Last Friday, Tony Karrer blogged about definitions of eLearning, joking about “eLearning (or is it e-Learning?”
In the early days, way back in 1998, it was always e-learning, with the hyphen. SmartForce was the “e-Learning Company” and Cisco’s John Chambers evangelized e-learning.
As eLearning matured, some of us are dropped the hyphen (and started “intercapping” the “L”.) Microsoft used eLearn, as did SRI and Internet Time Group.
Dropping the “-” is a normal progression as a term is accepted into the language. I remember a conversation in 1999 with Don Emery, EVP of marketing at SmartForce. “We should have called it eLearning,” he said. Our goal was to present eLearning as an integrated whole, not some immature mash-up.
Today’s New York Times comes to the rescue with corroboration.
Death-Knell. Or Death Knell
By CHARLES McGRATH
Published: October 7, 2007
THE Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the scaled-down, two-volume version of the mammoth 20-volume O.E.D., just got a little shorter. With the dispatch of a waiter flicking away flyspecks, the editor, Angus Stevenson, eliminated some 16,000 hyphens from the sixth edition, published last month. “People are not confident about using hyphens anymore,” he said. “They’re not really sure what they’re for.”
…[Hyphens are] records of how the language changes, and in the old days, before the Shorter Oxford got into the sundering business, they indicated a sort of halfway point, a way station in the progress of a new usage. Two terms get linked together — “tiddly-wink,” let’s say, or “cell-phone” — and then over time that little hitch is eroded, worn away by familiarity. In a few years, for example, people will be amused to discover that email used to be e-mail.
Even SmartForce backed off after a while, dropping eLearning from its brand identity entirely.
Tony went on to give several definitions of eLearning. I could not resist commenting:
At 10/06/2007 02:13:00 AM, jay said…
Okay, Tony, I’ll take the bait.
A 1999 SmartForce white paper, one of the early mentions of eLearning on the web, defined eLearning:
* e-Learning is dynamic. Today’s content, in real time, not old news or “shelfware.” On-line experts, best sources, quick-and-dirty approaches for emergencies.
* e-Learning operates in real time. You get what you need, when you need it.
* e-Learning is collaborative. Because people learn from one another, e-Learning connects learners with experts, colleagues, and professional peers, both in and outside your organization.
* e-Learning is individual. Every e-learner selects activities from a personal menu of learning opportunities most relevant to her background, job, and career at that
very moment. e-Learning is comprehensive.
* e-Learning provides learning events from many sources, enabling the e-learner to select a favored format or learning method or training provider.
* e-Learning enables the enterprise. e-Learning builds enterprise learning communities.
Mind you, nine years ago, some of us were irrationally exuberant and believed we could change the world for the better. Six months later, every vendor with an email address was claiming to have eLearning.
A group of us (Marcia Conner, Josh Bersin, Hal Richman, Eilif Trondsen, and others) met at Pensare to try to hammer out a definition everyone could agree on. We didn’t.
My old eLearning FAQ reported “eLearning is learning on Internet Time, the convergence of learning and networks and the New Economy. eLearning is a vision of what corporate training can become. We’ve only just begun.”
The corporate hand-wringing over definitions of the term has been a giant, inconclusive waste of time. I’ve talked with companies that spent months hammering out a consensus definition of eLearning, only to realize they were spinning their wheels.
I wish we could stuff this genie back into the lamp. We have more important things to deal with. Outcomes, for example.
At 10/06/2007 06:59:00 AM, Tony replied…
Jay – I like the aspects of eLearning you put in your comment.
And, given that you attempted and failed to get a consensus on the definition of eLearning – a term you coined – that suggests the term is not going to come to a common definition any time soon. So, like you said – spinning your wheels.