Advancing Life & Work

The Progression of E-learning and Hands-on Experience

While elearning has certainly improved over the decades of its existence, some elements never really grow old such as the need to gain access to, and use, real equipment remotely. You may be thinking that a real hands-on experience hasn’t always been part of e-learning, and you would be right. In the early days of e-learning, going as far back as the later 1990s, we struggled to build emulations that would mimic a hands-on activity.  While the ability to connect remotely was available, it wasn’t frequently brought into the e-learning developed.



An emulator was typically built to mimic the hands-on experience.  An emulator was entirely built with graphics and backend programming to mimic reality.  If we had the ability to link to a remote facility we did it, but not frequently.  Not too long after that the number of technology innovations expanded rapidly and real-life simulations could be built into the e-learning. Simulations are more like the actual command line or GUI interfaces that run independently against a local database.  I’m sure many of you recall some aspect of these approaches that are still with us today.

E-learning began shifting to more of a blended model, and was not run only on a single computer.  It eventually turned into what is today referred to as Web-based training.  All of these transitions I’m mentioning are admittedly blurry, and not really as concise in the transitioning as I mention.

So, web-based training has been available in a variety of forms for a long time and is often considered e-learning.  Often in the earlier years these were as simple as the talking head recording or video, and then they moved to the sophisticated challenges in a virtual reality environment of today.

Now, hang with me for a moment.  I know, you’re saying, “Jim, you’ve already taken way too long to get to your point!” I get that.  But consider this, the learner hasn’t fundamentally changed, some older techniques of delivery are still valid.  Because the way in which an adult brain processes information has not fundamentally changed, many elements of e-learning are still relevant to us, even if they appear old fashioned.

One such example is with the learner’s requirement to get “hands-on” with the systems they need to learn. And just as with playing a sport like baseball, there is no really good substitute for actually swinging a bat or catching and throwing the ball. So it is with e-learning. You need to get your hands on the equipment. Virtual reality is nice, and I understand the needs of pilots to get inside simulators so that they can learn to fly through all sorts of situations, but obtaining access to the real thing is still a good thing.

Since the learner must connect with the learning in a passionate way for them to retain anything, it is always good to have them make that connection through some activity. That is why the lecture to the student approach is a “thing of the past.” But e-learning that is self-directed and engaging, so that the learner is involved with all their senses, including their hands, helps make the learning experience “stick.”

So what is this self-directed stuff anyway? Well, it is e-learning through hands-on experience with some direction.  It is not completely free-form, but gives just enough guidance.  It is not an activity where a learner is simply experiencing playtime as in a sandbox, but it is e-learning that is structured enough to guide the learner into a richer experience with the solutions they are trying to understand. So the self-directed labs come with equipment and a lab guide to help structure the learning, at least enough to guide, but not restrict, the activity.

We have self-directed labs for networking, servers, and storage.  Admittedly, some that we offer are emulations, and not entirely like what I have discussed above, but storage and networking are with real live equipment.  The HPE Server Solutions Emulator is one such offering of an emulation and is free.

One of our newest additions is an HPE OneView self-directed lab.  HPE OneView allows the user to manage their IT infrastructure with an infrastructure automation engine that eliminates manual processes spurs IT collaboration and increases the speed and flexibility of IT service delivery. The self-directed lab is based on one of our most popular certification courses. The kit comes with:

  • Lab Voucher ID
  • A downloadable Lab Guide
  • A link to the HPE Self-Direct Remote Lab scheduling tool

I encourage you to give one or more of these eLearning self-directed labs a try and propel your IT skills even further.

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About the Author


Jim Lucari leads certification solutions enablement in Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s WW Sales Enablement organization. He is responsible for sales and technical certification exam development and program operation, certification course development, certification architecture and framework, translations, HPE Press publications, and remote lab operations. Jim has been in IT technology work for over 30 years with experience primarily in networking and storage technologies. He has 20 plus years of experience in training development and certification.