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Some thoughts on online training courses.

I don't know how it is where you are, but my summer "break" (such as it is) is rapidly winding down. Among other things, it means that I spent a few hours today in front of my computer completing online training courses.

I find myself of two minds (at least) on these courses.

On the one hand, many of these courses do a reasonable (or even excellent) job of conveying important information -- broken down into modules that convey reasonably sized bites of content, enhanced with videos, case studies, and links to further information which one might bookmark for future reference. Indeed, the online training courses themselves can be accessed as a source of information later on, when one needs it.

It's hard to beat the convenience of the online delivery of these courses. You start them when you're ready to take them, and you can do a few modules of a course at a time, or pound through them all in one sitting. You don't need to show up to a particular place for a particular interval of time, you don't need to find a parking space, you don't even need to change out of your pajamas.

Plus, many of these online training courses simplify record-keeping for whomever is responsible for ensuring that the folks who are supposed to take the course have actually taken it (and performed to the specified level on the accompanying quizzes) by emailing the completion reports to the designated official.

On the other hand ... if you're pounding through a 26-module course in one sitting (as I did today), you have to wonder a little about retention. Passing a quiz on a module immediately after you've read through that module may be do-able, but I'm less certain that it would be as easy to pass a month later. Indeed, if there had been a single big quiz after the 26 modules (rather than a quiz on each module that you take immediately after the module), I'm not sure I would have scored as well.

I imagine, too, that this mode of training is not necessarily beloved by people who have not made their peace with multiple choice tests. As well, for people who need to discuss material in order to understand it, the online delivery of modules may be a lot less effective than a live training with other participants.

What have your experiences with online training courses been? To you find them an adequate tool for the job, a poor fit for your learning style, or a big old waste of time?

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