Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Year-End Reflections

The end of a year is traditionally a time for stock taking and reflection. And the end of 2006 is also the end of eLearn Campus' fourth year in existence. My business partner, Michael Grant, and I set up eLearn Campus to fulfill what we perceived to be a need to help guide people through the eLearning maze, doing what we could to help them realize better training results through online learning. We have learned a lot through our first four years. Here is a brief summary.

eLearning is Still in Its Infancy

When we started eLearn Campus we were concerned that we may have been too late, that the eLearning train had already left the station. Well, we soon got over that delusion as we discovered that there are many organizations just starting to find their feet with eLearning, and many more just now ready to try it out. Even a full decade after the birth of the World Wide Web as we know it, eLearning only accounts for 15% of training expenditures. If the eLearning train has left the station, it is leaving it in slow motion, but we are confident that it will pick up speed very quickly.

Perception is Reality

If people do not believe that eLearning works, or do not believe that their people are "ready" for it, that is their reality. We try to address these perceptions head on with facts, and reason, and research. But in the end, if someone is not ready to believe that an alternative training method can produce results, it is no use banging your head against the wall. There are enough people who see the promise and realize that it can work.

Technology Obsession Persists

There are still many in the eLearning field looking to technology for salvation. They believe that the answer to all their problems lies in finding the right LMS, LCMS, or authoring tool. But tools are tools are tools.....what you really need are talented people with the right competencies who can use these tools to create learning environments that meet organizational goals.

Unrealistic Expectations

Related to the point above, most organizations have highly unrealistic expectations regarding the range of competencies required to produce high quality eLearning, especially at high volumes. I have seen far too many large organizations that expect two or three people to do it all in terms of eLearning design, development, delivery and evaluation.

Off-the-Shelf Losing Favour

People are starting to come to the realization that there are not many off-the-shelf eLearning solutions that will meet their organization's specific needs. The days of buying a library suite of online courses that no one in the organization utilizes are drawing to an end. Organizations are starting to realize that customized solutions are the way to go.

Time is the Most Precious Commodity

Time is a scarce and precious commodity these days. This phenomenon affects eLearning in two ways. Developers are expected to produce and deliver eLearning much more quickly than was acceptable in the past. And learners have much less time to do eLearning, resulting in eLearning being delivered in smaller "chunks" and via at-the-point-of-need electronic job aids, rather than courses.

Blended Learning on the Rise

Related to the point above, organizations are now much more open to creative mixes of face-to-face vs. eLearning, asynchronous vs. synchronous learning, and self-service vs. facilitated eLearning, in order to meet their training needs.

Future is Still Exciting

All in all, eLearning has a bright future. As organizations do more eLearning and gain more experience, they are starting to realize what approaches work best in what situations. Still more effort could be given to evaluating results (see Will Thalheimer's blog on this), but the field is slowly building an understanding and appreciation of best practices in eLearning. So, the future is still exciting, as we have only just started scratching the surface of eLearning's potential.


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