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Distance Education: Past, Present, and Future

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Alternative training technologies are being evaluated with increasing interest in distance education and online training. Evaluations show the benefit of distance education because of limited staffing, shrinking budget dollars for travel to short schools and conferences, and the convenience, availability, and quality of online training selections. In many industries today, distance education has become the staple for training new employees and management trainees. The water and wastewater treatment plant operations field is beginning to evaluate these alternatives, as the cost of technology is more affordable and the availability of this type of training is becoming more widespread. The following review of historical training will provide an introduction to this presentation, followed by a study of current practices and suggestions for future improvements in operator training.

This presentation will include steps to evaluate and implement an online training program for water and wastewater treatment plant operators. Included are planning parameters, program design, software selections, server and system requirements, an evaluation of the efficacy of online versus classroom training, drawbacks and problem solutions, and the compatibility of Learning Management Systems (LMS).

I will provide a comparative study of four leading online providers within the water and wastewater field. The study will include a comparison of online to classroom, pro's and con's, cost, and benefits. In addition to the provider comparison, the review includes comments and suggestions from operators, state administrators, utility managers, and training coordinators to provide an overview of the transfer of knowledge. The discussion of the challenges facing online training includes problems of standardization of LMS, issues in course development, and the development of systems for tracking and monitoring students' performance. As continuing education programs continue to evolve, questions for these challenges include how the training is accomplished, how well the training is retained, and what tools are utilized in training.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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