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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Learning Trends Point To and Shape eLearning 2.0

Okay - somehow I messed up in a previous post that introduces What is eLearning 2.0?

Somehow it lost a middle section that talks about important trends that are a big reason for the move to eLearning 2.0. I've fixed the original post and I'm putting a better version of the missing contents here...

There are a few articles on this, probably the two most commonly cited (up until this article) are: E-Learning 2.0, Stephen Downes, E-learning 2.0, whatever that is, David Jennings.

Both of these took me a long time to partially understand. Part of the what makes understanding eLearning 2.0 hard is that several different “camps” have all landed on the same basic kinds of approaches from different directions. I would, via a gross generalization, put these camps down as:
  • eLearning
  • Collaboration / Communities
  • Knowledge Management

Again, this article is primarily aimed at people coming from the eLearning world and in my case I'm mostly familiar with eLearning in corporate settings. In this world, there are significant business and learning trends moving us towards eLearning 2.0.

In 2004, my company, TechEmpower, conducted a research effort around eLearning Technology Trends. We interviewed CLOs and Training Directors from 75 corporations (revenue 300M+, 1000+ employees). The interviews were fairly free-form, but followed along three basic questions:

  • What are the primary challenges facing your business today?
  • What does this mean in terms of learning challenges?
  • How is technology supporting what you need to do?

Business Challenges

From almost every training executive, we heard various primary drivers for their business such as:

  • Company moving from product-centric to customer-centric
  • Facing more/different competition, price pressure, insurgents
  • Changing marketplace

But, we definitely heard a fairly consistent message that their business was facing “change” and an “ever increasing pace.” “We need to move fast.”

Learning Challenges

On the learning front, there was a good-news, bad-news situation. We heard fairly consistently:

  • Senior management in their organizations are definitely focused on human capital issues.
  • CLOs are consistently hearing the following messages from senior management: “People,” “innovation,” “learning,” “organizational effectiveness,” or “agility” are “the only sustainable competitive advantage” – “Execution is key!”
  • Senior management was keenly aware that – 50-70% of their costs were people costs.
  • Ability to change performance was often the key barrier to execution.
  • There was often a sense of growing frustration level among senior management in terms of the ability of learning and training functions to be able to accommodate the pace of change. This was further heightened by factors such as:
  • People in organizations have no time for change or development
  • Complexity of jobs are increasing and changing more rapidly
  • Demographics are having a major impact

The net is a real sense of concern among CLOs in terms of the challenge around learning strategy. If you step back and look at it, the general sentiment was that they needed learning solutions that were:

  • Very fast transfer
  • Occurred in short bursts w/o leaving the workplace
  • Fast to develop (and low cost)
  • Had real impact on performance

When the CLO looks at their typical arsenal of solutions, it’s no surprise that they are concerned. The central question comes from the fact that traditional learning strategies that are really based on a class model, don’t match with the requirements listed above. Thus, they are asking:

What learning models will address these challenges?

In my mind, this goes to the heart of the eLearning 2.0 definition. There is a need for new kinds of learning solutions. We’ve seen the slow smushing together of Online Reference, Online Job Aids, small eLearning pieces, Rapid eLearning and Blended Learning. So, my concept of eLearning 2.0 starts with the trend towards:

  • Small pieces of content
  • Delivered closer to time / place of work
  • Likely delivered in pieces over time as part of a larger program

This trend exists independent of the whole discussion of Web 2.0. In reality it is what is driving a lot of the discussions around Blended Learning and Rapid eLearning. And it’s really a big piece of what eLearning 2.0 is. An interesting discussion of this trend can be found in Elliot Masie’s column in CLO Magazine (but I hate his title) “Nano-Learning: Miniaturization of Design.”

The reality is that eLearning 2.0 is going to be driven as much or more by this question than the folks who are coming from a Web 2.0 (read/write web) standpoint.

To put this another way, if you come at this from a Web 2.0 standpoint, you would be talking about how learning is going to be shaped by:

  • Information and learning objects created more easily and by a broader collection of people
  • Information and learning objects enhanced by tagging and group use
  • Communities providing access to people and information

While I agree that these are important, I personally believe that eLearning 2.0 will first and foremost be shaped by:

  • Seamless integration of information objects and learning objects
  • Short-burst learning objects in the context of work
  • Increased frequency of small communication / awareness learning objects
  • Increasing diversity of tools / resources
  • Multiple interventions over a period of time
  • Involve multiple people in the overall intervention, especially managers and peers
  • System proaction (prompts) as follow-up
  • Reporting tools and assessments tied directly to information and learning objects
  • Integration of metrics and community use information to track utility

I have seen interesting examples of each of these types of approaches that exist already today, but with Web 2.0 technologies, this is becoming even easier. Furthermore, as you combine the two lists, the combination strikes me as having real potential to be a game changing approach.

I will attempt to provide more information and examples of these over time.

Keywords: eLearning Trends


Eric said...

Thanks a lot for the visit to my e-Learning Acupuncture blog (http:/, I'd thought I'd come over and take a peek at yours. You've definitely written a lot about e-Learning 2.0 here and I agree with many of your thoughts. For example, your statement that e-Learning 2.0 is trending towards: “small pieces of content, delivered closer to time / place of work, and likely delivered in pieces over time as part of a larger program” is bang on in my view. This statement makes me remember back to what the manufacturing sector experienced in the 1980s where much of the sector transformed to a Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory model in order to maximize efficiency. In the future, I see training establishments now moving to more a more effective, e-Learning 2.0, model where staff are delivered training only at the moment they need it for their job performance (i.e. JIT!), that the training be in small pieces that are not intermingled with other less-relevant content, that they receive the training while on the job, via their own workstation, that there be permanent access to the training resources to act as a job aid and that this job aid be centrally updated for all employees in the future should any processes/policies change/improve. To me the job aid aspect of training is very crucial and I think the ease with which electronic materials can be updated centrally lends itself very well to this.

Thank for pointing me to your material. I’ll revisit often.


sheik said...

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Trivia Game Challenge

Anonymous said...

I am coming into a corporate environment from a high school teaching background. My job is to set up an E-Training program for a major label printer. The work that I do will be used across many plants in the US. I am making Single Point Lessons which are quick reference "how to", as well as starting a process of video taping standard operating procedure for the variety of jobs we have at our plants.

I am wanting a professional look to the videos. The company is ok with hand held video cameras and narrating the process.

Comments or suggestions are appreciated.