Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Searching for Meaning

After reading Tony Kareer's recent post on "e-learning or learning? - more to it" and watching the recent David Weinberger video I remembered a recent conversation that David Wilson and I had regarding how we describe what we do to others.

We both agreed that using elearning to describe what we do (what ever that is? - As Wikipedia says "It is used interchangeably in so many contexts that it is critical to be clear what one means when one speaks of 'eLearning'.") does seem a somewhat limiting term as most people associate this with e-learning content and what we do does have a much wider context. However, when I explain to friends or people what we do is help large organisations utilise technology effectively to help their people learn (a bit of a mouthful!) I normally receive blank looks until I add that it involves elearning. This "tag" helps people gain an understanding at a very base level of what we do. A term I've favoured more recently has been "learning technology" (or educational technology) rather than elearning as this seems to suggest to me a much wider remit but even this seems to have a multitude of interpretations and there is even less awareness of the term.

One of the challenges of the area we work in is the diversity of activities this covers. One day you could be discussing blended learning and learning styles the next interoperability and rapid content development. David Weinberger may argue that I should not be concerned how we classify what we do as it should be down to others to "tag" our activities in whatever way suits them. Whilst I see the validity in this it still feels important to define your own role and help others get an appreciation of what you do.

Although some people have celebrated the dropping of the "e" from elearning to me this just seems to muddy the waters. Yes, most people agree the learning is the most important element, but this is such a broad "tag" that it does very little to define our roles. I think maybe time will tell on an universally accepted term but I'm still waiting .......

Friday, May 18, 2007

Modern means of learning dominate - I'm not convinced

I was reading an article in People Management recently from a HR columnist entitled “Don’t rule out chalk and talk learning methods in favour of flexible approaches”. The article basically argued that due to the growth in remote home and mobile working, e-learning was now seen as the “modern means of learning” and we should not forget the importance of face to face learning. In the first few weeks outside of a corporate learning department the thing that strikes me is that this could not be more further from the truth.

The pace of change in society and in technology is incredibly rapid and with this the way how individuals learn is constantly evolving. E-learning though still seems to be a form of "black magic" for many learning professionals and they seem to view it with anything from mystical wonder to outright contempt. They seem too blinkered to recognise the benefits it offers in terms of flexibility and accessibility and the fact that for some learners they may even prefer it to face to face learning (Oh No!). Don’t get me wrong there are many organisations that are well down the road of utilising technology to help their people learn but these still seem to be in the minority.

It disappoints me to see so few learning professionals grasping the opportunities available to them, especially when you consider that learning is a process driven by the need to continually develop. When you look at last year’s National Training Award winners how many use technology? – I’d estimate it to be less than 20%. Face to face learning is incredibly important but to rely on it as the dominant choice in all circumstances is misguided, just as doing the same with e-learning is.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thomson Corp exits Learning Market

Life is very busy at the Thomson Corporation these days. Not only have they just completed the sale of their NETg subsidiary to SkillSoft for $270 million, but they have also announced they are selling Higher Education assets of Thomson Learning to a couple of venture funds for $7.75 billion. This now leaves them better funded to pursue growth in "better aligned" to their core operating model. Currently that means acquiring Reuters.

All this is very interesting for Thomson, but shows another big player significantly exiting the learning market place. I remember maybe 10 years ago speculating with Peter Rothstein, then head of Lotus's LearningSpace business, that the big publishers/information companies had a significant potential to engage in and shape the emergent e-learning industry. The sentiment was proved to be right, but the reality wasn't. Certainly the publishers came to the market. But then they floundered, and largely they have gone south.

What does this say about the ability of large companies to make money from the learning industry? Not sure it is a positive message. If large owners of learning content assets such as the educational publishers struggle, then what hope is there for smaller providers? Personally, I think their strategies for developing the market were flawed and therefore likely to struggle, but its still an indictment of the learning market that they couldn't make enough money to stay around!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Welcome, Adrian Jones

I'd just like to welcome Adrian Jones, who's just joined Elearnity as Principal Analyst, (see press release here), and will be leading our research and advisory activities for e-learning and related areas, and will also be contributing to this Blog.

Adrian has been one of the leading corporate advocates for e-learning in the UK during his last six years at B&Q, and has won many related awards for his e-learning work at B&Q. Under Adrian’s leadership, B&Q became one of the earliest adopters of enterprise e-learning, e-assessment and learning management systems and a leading corporate reference for e-learning. Here's what Barry Sampson, Adrian's colleague at B&Q had to say about him.

So welcome Adrian, and I look forward to your contributions to the Blog as well as to Elearnity's research and analysis!