Do you harbor a burning desire to upgrade your logistics and supply chain management knowledge base? Few of us have the spare time to go back to school, but learning while working has never been easier or more affordable than it is today. Until recently, people who were already in the workforce didn’t have many educational options other than night or correspondence courses or some intensive short programs. The advent of the Internet has changed all that, and the medium is beginning to be put to full use with a growing variety and number of online courses and programs.
Not only are these courses more easily accessible than conventional school programs, they’re also more cost-effective. One can generally find short and very focused modules for precisely the topic in which additional learning is required. This is extremely important, because logistics responsibilities often are assigned to a business executive who has no background in that area. Managers thrust into such situations need to get a good basic grounding in the topic quickly and cost-effectively, and distance learning meets both of those requirements.
There are three distinct types of distance learning in logistics: interactive (instructor-led/tutored), computer-based (self-study), and simulation learning tools. Check the sample site listings above and on page 35 to launch your exploration of the various programs available.
The interactive or instructor-led model features course activities, lessons, and feedback that are developed, provided, and coordinated by a human teacher. In these cases the Internet functions as a bridging mechanism. Interactions among students, teachers, and other students can be facilitated by chat, e-mail, discussion forum, or Web meeting tools.
In the computer-based training or self-study model, the user accesses a “canned” course offered either on a CD-ROM or through the Internet. This type of learning does not involve or require a teacher, and the student can progress through the module or set of modules at his own pace. These computer-based training courses can be just a text explanation of how to carry out a specific task or how to define the required point of knowledge, or they can become vastly more interactive and elaborate, subject always to the limitations of bandwidth.
Simulation learning tools or interactive games comprise the third type of learning technique. Such games can be short and single-player, or long with multiple players, or vice versa. This type of program can teach a specific skill or business dynamic, or act in concert with traditional education or the other distance-based methods described above to enhance learning retention.
Simulation games can be especially useful in examining complex topics, including interactions among groups within a specific firm to demonstrate the impact of various decisions and actions across departments or extended supply chains. Simulation can be effectively used in strategy development or team building and dynamics, and many students find this method more fun than the other types.
It is important to note that Web-based distance learning programs have limitations. Online short courses in many cases are not a true substitute for full educational credentials in logistics and supply chain management disciplines, nor are they meant to be. These mini-courses do fill a huge void in the logistics education spectrum, however, and we can expect them to grow faster and further as users become more familiar and comfortable with distance learning.
Jeff Ashcroft is president of Strategic Logistics Partners and head of the Logistics/Supply Chain section of About.com. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (905) 953-9963.
Interactive Programs (Instructor-led/Tutored)
Warehouse, Transport, Inventory, Materials, Resources, People, Logistics, and Production Planning
George Brown College (Jane Rotering): http://www.lscmcourse.com/
Logistics Fundamentals; Inventory Mgmt.; Transportation; Warehousing Importing/Exporting; SCM: The Basics; Integrated Supply Chain; Supply Chain Organization, Parts I & II; and The Global Supply Chain
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies: http://www.cts.umn.edu/education/logistics/MN/metrostate.html
Supply Chain Management/Logistics, Introduction to Operations Mgmt., International Purchasing, Materials Management, and others
Supply Chain Online: www.supplychainonline.com
Supply Chain Strategies I & II
Pennsylvania State University World Campus: http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/search/index.shtml
Business Logistics, Labor and Industrial Relations, and others
Education 2 Go: http://www.ed2go.com/cgi-bin/oic/allofferings.cgi?num=4
Logistics 1, 2, &3; Supply Chain Management 1 to 5; Purchasing 1 to 5; and Production Management
Element K (both interactive/instructor-led, and computer-based/self-study): http://learn.elementk.com/CourseCatalog/display_courses.asp?Course=EB
Fundamentals, Practical Application, Enterprise-Wide Infrastructure, and more
Hall Marketing: http://www.simulations.co.uk
Distribution Challenge, Inventory Policy, Operations, and others
University of Ghent: http://iprod.auc.dk/x-proj/gamespm/games.html
Cil-SIM Opt._Sim. & Dic._Xim., Logi Game, Order-to-Delivery, and more
Cornell University: Distribution Game — http://www.orie.cornell.edu/~jackson/distgame.html
Transportation Game — http://www.orie.cornell.edu/~jackson/trucks.html
Le Moyne College: http://web.lemoyne.edu/~wright/manfgame.htm
The Manufacturing Game
Florida Atlantic University (Dr. J. Smith): http://home.att.net/~simulations/mgr/mgrweb.htm
Manager: A Simulation Game
Towson University (Precha Thavikulwat): http://www.towson.edu/~precha/m500_1.htm