How Online Training Works

Employees learn at their own pace.
Employees learn at their own pace.
Duncan McKenzie/Photonica/Getty Images

If you've taken a job recently, chances are you've done some online training. From retailers like the Gap to the U.S. military, more employers are using online training. But it doesn't stop with corporate America. Driver safety, college classes and certification courses are also offered online in non-workplace training environments.

Online training has become a major industry, with many training and human resource managers relying on it to educate employees. According to a survey of 2,000 managers by Bersin and Associates, 60 percent reported using online training and another 57 percent used virtual classrooms and related training tools.­

Employers prefer online training because people can learn at their own pace. Ever want to ask the teacher to repeat something, but you were too embarrassed to interrupt the class? Online training, which is private, allows you to read the material at your own speed, go back and review the material, as you need to.

In this article, we'll explore what online training is, how to get started and potential problems that may arise. We'll also look at options for online training outside the workplace.

What is Online Training?

Online training is a software-based teaching program installed on a computer or a computer network. These programs feature a section for teaching, informal quizzes and tests and/or a final exam. Depending on the software, tests may be multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blanks, and sometimes even essay. Some online training is text-only, but programs that are more sophisticated have video, flash animations, audio content, or a combination of all three.

Online training comes in two forms: closed network or over an Internet connection. Closed networks require users to show up in person. For example, major retail stores, such as Old Navy, provide a closed network to train employees on handling shoplifters. Retailers want to keep these procedures private and on a "need-to-know" basis, so it uses an "in-house" computer network. Users log in to a computer system with their employee number and password and complete the training, ensuring that company secrets stay within the company's network. No printouts, documents or other materials leave the office, avoiding the potential of it falling into the wrong hands.

The second type of online training uses public Internet connections. For instance, distance education programs, driver's safety training and online test preparation courses are conducted over public connections, allowing users to log in from anywhere in the world around the clock.