Big business and other organizations are only now coming to grips with e-learning, and it may have been a mistake to embrace the technology as a salve to common training problems, according to a panel hosted by Cisco Systems last month.The networking giant opened the NASDAQ virtually that morning from its headquarters in San Jose, Calif. — the first time the stock exchange has ever been opened outside New York City.
Cisco used the occasion as a platform to discuss the next generation of virtualization and Internet technology and convened a panel of experts from business, health-care, education and the media to discuss what’s going right and what still needs work.
E-learning, for example, is a technology that has been touted as a means to increase the reach of education to remote communities, train workers to get the most out of their desktop applications and allow college students to view lecture archives of those they are unable to attend in person.
But, too often, it is seen as a replacement for teaching staff, said Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, an organization of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools.
“I’m highly skeptical” of that approach to e-learning, Kopp said. “It fails to engender any enthusiasm from school communities and is largely ineffective.
Slipping standards Schools should instead focus on slipping standards among students where even reading skills are sometimes lacking. “In today’s world, that should not be happening,” she said.
A better application of the Internet in education would be to allow teachers to be able to benchmark their own students against national reading standards and compensate accordingly.
Cisco’s own CEO John Chambers admitted that the company’s own approach to e-learning has been wrong-headed in the past. Cisco uses the technology liberally for various educational purposes, but a broad approach often “fails miserably,” he said.
“It was only once we changed the whole concept did employees start to use it.”
The most effective approach has been to dole out e-learning in pieces of about 10 to 12 minutes, he said. However, forcing it on employees who are resistant to change just doesn’t work, he said.
“You’ve got to go to the groups that want to accept it,” he said, but most users become comfortable with the technology over time.
Internet technology and virtualization tools are still in their infancy, said Stratton Scalvos, chief executive officer of VeriSign.
“We’re in the first decade of having built this infrastructure out,” he said. The second decade will prove more productive.
“The interactions are moving from physical to digital,” he said.
Chambers agreed that the next decade of virtualization and distance applications will offer a lot more advancements than the previous decade. Within 10 years, he said, the majority of doctor’s visits could be conducted from a patient’s home though virtual technology.

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