of an E-Dropout
Magazine, August 2000)
anytime turns into not now, maybe
About nine months ago I decided to go
beyond talking about Web training and actually experience it
myself. I signed up for an online investing class. I learned
a few things about investing. I also learned some things
about how e-learning fits into my life.
Dec. 3: Two welcoming
letters immediately followed my $49 registration. Class
starts a week from today.
Dec. 10: Its 6
a.m. here on the West Coast. Three more hours until my
password becomes active and I can start the class. Why have
I carefully memorized this password and code name, when I
habitually forget most others? Feels like motivation to me.
Dec. 11: I cant
believe it. I forgot about the class. One day into my
investing class and Im already behind.
Dec. 12: Ive
just spent nearly 90 minutes doing lesson one. Im
smiling because I scored 90 percent on my first test. The
questions werent as meaty as the class materials.
Were interested in whatever will enable us to make
good investment decisions. The testing should reflect that,
with more cases and scenarios forcing application of new
There is much to like here. The
writing is good. Thats particularly important because
reading and scrolling are only occasionally interrupted by
exercises. There is also a friendly interface with simple,
effective graphics. A streaming-video welcome from my
professor was a nice touch. There are several learning and
study options, including chats, access to published
articles, and links to other sites and to an online
The quiz at the end of the first unit
makes me think about what I need to know by heart and what I
should be taking away as notes. This course is not coaching
me to produce job aids or other materials for later
Dec. 14: Im
ready for the second module. Its about bonds. Must I
memorize the fact that bonds are backed by tangible assets
and debentures are not? If vocabulary is critical, then it
should be drilled more intensely. If its just FYI,
then we need to know that too. Fifteen minutes into module 2
when the phone rings. Later for module 2.
Dec. 18: Its
been four days, and I think Im going to have to go
back to the beginning of the unit. I cant do that now.
Somebody is at the door.
Dec. 24: It took six
days but Im back. I reviewed earlier lessons and
plunged into the course again. I readily found my way back
to where I left off. Again, I appreciate the clean, clear
prose, but wish for more examples and thought-provoking
practice exercises. Theres a tendency to focus on
calculation in lieu of pressing us to consider the
implications of tricky topics such as bond yield, bond
prices and interest rates.
Dec. 28: My
performance plummeted to 60 percent. Naturally I have some
gripes about the test. Midway through the module I was asked
a good question: Should I use an investment adviser or go it
alone? I dont know if they did a systematic needs
assessment, but I can see that the course designers
attempted to anticipate our needs and priorities.
Jan. 9: Its a
new century, and I cant remember anything about the
class. A few synchronous chats with the professor have been
scheduled, but never when I can attend. Im losing
traction on this and feeling guilty about it. Im about
to fly to the East Coast. Ill try to log into the
class from my hotel room.
Jan. 28: There just
wasnt time to do any online learning while traveling.
The opportunity is slipping away, and I havent had a
moment to get back to it. No word from the course manager or
professor about my disappearance. Its now or never. My
password goes defunct on Feb. 3.
Feb. 5: Ive
been nursing a bad cold and coping with a deadline. I
finished three modules of six. My access is terminated. I am
a Web dropout.
How could this have happened to me? I
wish I could point to the class and blame it for turning me
off. I cant. The things that made me a dropout
are the same things that make the Web so compelling. The
beauty of anywhere, anytime, whenever you want,
too readily turns into not now, maybe later, and often not
at all. Lacking a dynamic instructor, powerful incentives,
links to the job and fixed schedules, Web learning is at a
dramatic disadvantage in capturing and holding attention. In
my pajamas, near computer, phone, refrigerator, cats and
pals, it was just too easy to do everything except my Web
Yes, everyone can learn on the Web.
But my experience makes me wonder how many will.