Thursday, November 09, 2006

Corporate e-learning trends - headlines for Europe

I know it seems a bit early to start the "what's the trends for 2007" stories, but someone just asked me for such a view based on our corporate research. Thought you might also be interested in the answer. As always, happy for feedback.

For 2007, we expect the key developments for corporates to be around a) reconstructing and expanding the e-learning supply chain, b) reengineering and integrating learning management processes, and c) a diversifcation of e-learning content including experimentation with alternative delivery approaches.

A big part of a) is adoption of rapid e-learning inside corporates, and we expect most organisations to acquire tools and grow activities (if they haven't done so already). But we expect corporates to also start to realise the limitations of the rapid model, not least, the challenges for managing quality, educational value, and technical assurance. Whilst we are advocates of rapid e-learning, we also believe it is significantly over-hyped currently, and more sophisticated approaches are required. In addition, we also expect to see more changes in the ways corporates use external custom e-learning developers with increasing pressures for lower-cost, more rapid external solutions as well, and for self-maintenance.

b) Many corporates are reevaluating their LMS strategy going forward, and now increasingly interested in integrated talent and performance management. Although consistent with the grand ERP/HRMS story, and often the overall direction for extending use of their ERP platform, the HR sub-functions are sceptical of the fit of these products to their specific functional needs. We expect to see tactical successes for the LMS vendors in the performance and talent space, although longer term we still expect to see pressure from IT for a single integrated HR/ERP solution.

c) Although Wikis and podcasting maybe very trendy currently, most corporates are not really using them. We expect to see more experimentation in 2007, and some very interesting project successes, but we do not expect this to become truly mainstream in corporate usage. We also expect to see a shift away from traditional large e-learning course-based content towards smaller, more granular just-in-time e-content and performance support. We also expect to see referenceware growing in popularity relative to traditional e-learning courses, and greater adoption of virtual meeting/classroom technologies, which have now matured and are more widely available.

Across all of the above we expect to see more externalising of the infrastructure to deliver it, i.e. further growth in ASP or Software as a Service delivered infrastructure and solutions.

Key corporate drivers: immediate solutions, lower cost, more flexibility, more connected/aligned, bypassing internal constraints


Donald Clark said...

You're right to be sceptical about the Rapid e-learning bandwagon. I've been hearing the same story for over 20 years. Teachers will produce their own content, trainers will produce their own e-learning - oh yeah!

The proponents forget some basic truths:

1. Giving someone a word processor does not make them a novelist, or even a good writer.

2. Rapid development tools are never as rapid as they claim.

3. If they are rapid they have low funtionality - usually enhanced PowerPoint. And if this is what you're after - you're as well sticking with PoerPoint.

4. We've had rapid development tools for over 20 years - they used to be called authoring tools.

5. Build an e-learning production unit in-house and you're setting yourself up for a fall. Someone will close it down within a couple of years. It's NEVER a core business activity and should be outsourced.

James Ryan said...

I'll go for 1 and 2 possibly 3 and 4 and agree with the first two/thirds of 5.

Have to disagree with the last line.

The main barrier to the adoption of e-learning is the reluctance of a business to spend the $$$ to convert the knowledge held by a SME into 'real' e-learning

Until we get tools that allow SME to take their knowledge and ' rapidly' create something worthwhile without spending an additional 30K per topic we will continue to see LMS' being used purely as a delivery system for PPT and PDFs with assessment tacked on as an afterthought

Ian Page said...

Love your summary, but hasn't it always been so?

The best corporate training has always been about employing the minimum resources as fast as possible to solve specific problems. The introduction of elearning has not changed this imperative.

Centralised buying of large content libraries, or setting up LMS systems, is infrastructure investment. As such it may well have missed the point.

This means that asp solutions, at low cost, to meet specific departmental requirements, with the ability of local authors to edit content rapidly may well be the way forward.

David Wilson said...

Donald/James - The debat about whether e-learning production is core business or not is interesting. The trend over the last few years has clearly been to outsource production. There are some interesting exceptions where there is a high-level of detailed (and often technical) domain knowledge embedded in an internal team that justifies its retention, but beyond that it tends to have been outsourced.

But this has created problems for corporates, not least in terms of cost and time for production, and the maintenance of e-learning. The problem here is the one size fits all model - i.e. e-learning = custom e-courses, and the technical challenges of creating viable and valuable e-learning. Rapid tools have significantly lowered the skill level of the user to produce acceptable low-level content, but the tool on its own is not the answer - how do you manage quality or educational integrity of what is produced? How to ensure it works properly, and is rapidly deployed as well as rapidly developed? How do you identify when something should not be built by the SME or trainer and should be done professionally? The tool is just a small, although admittedly important, part of the whole process.

My view is that inevitably the singular view of e-courses will fragment and diversify (as per the original note), and that business do need mechanisms to produce AND MANAGE internally developed e-learning content, as well as a robust supply chain for professional production where appropriate by scale, complexity or innovation.

I am also pretty sure that the line between the two is not where the current e-learning producers would ideally like to keep it, or where the rapid tool vendors would have you believe!