The ASTD E-Learning Handbook: Best Practices, Strategies and Case Studies

January 17, 2002

Dr. Allison Rossett

Allison Rossett,

long time Professor of Educational Technology at San Diego State

University, is a member of the elite Training

magazine HRD Hall of Fame. A consultant in the design, development

and evaluation of training systems, she often concentrates on

those that involve technology systems. Rossett is an irreverent

native New Yorker who does keynote speeches in this country and

abroad about engagement in online learning, performance systems,

and needs analysis. Rossett is the editor of The ASTD E-Learning

Handbook: Best Practices, Strategies and Case Studies for an Emerging

Field, published in early 2002. Her 2001 book and web site are

Beyond the Podium: Delivering Training and Performance to a Digital



authored the award-winning book and web site: First Things Fast:

A Handbook for Performance Analysis,

Rossett also received the Association for Educational Communications

and Technology, Division of Instructional Development, Book

of the Year Award in 1989 for Training Needs Assessment, published

by Educational Technology Publications. Her book, A Handbook

of Job Aids, published by Jossey-Bass, won the International

Society for Performance and Instruction’s 1991 top book award.


has published dozens of articles, edited journals, offered seminars,

coached and advised business and government leaders, evaluated

programs and managed corporate contracts and federal and state

grants. Her article, "Confessions of a Web Dropout,"

published in Training magazine in August, 2000, points to problems

with persistence in online learning.

asked Dr. Rossett to provide us the preface to The ASTD E-Learning

Handbook: Best Practices, Strategies and Case Studies for an Emerging

Field to introduce the book to you:


the book on

As little

as one year ago, this would have been a different book. More authors

would have gushed with enthusiasm. That Handbook would have sung the

praises of e-learning, touting the benefits, and encouraging participation

in this great and inspiring adventure.

But this

Handbook has a more muted tone. While many authors remain ecstatic

about e-learning, myself included, we are cautiously so. We admit

the challenges and describe strategies to increase odds for success.

We attend to the nitty-gritty details associated with topics like

converting classroom training to the web, collaborating with IT, standards,

objects, framing questions for online communities, games that teach,

fertilizing the culture, and expanding the definition of e-learning

to include knowledge management.

My purpose

here is to support people who have begun to move beyond their e-learning

honeymoons. No longer besotted with the e-learning concept and technology,

readers and writers are ready for the negotiations, associations and

evaluations that come next. Here you will find perspectives, guidance

and tools for those who are ready to do the heavy lifting involved

in translating e-learning promises into performance.


a learning professional to do? What do we know about what constitutes

effective e-learning? Where do e-learning investments go awry? How

do we align organizations around e-learning? What’s next? How

do we take advantage of so many new opportunities without being swept



the ASTD E-learning Handbook. This book gathers the best ideas, strategies,

research and examples together in one place, with the promise of a

new collection following in the near future. Designed to save professionals

the trouble of reading dozens of trade periodicals, this Handbook

provides current, cutting-edge thinking, approaches and cases. Here

we’ve gathered recent print and online articles and white papers,

and added fresh commentary and ideas from leading sources in the industry.

Note the resource directory intened to lure professionals into further

study on their own.What

will you find in the ASTD E-Learning Handbook?

  • A

    focus on your questions. The book is for you if you’ve been wondering:

    What is e-learning and why all the excitement? What are others doing?

    How is the role of the training and development professional changed

    and changing? What do I need to know and do? Where can I go to continue

    my education? Where can I go for references and examples? Are there

    new ways to think about e-learning, ways that take me beyond a classroom

    metaphor? What does e-learning have to do with e-commerce? What

    is blended learning? Is anybody in my industry doing anything like


  • A

    focus on what might keep you up at night. The gap between what is

    promised and delivered can be daunting. At best, the authors in

    the Handbook will help you sleep through the night. At the least,

    they’ll give you a heads-up on the vexing challenges to come.

    How do I execute on the promises associated with e-learning? How

    can I measure return on investment from e-learning? How can I create

    online questions and enhance online community? How do I pick effective

    software? What are the myths surrounding e-learning and how do I

    work around them?

  • A

    comprehensive e-learning sourcebook. The Handbook is divided into

    six sections. The first section tours the current state of e-learning,

    including articles that paint pictures about involvement, persistence

    and satisfaction. Section II is all about developing great e-learning,

    including guidance for vendors attempting to create learning software,

    and for internal professionals who must make decisions about which

    software to choose. Section III focuses on management and implementation.

    Recognizing the challenges, authors describe what it takes to implement

    e-learning systems and technologies in real and complex organizations.

    In Section IV we ask a pivotal question: Is e-learning too good

    to be true? Section V tends to our seed corn by providing new directions

    and resources for the professional development of the e-learning

    professional. The last section, Section VI, serves up many case

    studies in organizations as diverse as technology companies, higher

    education and government. The Handbook concludes with a resource

    section and index.

  • Many

    renowned experts. Marc Rosenberg, Elliott Maisie, Jack Phillips,

    Brandon Hall, William Horton, Gloria Gery, and Wayne Hodgins have

    written original or revised pieces for the Handbook. I’m thrilled

    to have their newest thinking on topics like standards, games and

    e-learning, return on investment, blended learning and the culture

    and communications essential to successful implementation.

  • Many

    familiar authors. When I set out to find recent articles that would

    add value to the book, recognizable and worthy sources popped up.

    You’ll find Patricia Galagan, Sarah Fister Gale, Zane Berge,

    James Moshinskie, Tom Barron, Albert Ingram, Patti Shank, Marc Prensky,

    Karl Albrecht, Rob Foshay, Dean Spitzer and Gary Dickelman. You’ve

    read their work in Training and Development, Performance Improvement,

    Knowledge Management, and others; you’ll see some of the best

    recent efforts reprinted here.

  • Many

    new voices. Meet Warren Longmire, Rebecca Vaughan Frazee, Andrea

    and James Young, Chris Volkl, Nory Jones, David Wiley, and Bob Hoffman.

    I made a concerted effort to invite recent graduates and emerging

    professionals into the project.

  • Many

    diverse cases. The Handbook includes stories about Cisco, Oracle,

    Royal Bank of Canada, Pfizer and Buckman Labs, to name just a few.

    You’ll also find sales training via technology, e-learning

    for orientation, project management training online through the

    use of an object-oriented approach, and the shift of soft skills

    training to a more blended and technology inclusive approach.

  • A

    tool for professional development. The Handbook is designed to encourage

    dialogue, reflection, planning and action surrounding e-learning.

    Rich resources will help orient and educate practitioners and executives

    about e-learning.

  • American,

    but with some international flavor. Most authors are Americans,

    but not all. There is an article, for example, that describes e-learning

    in Europe. I favored articles that included global perspectives,

    and sought examples and cases from organizations that do their business

    across the world. The topics covered here, from e-learning persistence

    to online games to collaboration to cognitive distribution to knowledge

    management, are as important to a Dutch or Brazilian training professional

    as to a North American.

The Handbook

is meant to inform, coach, entice, caution, and encourage. Articles

were chosen and crafted to help professionals cope with vendors that

promise vast multiples of improved cognition via e-learning, OR quotes

like Clifford Stoll’s: “E-learning is a terrific way to

get a third-rate education.” We acknowledge the hype on both

sides of the e-learning coin, from those who promise that e-learning

will cure all that ails your organization, and those who see a devil

trying to take away classroom training. This Handbook attempts to

help you move towards that fruitful, productive middle ground.