OLL Tuesday

After three full days of jabbering with people about eLearning, Iíve had it with details and am reflecting on the bigger picture.

eLearning has outlived its usefulness.
Some people say I invented the term eLearning. I am CEO of eLearning Forum. But the word eLearning causes more trouble than itís worth. Arguments over its definition divert our attention from performance improvement. If it gets the job done, who cares what itís called? In several conversations, we banned the word eLearning. It pressured us to talk about outcomes rather than techniques.

Clark Aldrich responds that,

I like the term e-learning. I like the inherent scalability. But in a discussion, overusing it is like overusing the phrase Information Technology (how are you going to manage your supply chain? IT!). I used to be more obsessed with the vendor categories in the market. I am now more obsessed with the content types in the market.
and I can't disagree. At eLearning Forum on Friday, the feeling was mixed. We need to differentiate old from new, but at the same time, to distance ourselves from the dot-com overhype.

Its not the learning.
During our presentation this afternoon, Lance said that itís not the ďeĒ thatís important, itís the learning. I interrupted, saying I disagreed. Itís not the learning thatís important. Itís the doing thatís important. If the learning doesnít change behavior, it is irrelevant and of no interest.

Intermingling disparate eLearning is not always good.
Online learning comes in two distinct flavors, each with its own sense of urgency and political support.

  1. HRís eLearning that focuses on career development, compliance, and plugging skill gaps.
  2. Business Unit eLearning that helps customers, workers, partners, and suppliers accomplish objectives. Business eLearning, like all business projects, demands accountability.

Generally, trying to lump HRís eLearning with Business Unit eLearning clouds the picture more than it clears it up. It's as if you ripped the CD player out of your car so you could put it alongside the CD player in your living room.

Two years ago, the LMS question buyers asked was ďDocent or Saba?Ē Everyone assumed that you had to have an LMS. Today the common wisdom is that you donít need an LMS for learners outside the firewall, e.g. customers. Unless youíre certifying learner accomplishment, you may not need much of an LMS inside the firewall either. LMSs pass information up, in the form of reports; they donít do much to improve the experience of the learner. At first this seemed natural. As Allison Rossett has said, ďWe switched from counting butts in seats to counting hits on websites.Ē If performance gains are the measure of success, why bother counting the intermediate steps?

The Vibe at the Expo
Traffic was okay, but then again there were not as many aisles as in previous years. Visitors appeared more sophisticated, armed with specific questions, and less gullible than before. Vendors fielded more clueless booth people (you used to be able to talk with the primary developer or CEO) and group presentations. Three rows of chairs, a canned pitch every 45 minutes, reminds me of geeky software shows. Customers with eLearning experience don't need to hear the old any time, any place story any more.

Attendance is down.
How many people are here? Iíve heard a variety of numbers. One semi-official tally says 4,000 participants. Subtracting vendors and freebies knocks this down to 3,000. A couple of people estimated 2,500 legitimate, paying participants. The numbers are down; the sophistication's up.

The eLearning marketplace is maturing more quickly than the shows. People spent more time in sessions and less in the Expo. I heard a number of complaints about presentations that were geared to newbies. Also, I heard complaints about too many sessions competing for too few slots.

ďPeople love to learn but hate to be taught.Ē

Posted by Jay Cross at September 25, 2002 12:06 AM | TrackBack

The market is not maturing at the same rate everywhere. There are still industries and places where elearning still has to be explained particularly elearning for your customers.

Posted by: brian lamb at October 8, 2002 06:11 AM

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