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Home > News > January 2003 > 29-Jan-2003

Top ten e-learning drivers

Centra outlines ten trends in e-learning for 2003

Centra, a provider of software and services for real-time communication and collaboration, has outlined ten trends for e-Learning over the next year and their impact in both business and education.

A few years ago, not many people had heard the term e-Learning. But within months, there was a short evolution: Technology-enabled learning and distance education changed to online learning and Web-based training, which morphed into e-Learning.

"The introduction of e-learning added new meaning to training, and the possibilities for delivering knowledge and information to learners at an accelerated pace opened a new world for knowledge transfer," said David Anderson, VP EMEA for Centra. "By now, industry pioneers and stragglers alike agree that e-learning is here to stay."

Centra predicts a number of key trends for e-Learning in 2003. These include:

Trend #1: E-learning as a business strategy

For smart companies, it's no longer a question of if, but when to use e-learning. These organizations see e-learning as a strategic solution that must be deployed to all employees. Enterprise-wide roll-outs are used to increase sales effectiveness, improve organizational competency, and build rich customer relationships. Companies are finding that without time to properly train employees and customers, the investment in major ERP and CRM purchases will fail. Consequently, e-learning will continue to be a part of organizational infrastructure, similar to email packages and other product suites used to increase staff productivity.

Trend #2: Application-specific e-learning solutions

Consider a customer call centre. Similar to traditional classroom training, e-learning can provide technical and non-technical training to employees, such as application-based training on how to operate software or skills-based training on how to deal with customers over the telephone. In this example, an e-learning solution has an advantage. It can provide the necessary communication, collaboration, and learning technology to quickly and efficiently keep employees up-to-date on new procedures and offerings without taking them out of the field or off the telephone.

Trend #3: Integrated e-learning suites

The types of e-learning offerings are large and diverse, consisting of three major categories: content, technology, and services. When considering content, companies should look at vertical areas, such as business skills, technical skills, soft skills, and organization-specific content. Keep in mind the format in which you can best deliver information, whether it's simulations, games, mentoring, or so forth. With regards to technology, take into account current and future needs for learning management, content management, knowledge management, content distribution, competency management, collaboration, assessments, reporting, workflow, and localization. In the area of services, think about change management, customization, strategic deployment, project management, and other areas related to the successful implementation and deployment of technology within your organization.

In many cases, a comprehensive e-learning solution requires components from each category, which are integrated into e-learning suites aimed at solving a particular business issue, such as within the sales department or product-specific training. The trend is to look for a supplier who can help you decide what you need and how best to configure and integrate the parts and pieces for your total solution. To preserve the best e-learning suite possible for your organization, incorporate open interfaces with the capability to integrate with existing corporate computing infrastructure, and check for compliance with industry standards.

Trend #4: Blended learning

A current buzz phrase and trend involves blended learning programs, designed to integrate e-learning with traditional training methods to increase overall effectiveness. A single delivery method is no longer sufficient to handle enterprise-wide training needs.

The construction of true blended learning programs moves learning into a new age. Blended learning preserves the necessary consideration of how people learn but offers options for learning and can still produce measurable savings in learning offerings promised by e-learning.

Trend #5: Moving from discrete to integrated learning

Hand-in-hand with blended learning, there's an increased desire for a seamless transition from one learning activity to another. Rather than stand-alone learning activities, the trend is towards the integration of these activities or delivery mechanisms. Look for seamless transitions from live group activities to individual exercises, from self-paced learning activities to synchronous instruction, from activities in smaller groups to activities in a larger learning community.

Trend #6: Digital collaboration meets learning

E-learning, online collaboration, and knowledge management are margining into each other. Look for suppliers that understand this trend and can offer you options for knowledge management and digital collaboration. The trend toward standardization of digital collaboration platforms means that your IT organization will likely be part of your buying decision, so involve them early in the selection process.

Trend #7: Less vision, more business return

Prior to the recent economic downturn, businesses had capital to invest in new technology. At this time, organizations are extremely cautious about how they invest--or if they invest at all. Look for business solutions that support key business initiatives, relieve immediate pains, and offer a quick return on investment.

Trend #8: Repurposing content

As e-learning developed, most offerings consisted of basic libraries of self-paced courses that were accessible over the Internet, learning management focused on activity tracking, and live synchronous e-learning modeled content delivery and interaction on the traditional classroom methodologies.

With the trend toward hybrid experiences in which self-paced learning, content management, and live e-learning come together under one platform, the ability to repurpose content for various delivery formats will become critical, not only from a content development standpoint, but as a way to meet the learning needs of a diverse set of learners. As part of this trend, look for the venues for subject matter experts, within and outside formal training departments, to create content easily through the use of simple wizards and content authoring tools.

Trend # 9: E-learning goes beyond the corporation

Early adopters of e-learning consisted mainly of corporations, which were trying to augment face-to-face meetings, demonstrations, training classes, and lectures. Government agencies, colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations are now following suit. These organizations are using e-learning to address their learning and communication needs, as well as expand their business opportunities.

Trend #10: The disappearing LMS

A few years ago, organizations expected learning management systems to increase learning-and solve business problems. The LMS strategy was reasonable, but it involved a corporate commitment of time, cost, resources, and energy that few organizations could afford. LMSs were touted as end-to-end solutions that could do anything and everything. The fact is that no single product can do it all. Effective knowledge delivery solutions need to work externally as well as internally to connect business units, suppliers, and customers. The current trend is to look at the big picture of knowledge delivery and combine HR management, learning management, and content management to address enterprise-wide learning needs from the inside out.

"When companies are considering e-Learning solutions, there are three key areas they should consider," added Anderson. "First, be sure to think about deployment options. Work with suppliers who can offer e-learning tools in a variety of configurations, including universal software licensing for on-premise installation, outsourced hosting services, and full-service collaboration ASP. Second, the supplier you work with should offer products to meet the needs of both internal and external audiences and support industry standards to ensure interoperability with other enterprise learning systems and content types. Third and most importantly, only work with suppliers who discuss up front about the changes your organization may experience with e-learning and how it can be managed."

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