became more concerned with what was unobservable - what was going on inside the brain.

The methods of constructivism emphasize student’s ability to solve real-life, practical problems. Students typically work in cooperative groups rather than individually; they tend to focus on projects that require solutions to problems rather than on instructional sequences that require learning of certain content skills. The job of the teacher in constructivist models is to arrange for required resources and act as a guide to students while they set their own goals and “teach themselves”.[4]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Learning theories of E-Learning

Modern training systems are following five core principles of learning in to achieve business results through training:

1. Learning is a transformation that takes place over time.
2. Learning follows a continuous cycle of action and reflection.
3. Learning is most effective when it addresses issues relevant to the learner.
4. Learning is most effective when people learn with others.
5. Learning occurs best in a challenging and supportive environment.[5]

Learning does not happen in isolation. Indeed, learning solutions separated from work processes will invariably fail. To be effective, learning must take place in the context of work goals.[6]

2.2 E-Learning

E-Learning covers a wide set of applications and processes, such as Computer-based training (CBT) and Web-based training (WBT) and virtual classrooms. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, Intranet/Extranet and CD-Rom.

Computer-based training is conducted using a computer. CBT often used when referring to education or training at a computer, which is not connected to a network.
Web-based training is education or training delivered over the Internet and accessible using a browser. It can incorporate the use of an instructor or facilitator. E-Learning is the most widely used and understood term for these types of training.

Broadly, e-learning technology can be split into three groups:

- Self-paced or asynchronous learning: an employee chooses independently and learns online, usually alone. Asynchronous learning is equivalent of reading a book and doing exercises.
- Collaborative or synchronous learning: this usually makes use of instant message technology, which allows a remote learner to interact with others in the group, asking questions and discussing points.
- Virtual classroom or real-time learning: video Internet technology allows a learner to see the teacher, and talk to others in the class through instant messaging or an audio link.

2.2.1 Benefits and Limits of E-Learning

A successful e-learning project demands careful thought and consideration of the benefits and limits of this new learning method.

There are many reasons that drive companies to implement e-learning as a training tool. Users can access the programmes at anytime and from any location with network access. The programme can guide participants through the content, and they can learn on their own speed. Videos, animations and other multimedia elements help make the course content more interesting. Most importantly, trainees are not left to struggle on their own. Tutors or an Internet hotline are generally on hand to help, which improves the interactive relationship between tutor and learner.

Training material for online courses can be easily made accessible to its audience, and it is quick and easy to update. Online courses cut down travel costs and reduce the time workers have to be away from the workplace.

a) Benefits of E-Learning

So, for the company the immediate benefits of e-learning are obvious. A multinational company like XXX , for instance, can use e-learning techniques to train its entire workforce at several places simultaneously on the introduction of a new product or innovation, with immediate and consistent results.

Essentially, it is considerably cheaper than the traditional forms of training in terms of the direct costs of paying for individual courses and transporting staff to an academy and in terms of the time employees spends away from the office on traditional courses. But the benefit go beyond direct cost saving.

E-learning provides a superior learning and communication model that not only reduces costs, but also increases access to learning, and provides clear accountability for all participants. More importantly, e-learning equips employees with knowledge and information needed to help increase costumer satisfaction, expand revenue and sales, and accelerate technology adaptation.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2:Opportunities of E-Learning[7]

In summary, we have to consider the following benefits:

- The convenience of availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- Just-in-time training opportunities
- Cost savings
- Reduced time away from the job
- Centralized knowledge management.

b) Limits of E-Learning

E-learning will not replace the classroom setting, but enhance it, taking advantage of new content and delivery technologies to enable learning. It provides a new set of tools that can add value to traditional learning methods. Workshops and seminars will still be needed to train employees on complex procedures or operations.[8]

But delivering new technologies is not enough to ensure that the user will learn it.

Though there are a lot of advantages of online training, it is not always the perfect solution. A lack of acceptance is still one of the greatest obstacles. The learner has to become familiar with the new learning method and effort is needed to integrate it into continuing education concepts.

E-learning also demands a high level of self-motivation and organisation. Some participants of the courses at XXX AG in Germany needed several attempts to finish successfully the online courses.

The success of e-learning depends on the employee’s motivation to learn and acceptance of this new method. The goal should be to encourage employees to use available e-learning and make them comfortable learning through working hours.

As well employees as managers need to accept that learning will increasingly become am integral part of work, and, will increasingly take place at the workplace. In short, also e-learning has to be learned.

2.2.2 E-Learning Organizations

Organizations, which use CD-Rom or courses delivered over the Internet are not necessarily e-learning organizations. Committed e-learning organizations often offer credits to employees, who are free to choose their training, which can be computer-based or not, and self-manage their training opportunities. The difference between these two positions lies not in the delivery methods, but in the ability of the latter to benefit from a fully integrated learning model.[9]

A prerequisite of true e-learning organizations is that employees are knowledgeable about their own preferred methods of learning. All individuals learn have their own ways of learning best. Enabling employees to self-manage their training and learning might need a change in organizational climate.

Companies should actively encourage employees to find their preferred learning styles. This will help to ensure that e-learning systems supports fair and equitable access to training.

2.2.3 Blended Learning

E-learning is often seen as a replacement for the classroom. It does not have to be an either/or situation.

Both old and the new methods of learning are viable, and the use of both classroom training and e-learning will grow substantially over the next decade. The most effective, long-lasting results come from leveraging and combining the best aspects of both e-learning and traditional classroom learning.[10]

Blended learning has become the standard term for the use of a wide range of learning technologies and methods in the workplace. Examples include the traditional classroom, web-based tutorials, video conferencing, and knowledge management systems.[11] The aim is to combine various forms of instructional technology with face-to-face instructor-led training to produce an optimal learning outcome. The “blended solution” is being embraced as the future of workplace learning.

III. Best Practice: Case Studies of E-Learning and Blended Learning

Many companies adopted an e-learning strategy but very few have fully integrated e-learning that delivers real business results.

The majority of the organizations are taking their first steps with e-learning, so successes, so far, are scare. Where e-learning has worked, three frequently cited factors are:

- Starting small.
- Combining online and classroom learning (blended learning).
- Making the business case for the learning clear.[12]

A successful strategy can be designed to fill specifically targeted skill gaps in an efficient way, serving to motivate employees, improve their productivity and reducing the need to bring in skilled workers from outside the organization.[13] The following business cases show how e-learning can benefit a company.

3.1 Case Study I: Management Training at IBM

In the turbulent Information & Technology market, IBM recognized the importance of training its managers both on strategy and culture on leadership and human resource management. As a part of an on-going management development programme, IBM trains more than 5000 managers for each year. Traditionally, managers were brought together for five days event to learn the basics on IBM culture, strategy, and management. As the complexity of their job increased, IBM recognized that five days were not enough time to train managers effectively. Training needed to be an ongoing process. IBM decided to use an e-learning technology because other alternatives were costly and time-consuming. The aim was to find the appropriate technology to support different parts of the manager training process.

IBM developed a learning approach called “Basic Blue for Managers”, which blends technologies to support regular classroom sessions. The management training includes a Web-based learning infrastructure, virtual collaborative tools, content references, and other tools to complete face-to-face instructions.

Managers participate in 26 weeks of self-paced online learning delivered through the programme Lotus Learning Space. At the end of the learning process, managers meet for a 5 days session to address higher-level issues and skills.[14]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3: IBM – Blue Basic for Managers[15]

Cost Analysis: Return of Investment

The biggest share of the return from the company’s investment was the reduction of direct costs of traditional training classes.

Key benefits measured in calculating the Return on Investment from the solution include the following:

- Direct saving such as reduced programmes, travel, teacher expenses, and manager off-site costs. Because 75 % of the training is delivered through distance learning and 25 % is traditional classroom, IBM has been able to reduce significantly the costs associated with the training while increasing the amount of the content taught.
- Indirect cost saving in the form of increased manager productivity. The self-service nature of e-learning allows managers to better utilize their time. IBM also estimates that managers are able to reduce the time needed to learn new material by 25 percent.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 4: Project Mindspam Learning

The company’s success with these e-learning courses is due in large part to the commitment the company made early in the project to invest sufficient resources to develop high quality learning modules. The success of this e-learning application shows the value of the combination of technology and a proper level of training services.[16]

3.2 Case Study II: BAE Systems – Virtual University

BAE Systems is involved in the design, development, manufacturing and testing of advanced technology systems and equipment. It has costumers in over 70 countries, joint ventures with almost 30 companies and employs a substantial international workforce. The recent merger with a company and the doubling in size of the organization, have led to a rethink of the e-learning strategy. The company, with its history of links to academic and research institutions, considers knowledge management crucial to success, and is considering how best to maintain this.

Web-based skills and technical training have been provided for many employees through learning centers in the UK and abroad also direct to the desktop. This e-learning approach is seen to use the widest possible range of learning delivery methods.[17]

Aims and objectives

The principle of “achieving competitiveness through learning” is paramount and e-learning systems are an important delivery mechanism. The strategy aims to:

- Deliver training, which is aligned and integrated with company objectives.
- Foster the sharing and embedding of best practice.
- Help engender life-long learning in order to maximize employees’ capabilities.

The Virtual University

The Virtual University, launched in 1998 by British Aerospace, illustrates BAE Systems’ approach to e-learning. The Virtual University publishes research and benchmarking data on the company’s Intranet. So the employees have access to data from company research centers, universities and other institutions carrying out collaborative programs. Employees can also access internal resources such as BAE Systems best practice case studies, or externally, the European Foundation for Quality Management, and other databases.

The Virtual University provides also the following e-learning courses for all employees:

- Online tutorials for commonly used software packages.
- Human resource, management and personal development courses.

The Intranet also provides access to a learning and development guide. This assists employees with personal development plans by indicating development routers tailored to individual needs and detailing courses, reading lists and training packages.[18]


[1] See: XXX Learning Valley (2002), http://info.mchw.XXX .de

[2] See: Cisco (2003),

[3] See: Roblyer (1997), p. 59.

[4] See: Roblyer (1997), p. 70.

[5] See: Forum (1997), p. 1.

[6] See: Forum (2003), p. 3.

[7] See: Wideman (1991), p. 6.

[8] See: XXX AG (2002), intranet.XXX .com

[9] See: Industrial Society (2001), p. 3.

[10] See: Forum (2003), p. 2.

[11] See: Davis (2003), p. 1.

[12] See: Forum (2002), p. 1.

[13] See: Sanders (2002), p. 2.

[14] See: Nucleus Research (2003),

[15] Most (2003), p. 70.

[16] See: Nucleus Research (2003),

[17] See: Industrial Society (2001), p. 20.

[18] See: Industrial Society (2001), p. 21.

Excerpt out of 51 pages


From e-learning to blended learning
University of East London  (European College of Business and Management)
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Fatma Torun (Author), 2003, From e-learning to blended learning, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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