The time machine rides again

Five years ago at TechLearn, I asked people to join me for a ride in a time machine to see what corporate learning might look like in 2004. Reflection on the past is a wonderful teacher, so this afternoon I looked back at my presentation to see if it rang true.

Our attitudes about learning seem to slant too far toward numbers & mechanics or too much toward people & relationships; a good balance is rare. In late 1998 we were headed to the numbers extreme. Web-based learning was going to cut costs, eliminate jobs, reduce face-to-face meetings, automate training, and boost ROI. Having found that you can only take that so far until it bites back, in 2003 the pendulum is swinging back into the extreme people-side. The focus is shifting from mechanics to community, connections, collaboration, social software, faith in worker self-determination, mentors, and coaches. In sum, the pendulum is still swinging to extremes and overcorrecting on its return.


Learning Objects are creating more buzz now than in 1998 but they are hardly new.

Learners weren't being treated as customers fast enough for my taste, so Lance Dublin and I wrote a book about it to try to speed things up. Most organizations have yet to buy into this concept.


No one talked about Web Services in '98, but it was no secret that interoperability based on the notion of XML was on the way.

Well, okay, not all my predictions come true. If you, too, drank the dot-com Kool-Aid, you'll remember when the sky was the limit, Moore's Law applied to everything, and Wired magazine could pass for truth.

Most of my uncertainties in 1998 remain uncertain today:

  • What to do about public schools? Create corporate schools?
  • Will telepresence ever replace a human teacher/coach being there in person?
  • Will learning become elitist or will it drive equal opportunity?

By now, I expected us to have recruited our corporate "village elders" as mentors.

My vital questions in 1998 were:

  • Will the net lead us to become empowered individuals or helpless serfs?
  • Will different peoples getting to know one another lead to world harmony or perpetual clash?
  • Is mediocrity now becoming more important than quality later?

Jay in 1998.

Posted by Jay Cross at April 27, 2003 06:28 PM | TrackBack

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