Thursday, December 14, 2006

Human Capital Reporting - Don Taylor

Don Taylor has posted an interesting discussion of the state of human capital reporting. A very interesting post/article and quite thought provoking, and some useful references too. I agree that the lack of real metrics is a big limitation in moving the perception of people value in business. Our research also shows that most organisations do not even understand their basic data very well, let alone be sophisticated enough to really understand added value in either performance or human capability.

But even if the lack of metrics is a problem (which it is), I do not believe it is the cause of the problem, just an effect. The real challenge is in getting business leaders to truly understand the relationship between human capital (if that is the term we want to use) and business performance - both current and future.

In the majority, business leaders are simple animals. Their behaviour (as opposed to rhetoric!) is largely linked to what will drive results. If they definitely know that investment in people improves bottom line results more than cutting costs or increasing marketing then they will do it more often. Unfortunately they don't really know that, although plenty of people may try to tell them. In this sense, the human capital debate is in more of the "faith" business (like marketing in some sense) than it would like to be.

Metrics and models help to develop the discussion and start to provide a robust basis for moving from faith to evidence. But this is a long road, and, at least in the short term, basic is better!


Subject Matter Experts as Trainers - Implications for Rapid E-learning

Wendy Wickham has posted a comment on her blog about Subject Matter Experts as trainers. I think this is a very interesting point she is making about the mindset, focus, interest and commitment of subject matter experts in the learning process. I'm sure we can all think of SMEs that are very motivated to pass on their knowledge, and try hard to help their learners really understand their subject. But unfortunately this is still all too rare.

I think a key reason for this is that SMEs assume that learners are in their (i.e. the SMEs) context, not the other way around. Wendy's point 3. The learner typically has to make the leap of understanding to be able to relate what they are being told back to their own needs or problems. In reality this is very challenging, unless the subject is very easy, and of course if it is that easy, they could probably have worked it out for themselves anyway! Context is critical for learning.

One key area of interest for me currently which directly relates to this discussion is the growth in rapid e-learning activity and its potential challenges and limitations . (See the discussion linked to some trends for 2007.

Rapid e-learning has emerged as one of the key trends for e-learning, and in some ways, rightly so given the cost and time to produce custom e-learning content. A big part of this assumes that SMEs can also become e-learning authors, but as you have pointed out SMEs are generally not great trainers, let alone educators. They might be able to generate lots of powerpoint slides but that doesn't necessarily equate to good learning content. Now the problem will potentially be magnified as they start to produce lots of bad e-learning instead.

I say magnified because this problem already exists in current e-learning, and it also exists in SME driven training. But with rapid e-learning, we don't even have the SME face to face to give us a chance to ask questions or examine our context. Their potential to crank lots of bad learning reaches new levels.

Of course this is a risk, and more enlightened organisations are aware that they have to manage quality. But our research with large corporates shows that this is not an easy battle, often taking the form of damage limitation rather than added value!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

KM and Learning

Jay Cross has posted a relevant (but not necessarily new) question on his blog about the difference between Knowledge Management and Learning. Personally, I think this is a question that the learning technology industry has been debating for some time, and not terribly productively. KM and Learning are still largely separate functions in most corporates we work with. They have separate agendas, separate teams, separate budgets and separate systems. Why?

One of the reasons I think is historical. When KM first appeared it was high-jacked by the IT industry. I remember doing lots of work with Lotus and IBM in those days who were early adopters of the KM story, and have subsequently made large investments of their own resources, and of their customers in progressing the KM agenda. At the time learning was mainly about "training", and maybe it still is in many companies. I believe that, at the time, it was in the vested interest of the KM afficianados to distance themselves from training, and to create a parallel knowledge agenda, which has largely led us to where we are today.

Does this separation make sense? I would argue no, but only if we've well and truly got the message that learning isn't training. This is of course why Jay is currently asking his question. With his current focus on informal learning, the separation looks incredibly artificial. Once we focus on learning from medium other than formal learning materials, i.e. course books or their e-equivalent, the differences between KM and learning very blurred.

For us to view knowledge as something distinct from learning implies that knowledge has a purely transactional value, distinct from it being retained or used by the person accessing it. Yes there are other processes around knowledge, but similarily their are other processes around learning. I think it would be much more useful if these were part of the same not separate agendas.

This also therefore brings me to maybe the real reason why learning and KM are mainly separate - organisational vested interest. Ultimately, in most corporates, these two functions exist as distinct groups, often in different reporting lines within the organisation. Why? If what I've said is true and they should be a continuum of the same thing, surely they should be integrated. The reason why they haven't is maybe more down to organisational politics than it is to an understanding of the real differences or similarities.


Back again

Sorry guys - been out for a while - back on stream now.


Friday, November 24, 2006

SaaS for Enterprise Learning?

I have long though that there was a significant potential role for ASP or Software-as-a-Service learning solutions for large enterprise organisations, but I'm not sure whether the vendors really see this (beyond those that SaaS is their main offering anyway). Yes they get the fact that SaaS is a good approach to sub-Enterprise customers (mid-tier etc), and that it is a useful tactical tool for accelerating enterprise customers. But they don't seem to see it as the long term platform of choice for them, believing that privately hosted or behind the firewall are the likely options.

I'm not sure I agree. Tactical platforms have a habit of being more long term than originally envisaged - especially given the challenge with the strategic ducks lined up! I'm also unconvinced that the perceived cost of SaaS over the longer term is disadvantageous compared with fully-costed internal or externally hosted solutions. And you would seem to get much greater flexibility with SaaS, both in terms of commitment, and in terms of flexibility of service, compared with the detailed terms and conditions that a hosting service or internal IT department wants to impose.

I'm interested to know what you think ...

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

Friday, November 03, 2006

SkillSoft's acquisition of NETg

I'm really surprised not to have seen more ripples from SkillSoft's acquisition of NETg from Thomson Corporation. Having acquired Smartforce previously, and now acquiring NETg, SkillSoft seems to be finally closing the cycle on the once lucrative e-learning content business. With its origins from a group of ex-NETgers, and living under a cloud of lawsuits in the early days, SkillSoft has gone from strength to strength, now consuming both of its major adverseries.

What are the implications of this move for corporate customers? Good question. Many corporates have a commitment to either the SkillSoft or the NETg e-content libraries, and I don't see that changing that rapidly because the supplier has changed. The fact that there's now only one big content gorilla might affect competition, but to be honest, I think that was already changing anyway as corporates reconfigure their requirements and commitments. (see this note on generic e-learning we published last year for a view on this).

What really interests me is whether this event will accelerate the shift away from large generic content libraries rather than the other way around. Although maybe slightly contradictory (just as one vendor emerges with a huge content library), I wonder whether the battleground has finally shifted to niche content battles rather than library wars, and whether, in the end, the content (at least the traditional click and turn e-courses of the past)is actually becoming a more marginal part of the customer value proposition anyway. Let's see!


Friday, October 13, 2006

A fragmented identity

Clive Shepherd has put his book collection (or the bits he's prepared to admit to at least!) on a site called Shelfari.

Another interesting niche site, but there are hundreds of these kinds of sites out there these days, all providing a nice way of describing some aspect of your life/work/interests etc. This is an inevitable consequence of capitalist opportunism and entrepreurial behaviour, but do how do you deal with such a fragmented approach to managing our own identity? I heard some venture capitalist on Radio 5Live recently going on about another site for "helping managing your digital identity" - which of course she happened to be an investor in, but that turned out to be another "personal website" space. How do we manage these identities and niche content on a sustainable basis with so many fragmented niche offerings???

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Blogs and Wikis for corporate learning?

I have recently had a number of conversations with some different corporates about their interest in using Blogs or Wikis within their corporate learning programmes. Most of the individuals in these conversations are actively blogging themselves, but it made me wonder how many companies were actively using them already. Or are these just an interesting idea, or not even that.

Maybe you could let me know your view by responding to the web poll on the right of the page. Thanks in advance and PS the answers so far will be displayed once you've voted.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Personalisation - a slogan in search of a meaning?

Seb Schmoller has just put an interesting post relating to personalisation in learning. In it, he cites some recent articles and a recent Guardian comment and expresses scepticism about the reality of personalisation in education.

We have looked a little at personalisation within our research the corporate learning and e-learning area, and its a topic that I feel needs much greater exploration. Firstly, I agree with your sentiments about its use as a slogan in search of a meaning. Like many of terms in the learning area, it has become used as a bandwagon without much reality of substance. A sense of a good idea, without much in the way of tangible execution.

But having said that, I also feel it very important, and in many encapsulates the shift in thinking from training to learning. If we are to make progress on the potential for personalisation, I think our research would support the view that we need to tackle it at two levels - and I feel some synergy here with your arguments and Kevin's comments. Personalisation impacts structure at the macro-level, and it impacts choices and options at the micro-level. Much of the debate about the meaning of personalisation at an institutional level is about my macro-level; the structure of services, how they relate to the learner, and the organisation providing them. Without a fundamental rethink or realignment of current structures (in both academic education and corporate training), it is difficult to see how personalisation has much real meaning or difference.

But if that is true, personalisation at the micro-level is still very important. The choices that individual learners are offered or make related to their specific learning process; the resources they choose to engage with, the way they use or interact with peers, even to a degree, the role they expect from the teacher, trainer or facilitator. These are all areas of much greater flexibility and potential for personalisation than we give them credit for - already.

We must be wary of rejecting the concept of personalisation, but we must also be realistic about understanding its challenges. My personal view is that learning becoming more personalised, is an inevitability.


GooTube to impact corporate learning?

Google's acquisition of YouTube could result in some interesting side-effects in the learning world.

Despite its many problems, not least blatant infringement on copyright of many of the commercially produced video that has been clipped onto the site, YouTube seems to me to be a very powerful tool to support learning. It is a fantastic mechanism for rapid distribution of video-related content that could support learning programmes, or for just-in-time learning support.

But it is also the culture of video creation and sharing that has been encouraged by the users of YouTube and other similar services. With the rapid in growth in cheap video cameras and increasing availability of video capture from mobile phones, there is an enormous potential for creative learning processes and knowledge sharing using these tools.

I also think this represents the final confirmation that we have now passed the tipping point on video as a pervasive media in web information and learning content. Historically it has tended to be an important but niche component, but now with the diversity of tools to generate video, and pervasive tools like YouTube for its distribution, the video genie is well and truly out of the lamp!


Monday, October 09, 2006

The cost of innovation

Seb Schmoller has posted an interesting comment on private provision of infrastructure for schools. His point at the end of the post about (what I would call) the cost of innovation in the ICT or learning infrastructure I think is very valid in a corporate environment too. Too often this is seen as a static IT cost rather than a dynamic environment which needs to be evolved and allow innovation. Recent interest in blogs and wikis as learning tools is a good example. Most of these projects have to be done outside the gaze of IT or formal budgets. The danger is that the budget for infrastructure, just like the training centres of old, is a reflection of learning past rather than learning future.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Nuvvo up for sale!

Brent Scheckler noticed that Nuvvo, the innovative e-learning platform and marketplace from Canadian company Savvica is up for sale. Apparantly they've run out of money to push it forward and are looking to sell the business and technology. Here is the full announcement text, or a link to Nuvvo's blog.

Nuvvo’s sale may also reflect some realities of the e-learning market as well as some of the mistakes Savvica may have made in themselves.

To our eyes, Nuvvo made an interesting splash with an innovative service which was nicely packaged, but like many web start-ups, underestimated the time and cost to build a robust pipeline of business, and the costs to establish an e-brand. Whilst selling a paid service is always an issue with open source alternatives, I doubt it was as significant as being portrayed. After all, only a small proportion of the cost of e-learning relates to the platform, it just happens to be a visible amount.

The e-learning market has proved to be a graveyard for many organisations over the past few years, I am sure there will be more!


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Learning Content Model

Delivered a keynote presentation at a seminar in London today, focusing on the topic of Learning Content Management, and based on some analysis from a recent corporate research project. One slide which seemed to get a lot of interest from a number of people in the audience was a model we have been using recently to focus the discussion of what is the scope of learning content.

Click on the image to link to a larger version and a PDF of the slide.

The model maps two dimensions - the nature of the content, Generic to Specific, and the nature of the learning, Formal to Informal, including some example representations for the typical types of learning we see in companies: classroom training, generic and custom e-learning, performance support, coaching, etc.

I like the model because it a) seems to have a lot of resonance for training people in structuring the way they think about sources of learning content, and b) can be used to clearly focus the discussion of the scope and aspiration for learning content management. E.g. We have found that many organisation focus their attention in the top right (formal, specific) initially, and then want to expand it longer term both downwards into supporting informal learning approaches, and then right to left to expand the scope to include all learning content.

How would you draw your different learning activities on the model, and what would your potential focus be for learning content management; now and maybe in 3-5 years? I'd be interested in your views and feedback on the model.

The Learning Circuits Big Question

Tony Karrer and Dave Lee have just started a new feature, The Big Question, on the Learning Circuits Blog. .

This months relates to whether all learning professionals should be blogging?

My view is mixed, i.e. yes and no. To start with the no first, blogging is a useful tool but it has its limits and it tends to be viewed by some (and the press currently) as a bit of panacea. To my mind, much that is blogged is repetitive and doesn't add a lot of value. There's almost a trend to have to be seen to be blogging for the sake of it rather than because you actually have anything new to say. The danger is that creating a culture where all learning professionals must blog would in fact magnify these problems.

But having said that, on the plus side, blogging is best when the blogger has a view and can express it. The lack of formality and the ease of cross-referencing other blog content or references means is great to accelerate discussion and promote broader thinking and understanding. Learning professionals should be able to engage and contribute in these discussions. They should be able to communicate, and they should be able to both have, and express a view. If not, how effective are they as learning professionals? So, on balance I think, getting more or all learning professionals to engage in the blogosphere would be positive. But maybe for some, their blogging will be public - i.e. on the Internet, for others it will be "private" , i.e. inside their own organisation. That might not have been meant by the original question, but I think internal blogging from learning professionals, and promoted by learning professionals inside the organisation would be a positive step in the fostering of the learning organisation.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Roles in Simulations - Clark Aldrich

Clark Aldrich is suggesting some ideas on the Learning Circuits blog around vocabulary for roles in educational simulations. I think this an interesting direction in discussion simulations and business gaming as well. Not least the concept of people controlling the primary characters rather than the simulation, and the simulation controlling the environment and context, and maybe some of the bit-parts. This seems far more a) achievable given current technology, and b) actually more flexible. The investment to build complex and realistic simulations, is I still think, beyond the budget of the everyday.

Ethics and Mobile Learning - E-learning Queen

Susan Smith Nash (the e-learning queen, no less) has posted an interesting piece about ethics and mobile learning. I think the whole discussion of ethics relating to e-learning content is underplayed anyway. How is this impacted by the extension to mobile? Probably, quite a lot, as the context for usage goes outside the typical business environment and into the everyday. I think Susan has prompted an interesting discussion.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Corporates re-think generic e-learning

Just over a year ago, we put out a research note focusing on the ways we were starting to see corporates reevaluate their use of generic e-learning materials, especially when they had company-wide commitments to large catalogues of content from companies like NETg and SkillSoft.

Some key elements we identified at the time were:

• Greater focus on driving high recurrent usage around a narrow set of generic titles; often linked to specific major business projects or changes, which may be cycled over time
• Rapid growth in adoption of non-traditional forms of e-learning content, particularly on-line reference material, driven by significant increases in perceived relevance and value from an often e-learning sceptical audience
• More focus on industry-specific (vertical) or job-role-specific (horizontal) content, often from niche providers with a proven understanding and brand in their niche
• Increased desire for flexible adoption of e-learning content, embedded within mainstream learning programmes (the so-called trend to blend)

We also noted that organisations were often struggling to achieve expected adoption and usage in their learner population, often relating to:

• An often negative perception of e-learning for discretionary learning and development based on poor experiences linked to compliance and regulatory (must do) e-learning
• A lack of flexibility of historic e-learning products in addressing learner-specific needs and questions
• A cultural resistance and resulting limited engagement from the broader learning and development community

A year further on, and not a lot seems to have changed. We still organisations asking the same questions. The longer term implications could be quite significant, especially for the generic content vendors. This is already a highly-competitive market and pressure from corporates for more targeted contracts or pay per use could have major implications for vendor revenues. And at a time when they are already struggling to keep their existing portfolio up to date, and up to the latest standards for e-learning design.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Apple targets PodCast Ready branding

There's an interesting storm brewing in the technology press around Apple's recent targeting of PodCast Ready for their use of the "pod" word.

According to Engadget, Apple is not planning to try and shut down generic use of podcasting, but it looks as clear as mud to me!


The LMS M&A Drag Factor

We all know there has been (and still is) a lot of mergers & acquisition activity in the LMS market, with plenty of consolidation going on. But although we've seen a lot of vendor consolidation, how much consolidation of products have we actually been.

Whilst some of the vendors have been very focused on trying to consolidate market share, they seem to be struggling to actually consolidate the customer bases underneath them. For example, Click2Learn and Docent merged to form SumTotal Systems. SumTotal then buys Pathlore, who itself had fairly recently bought DK Systems, and Pathlore still had quite a lot of old Registrar customers that still hadn't moved off that platform. Now SumTotal may have a large user base, but user base for what? Certainly not the current SumTotal platform - yet. And SumTotal is not unique by any stretch of imagination. We even see this is smaller regional providers that have been playing the M&A game. Most of the LMS vendors have at least some of this kind of historical consolidation challenge.

One key reason for this is because many of the major customers just upgrade to the latest release of their old product to maximise their support window. They then sit and wait to see how things evolve with the new company. So it takes a while, often more than two years plus to see how a given customer base will react to the acquisition of its vendor, sometimes longer. We're also seeing the same thing happening (but with even longer timescales) in the HR systems space following Oracle's acquisition of PeopleSoft. This isn't so much a function of size, but of perceived effort versus value to move sooner.

Elearnity has been tracking and analysing these vendors for many years. But one new strategic consideration that we're now factoring in is what I call the "LMS M&A Drag Factor". Its all full well and good having a large user base, but you have to be able to service it and move it forward. That's tough to do in the LMS world with multiple platforms and technology bases. The more diverse this is, the more effort needed to leverage it yourself, and the bigger your investment sometimes needed to create something more compelling to move everyone forward with you, rather than jumping ship with someone else. I think the LMS M&A Drag Factor will have quite an influence on individual companies performances in 2007/8.


A really worrying trend ....

Barry Sampson has started an interesting thread picking up some of my discussion about changes to custom e-learning. In particular he is concerned (rightly so in my book) about the probability that rapid e-learning tools with massively magnify the amount of dodgy e-learning content swishing around in corporates.

I believe he is right, but the challenge is not to prevent the explosion in content, but to make sure it is fit for purpose as a learning resource. A lot of this will come down to making it easier to produce OK content than bad content, and the processes that support and surround the management of the content for distribution.


Small changes to blog page

I've just made a couple of small changes to the page template to add a list of the latest entries in our Research Knowledge Base, and also a custom search tool for learning and e-learning related queries (using Rollyo).

Hope you find them useful. Happy to get any feedback if not.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Donald rants on Kirkpatrick

Donald Clark has just posted another of his interesting rants on Kirkpatrick, titled amusingly Donald talks bollocks.

Here is my comment on it:

We said pretty much the same thing from some research and presentations a couple of years ago. The trouble is though that the KP levels and thinking has become lingua franca for the training community, and whilst individuals may question it, collectively they just accept it and continue to promote it.

I also believe this has been further magnified by the complicity of ASTD with Kirkpatrick and Philips in the US. Even ROI = level 5 now seems to be taken for granted even though ROI is just one format of presenting financial results. The biggest crime of many may be of perpetuating a model where the training industry thinks that "evaluation" is something that happens after the event rather than before and during. The effect of training's adherence to KP-thinking and systems for L1,2,3,4 evaluation is that it actually obscures rather than highlights the real issues of impact.

I would much rather trainers focus on understanding clearly what impact you are trying to achieve, whether it is a "learning" issue at all, and if so, in what way, how to design and construct solutions that make that impact, as well as delivering them to ensure they do make that impact. If you do this simply and clearly, understanding how to measure whether you are successful or not, becomes much more obvious.


P.S.One other quick though on L1. Why is the training industry the only one in the world that thinks it needs a detailed customer service questionnaire filled out by every customer on every transaction? I do see the need for business functions to understand their customer satisfaction, and encourage feedback, particularly on critical or challenging things. I do not understand why training thinks it is valuable to force it for every transaction. Ever hear of "sampling" guys!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Some articles and papers which you might find useful

Here is a link to a collection of articles and summary papers from the Elearnity Knowledge Base which you might find useful.

The changing face of custom e-learning

Last year we did some research looking at the changing nature of custom e-learning production within large corporates in the UK. A couple of key trends were clearly emerging that I think will have a profound impact on the e-learning market - especially given that custom e-learning content has been one of the more bouyant parts of the market.

Firstly, it seemed clear that pretty much all of the organisations we researched were increasing the amount of company-specific e-learning they were doing. But, they were also radically changing their patterns and amount they spend on it too. Most organisations had historically used specialist custom content vendors to develop their content, often having a short list of preferred suppliers. Whilst these arrangements were still in place, the budgets for projects were becoming significantly reduced. Whereas historically they might have spent £50-100K+ per project, now they are trying to get similar work done for £5-10K.

Secondly, as well as exploring offshore production to cut costs (usually with variable success), companies are also increasingly adopting rapid authoring tools - Lectora, Breeze, Articulate, Atlantic Link, etc. to enable self-authoring of content within L&D and line of business. This shifts the point of production completely, but creates a lot of other issues internally as well.

We expect both these trends to continue, and to interconnect. Corporates need to diversify their content production strategies to deal with the increased scale of need, and the associated focus on reducing cost and time for development and maintenance. For volume content, corporates will increasingly mandate the development tool in order be able to self-maintain the outcomes. They may pay one vendor to develop some customised templates that are proven to pre-integrate with their LMS (a topic for another day!), they might pay another company to provide instructional design input to projects, and yet another to quality assure any outputs.

Who will actual content development and production - good question? Some of it will be done internally, some will be done offshore, and some will be contracted out whole as a discrete (yesteryear-like) project with a reasonable budget allowing some creativity and investment in custom media. But the majority will be "fit for purpose", quick to produce, cheap and easy to maintain.

If the above really happens ,and I believe it is inevitable, it will have big implications for the skills and resources needed within L&D to manage it effectively. It will have even bigger implications for the large number of vendors that make a living by delivering whole projects. Nice big £100K+ projects will still be there, but they will become few and far between, the main focus is switching to the mass of "fit for purpose" content that corporates need everyday.

As the corporates also start cherry-picking single service components (template development, instructional design, media production, project management, quality assurance, content input, ...) rather than buying whole projects, I believe the writing will be on the wall for many vendors.

How will they survive this? Some will specialise and down-scale. Running a £0.5-2m custom e-learning company is a lot easier than running a £3-5m one. Others will offshore and automate tools to slash development costs further to compete. A few will aggregate and rise above it - move up the value chain and do a total BPO on learning development, but it will be only a few in each geography. The rest??? Start diversifying now!

Tony Karrer comments on DTI Blended post

Tony Karrer, a US blogger with some interesting views has picked up my blog on the DTI research on blended learning. I would be really interested in what readers (US and otherwise) make of this issue.

The statement from the DTI research was unequivocal - blended was old news! Like you I think this is not a correct message, but I don't think it's just confusing blended as a label versus blended as a practice.

From our research, we still blended as the fundamental model for any structured capability development, as well as for high-impact project-based learning. Here is a link to some of the public domain research info we've put out on blended.

One additional point. One of the problems of blended was that it was a hype jargon, and became a bandwagon for lots of people to jump on, and subsequently off. This always happens of course, the equivalent for this year is probably "informal learning". Now, I don't mean these things are important or right, just that they encourage or allow many people (customers and suppliers) to: start using the term for a while, make some cosmetic changes, and then adopt the next bandwagon as it emerges. We see this all the time. Makes you look like your leading edge, but at the same time results in little different outcomes or any sustainable change in thinking and approach.

Its the latter that really interests me - for blended, for informal, or for any from any significant innovation!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Beyond E-learning - Barry's view

Just read Barry Sampson's blog entry for the DTI session, and some of the comments. I think his view was similar to mine, but it will be interesting to see where the conversation goes ....

Is "Blended" really dead?

One of the topics briefly touched on at the DTI Beyond eLearning session was the lack of any interest in the topic of Blended Learning in the US companies the group visited. According to Alec Keith, the US was not interested in discussing the topic, "Blended Learning is still in the literature, but not discussed seriously" was one specific comment. So is Blended Learning really dead?

From our research in corporates in the UK and Europe, we would say no, and for two reasons. Firstly, I think we're still partly in the hype curve of Blended Learning. Many UK/European corporates are still at the early stages of realising that the e-learning story is not going away and they have an increasing need for integrated learning approaches. Partly this is still driven by market hype, but it is also magnified by hard drivers of reducing cost and increasing the reach of learning programmes.

Much of this blending is not actually very blended. Lowest common denominator thinking drives decisions to chop down classroom time and substitute in e-learning content that is not really integrated with the classroom content. From a research project Elearnity did a year or so ago, most blended design seems to singularly focus on selecting media - in particular where should we use e-learning. I think far much too much attention has been payed to this.

This leads to the second and more profound reason why I think Blended Learning is not actually dead. Blended Learning should force us to focus on learning as a process rather than as a series of events. The value of blended learning should be in understanding and describing that process, and then understanding the interplay between and the added value through the components of the process, i.e. the whole design, not just the selection of specific media types. Process-based and integrated.

Whilst I may not personally like the term "blended learning" very much, I feel it is worthwhile if it forces us to design holistic learning processes rather than media-delivered events. But our research indicates that is not happening yet, and so, for good or bad, I will disagree with the US DTI research and keep advocating blended as one of our learning stories.

Once we have that as the norm, I would certainly be happy to consign it to the bin adn just call it learning!

E-learning vendors - market ripples

The recent news of that AdVal had gone into administration was not a surprise, but it was a disappointment. Rumours had been circulating for most of the year that AdVal was struggling beyond the norm, but its' recent acquisition of the Maxim business has doubled the consequences of it.

Couple this with other acquisitions and uncertainties over the past year and it paints a mixed picture of change and uncertainty. WBT's recent acquisition by Horizon Technology is another local example. Some of the bigger US vendors have also suffering the same fate. And whilst the LMS market, for example, has seen significant vendor consolidation at the top end, we're yet to see significant platform consolidation follow on from it - i.e. the vendors still have a lot of legacy platform transitioning to deal with.

Whilst these vendor changes are part of a positive trend to a more mature market position, short term they are only magnifying corporate uncertainty. Or if they are not, this may largely through ignorance than insight!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Informal Comment - The Blog Switch

I've been providing some background commentary to go alongside Elearnity's research knowledge base for a while and now decided I need to commit more effort to this active. Basically there are just too many things/conversations going on to handle them all through formal comment in our analyst service or through structured articles and presentations. It takes too long to get the stories out there, and the mechanisms for feedback and discussion are just too limited.

I've therefore decided that a change of strategy is due. As of now, I'm increasing significantly the level of general blog activity, and creating it via my Learning Reflections blog on blogspot. I will be similarily be ceasing informal blog entries in the main Elearnity knowledge centre, but will include links to relevant entries from Learning Reflections.

Whilst this is actually less integrated from the point of view of the formal Elearnity research, it is much more flexible and integrated with the general blogosphere. And I guess that counts for more.

Hopefully you will find this easier to use and find, but let me know if this creates any issues. Otherwise this will be the last blog entry in the knowledge base.

Regards, DAVID

Donald Clark takes role at LINE Communications

Donald Clark continues to expand his variety of roles with a new position (on a consultancy basis) as Director of Strategy at LINE Communications. See here.

Whilst not his first foray post-Epic (he is also involved in the boards of UFI and Learning Light) it is clearly more directly involved in Epic's market space and therefore competitive to them. Donald not only understands the market very well, he is very connected. It will certainly be interested in how this impacts both LINE and Epic in the longer term.

DTI Global Watch - Beyond E-learning

I recently went to the launch seminar for report from the DTI Global Watch project "Beyond eLearning: practical insights from the USA" along seemingly with half of the UK e-learning world.

Presentations are available from here.

I thought the content of the day itself was disappointing. Nigel Paine gave a nice keynote based on his BBC viewpoint and not really relating to the research itself. Interesting but not the best use of time. The individual research reports were fairly superficial, with little real insight into companies visited or specifics in the USA. I thought that was the point of the session, but obviously I was mistaken.

Charles Jennings and Gordon Bull did their normal good job, but not sure there was any new insight. Most forthright and therefore valuable of the sessions was Euan Mackenzie from 3MRT on Game-based learning - really challenging the assumption (echoed by the others) that the US wasn't ahead of the game (pardon the pun), other than maybe in the Military which they didn't look at.

Overall thing that struck me though was how eLearning 0.0 the event was to talk about eLearning 2.0 and related stuff. All gather in London for a one day session. Cram into a lecture hall with a printed report and stand and deliver sessions just scratching the topics.

Sorry guys, nice idea but need to be more innovative in getting the learning out into the community. Maybe someone should have blogged it!

Friday, June 16, 2006


Just checking this is all hunky dory (great album) before we get too public with this version of theblog.