Nowadays electronic and digital media are an almost common way to transfer knowledge – whether at school, at university or at work. Even companies and voluntary organisations such as fire brigades have discovered online training: from basic fire prevention training to hazardous substance tutorials and the accompanying documents for courses for groups, teams or associations.
Isn’t it remarkable that fire brigades, who are entirely organised around aspects such as community and team spirit, have chosen to do their training courses online? After all, it means that everyone is learning on their own, at home in their own room. How are people supposed to talk about experiences from past operations? Especially when preparing for an operation, it is essential that people learn with their teammates, get to know them and work on things together, so they can function as a well-rehearsed team in an emergency.
All that is true, no question. And yet, e-learning is more popular than ever before. The time of prejudices has passed, when e-learning was still put down as a symbol of escape from human communication.
That is partly thanks to sophisticated didactic concepts, to clever, interactive and aesthetically pleasing tools, and above all to the fact that people have recognised that e-learning is not either-or. It is not about replacing classroom events, but about supporting them, preparing for them, adding to them and, ideally, enriching them. Nor is it about learning separately; rather, it is about adapting learning units to an individual’s learning speed and timetable. And it is about allowing people to talk about what they have learned: on blogs, wikis, forums and in discussion groups, at any time or place.
Modern forms of learning such as blended learning provide the perfect breeding ground for synergies from group-dynamic processes during classroom events and asynchronous learning in the virtual world. And so either-or becomes as-well-as (or even the best possible solution).
Why is e-learning gaining ground?
There is a simple reason why fire brigades are increasingly relying on virtual learning. Employee numbers are dwindling, but the requirements for firefighters are increasing, and specific topical expertise is being concentrated in single knowledge bearers. Against this backdrop it is becoming increasingly important to secure the knowledge from the numerous specialist areas and make it available. This ranges from knowledge of how to use radio equipment and heat imaging cameras, to tactical training for operations in industrial systems, to soft skills such as conversational techniques when taking care of injured people, stress resistance in crisis situations, and team management.
There is a similar reason for the fact that companies are increasingly relying on virtual learning. The aim is to record and connect the knowledge of individual departments and make it freely accessible. Employees at different sites should be given training that is universal, ideally international, and consistent. The suggestion of establishing a company-wide e-learning system can come from a variety of quarters. Sometimes the HR department wants to create a basis for the implementation of job rotation as part of staff development. Sometimes the sales department wants to ensure that customers receive a comparable standard of attention internationally; sometimes the IT department wants to design tutorials for new software and apps in order to reduce support requests within the company.
The underlying idea ultimately remains the same: knowledge needs to be shared in order to maximise value, and it needs to be passed on in order to propagate.