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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Slow Evolution of Learning Solutions

Great post from Charles Jennings –Down But Not Quite Out: what can we learn from the plights of Learning Tree International and Readers Digest?

Learning Tree reported a decline of 31.2% in earnings compared to 2008. Operating expenses were down from $22 million to $14.6 million ($1.5 million of that contributed by producing less of those damn catalogues). And overall operating profit was down by 40.7% compared to the same period in 2008. Net income was down 44.7%.

This is similar to what I've been discussing in the Business of Learning and we are both citing Learning Tree's woes.  This whole topic has got me thinking about all of the implications and I've been regularly posting on it:

Charles discusses what Learning Tree (and all training providers are up against).  There's free content and the assumption that content should be Free.

Charles talks about the Changing Expectations of CLOs:

Many CLOs in large corporations around the world now subscribe to the view that most organisational learning is informal and even where formal learning is used they expect more than a one-off event from their suppliers. The expectation is that the provider will make on-going support available through some form of online forum and email at least, or make their content available online in an on-demand way such as the excellent Books 24x7 has done. And CLOs want to integrate their provider's learning materials and learning tools with their own internal systems so that they can be made available across the corporation.

This echoes what I've heard from several other CLOs.  At the same time, I would be cautious on the word "many" – yes, there are many, but quite a few CLOs still take a very traditional view of their focus (see Learning Performance Business Talent Focus) and are fairly traditional in their view of solutions.  Many vendors are looking forward to the day when CLOs are willing to pay for more of these things.  The reality is that many vendors offer expertise – but if CLOs are not willing to pay for accessing that expertise outside the classroom, then it's not going to work out from a business model perspective.

Charles discusses the Reuters Institute of Technology which won a CLO Magazine Award for innovation.

The Institute didn't include any courses from suppliers such as Learning Tree, but was rich with resources from Books24x7, TechChek (a web-based technical skills assessment tool), internal company communities and knowledge sharing wikis. A ning site, podcasts, video learning resources, RSS feeds from the large technology providers such as Cisco, Sun and Microsoft, and a number of other facilities including a range short formal modules deep-linked from the corporate LMS that could be pulled on-demand.

A lot to be learned from these kinds of examples.  Thanks for sharing Charles.


V Yonkers said...

It seems to me that if there is a shift in elearning to assume that all training will be informal, then there needs to be a shift in what learning organizations off a company. No longer will a client want "learning solutions" but rather "learning assessment and teaching how to learn in a networked society."

I would think that if the information is available, then what learners need is a trained "guide" in navigating these resources (which you have mentioned in this blog often). But more importantly, there should be more work on developing tools for collecting examples of learning from the individual, self assessment, and some way to use these tools to create a learning assessment tool to see how and what learning has taken place and how effective it has been on the individual and organizational level.

Christopher Jack said...

The reason why we wont go on any learning tree courses, is that there just isnt the money for it.

Not because of the materials being online. Not everyone learns like us 'techies'. Im a 'techie' but still I prefer someone standing over teaching.

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - great points!

Christopher - do you think that Learning Tree will rebound to the same point later as budgets come back? Or do you think that alternative forms of delivery might take over?

Interesting that you say that you still prefer ILT. I think a lot of people feel that way about certain content - but as experience with alternative forms grow - my belief is that comfort with those forms grow as well.