As with other Internet-driven initiatives, e-Learning will probably be subject to a great deal of scrutiny before it is deemed acceptable by those insurance carriers who still recognize a viable role for traditional training methods.Allstate Insurance Corp., Northbrook, Ill., which has been involved in distance learning programs since 1989, is considered one of the pioneers of the concept. Nevertheless, the company does not consider e-Learning as "the be-all and end-all for the insurance industry," says Patricia McCarthy, who oversees training and administration within Allstate's claims unit.

There are carriers that might not be equipped with the tools to ensure a safe landing for this type of program. Allstate, which has accumulated 87,000 hours of distance learning training in its claims department over the last decade, has made the initiative a valuable tool for its claims adjusters and an extension of its customer service endeavors.

"In benchmarking results within our distance learning program, we've been able to improve learning efficiencies by 20% to 40% through this method. I can also unequivocally say that since 1999, Allstate has saved millions of dollars in expenses through our distance-learning programs."

As other observers agree, distance learning programs have a chance to become a prevalent operational tool within the insurance industry if the concept can streamline efficiencies, as it has with Allstate and other carriers.

"As corporate margins get thinner and as insurance companies see the way they are investing substantial sums of money to building training centers and moving people from one training site to another, they will examine Internet training methods," says Jay Gregory, vice president and COO for Life Instructors Inc., New Providence, N.J.

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