Web-based learning has been on the rise in recent years, and it's no wonder: It cuts down on time away from the office as well as the costs associated with travel. But aside from these obvious advantages, e-learning has some greater benefits, making it a powerful tool for professional development. A traditional classroom is primarily a passive environment in which listening is the main construct for instruction. In a virtual environment, the emphasis is on engaging the class and enhancing comprehension of the material. A study conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education reported that, "on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction."
Within PMI's e-Learning offerings, students have an opportunity to engage beyond the traditional lecture or presentation. From virtual group assignments to discussion boards and simulations, PMI e-learners are challenged to do more than just listen.
"We've seen a new level of learners in our courses," says Nancy Wilkinson, a PMI instructional designer. "This has prompted us to develop more innovative courses. Right now, we are working on a simulation series that puts the student at the center of an archaeological diving expedition. In this ‘choose your path' scenario, they are working as project managers. It requires the student to interact with the avatars and puts a lot of emphasis on applying project management knowledge."
Interactivity has long been a stronghold for PMI's e-Learning offerings. Alexandra Lull teaches the eSeminarsWorldSM course, "Project Integration Management—Simulation," and has witnessed students in one class interacting across the globe. "It's amazing when you have a geographically dispersed group that will take a general principal that you have presented and begin to bounce it off each other," Ms. Lull says. "Students then become a checkpoint for each other. They test ideas, ask questions and challenge the material in what they experience in their everyday work. It helps build recall."
Dhiresh Britto, PMP, who recently took Ms. Lull's course, concurs. "The most remarkable aspect of this course was to be confronted with challenges, issues and opportunities that mirror many of the real-life project situations I have to manage," he says. "It gave me deeper insight into my own project management style, strengths, weaknesses and decision-making processes, and helped me understand how these can actually help or hinder desired project outcomes." He termed his experience "highly effective" and shared that it provides a unique opportunity "to experience the thrill and challenge of managing a ‘real project' in a virtual world while truly accomplishing the stated learning objectives."
PMI offers a variety of formats for e-Learning—from interactive online classes, to simulations and even short industry reads that include brief quizzes. Each opportunity offers PDUs and/or CEUs upon completion.
The simulation series, called Alaskan Recovery Simulation, is scheduled to be available by early 2011. To enroll in an e-Learning offering, simply go to PMI's e-Learning page for details on individual offerings and registration.