Cloud based environments for collaborative e-learning

News   •   Feb 15, 2013 14:28 GMT

Staff training is vital to the professional development of any organisation, and is often a marker of a company's ability to achieve competitive advantage and growth. The social computing environment of today allows for a new, more collaborative approach to training and interaction between peers and trainers, as well as allowing improved access across geographic locations. Such collaboration allows for an exchange of ideas to take place, and a chance to learn new information leading to greater understanding, not just between departments, but to the greater audience as well.

A good example of this is the NHS South Central's e-Learning programme team who have estimated savings of approximately £4 million through collaboration as opposed to individual trusts commissioning and developing e-Learning modules. Their Content Club is fuelled by an e-Learning tool from Assima that enables them to create engaging lessons on a wide range of topics including clinical, technical, soft and statutory/mandatory training topics and produce modules usable within any local Learning Management System.

Collaboration uniquely allows for an exchange of ideas to take place, and a chance to learn new information. Cross fertilisation of ideas is an appealing benefit of collaboration, helping to improve ways of joined-up thinking, overcome corporate language -- jargon and acronyms -- barriers, standardising policy, and eliminating the age-old problem of 'the right hand didn't speak to the left hand,' aside from the obvious financial benefits. By agreeing standards and sharing protocols, collaboration can set the standard for different occupational groups, especially for those working in heavily scrutinised departments.

Many organisations are beginning to take a collaborative approach to e-Learning, training and content development, realising that the best cost-saving strategy is simply to work together. Today's social society provides an ideal way to do just this. The social aspect of learning is at the heart of a collaborative approach to training, and interaction between peers is more accessible even across geographic locations. The increasing adoption of cloud computing offers an exceptional environment for collaborative development of training programmes, as it overlays existing IT infrastructure while extending and adapting capabilities. Cloud computing helps organisations  realise multiple benefits such as high adoption levels, seamless integration, painless upgrades, and cost savings.

Enterprise Applications continue to be on-going critical investments for many organisations. The successful roll-out and support of these applications is a key element in assuring the successful take up and use of these systems. There have been many varied approaches and stand-alone software programmes that address some part of the challenge faced when rolling out Enterprise Applications. However, all are faced with short-comings, including lack of realism, difficulty maintaining them, data protection and regulation, limited access, and limited opportunities to share and collaborate.

Cloud based applications provide solutions to many of these shortcomings through improved access to data from any networked device making it easier to manage privileges and permissions, monitor use, and ensure everyone sees the same information at the same time. It also addresses maintenance issues, as upgrades and integration are performed seamlessly, there are no patches to download or install, and no need for additional hardware or software as the user base grows.

Cloud computing lends itself beautifully to an online, e-Learning environment that is accessible to everybody, enabling real-time content collaboration, authoring, workflow review and messaging. The benefits of a cloud-based, collaborative, community-enabled content management system that is tailored to deal with change projects and learning needs can render itself vital to any training team. Such benefits include the ability to address users, roles, authentication and permissions while enjoying a basis for project management - the ability to produce content on-the-fly, score and rate content, track revisions and enable version control, import, localise, index and categorise as well as publish content.

Cloud based e-Learning systems enable everyone working on a project high visibility to what another is doing, depending on allocated access rights, giving the project greater transparency and a truly collaborative environment. Imagine for a moment having the ability to review a colleague's material from wherever you are, online and on-the-fly, write messages back and forth interactively as you do with instant messaging, use a whiteboard for mark-up and information exchange, and track each revision as it makes its way through a dedicated workflow.  This approach inevitably results in higher quality training programmes produced quicker and at a lower cost; all content can be easily updated and rolled out to all parties benefiting the end user as well as the programme creators.

Within a virtual, cloud based environment highly realistic application clones of any software application system can be produced to support training programmes, which actually allow users to preview the system and see in reality the applications that will be used.  Users are more actively engaged with the system and obtain hands-on practice using the system. The cloned system replica acts and responds exactly as it would during a live session, yet lives within the training realm. Users can input real data, be prompted by the system for certain actions, navigate the process and learn in real-time using an exact replica of the system. Acquisition of knowledge and skills is greatly improved, while retention levels remain high over time. Data is input more accurately resulting in concrete reporting and a precise representation of the business, all while reducing the costs involved in this entire effort .

A cloud based online approach to e-Learning results in a more realistic, higher quality training programme, produced quicker and at a lower cost through collaboration. Content can be easily updated and rolled out to all parties benefiting the end user as well as the programme creators. The cost and requirement for training clients, databases, and sandboxes is reduced, along with the fear of learning on a live system.  Everyone wins and organisations can increase the return on their software application investments and achieve high levels of Enterprise Application Assurance.

Assima is a technology solutions provider. For more information, visit