eLearning Life Support?

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, so to speak, but I must respond to the last item in today's eLearning_Insider newsletter from the eLearning Guild.

Insider: Did you hear? e-Learning is Dead. That's right... dead. Shot down in the prime of its life. Six feet under. Kaput.

Jay: I presume they mean this , which was part of my Eulogy for eLearning presentation.

Insider: A few weeks ago a few of our industries infamous "thought leaders" announced that the term "e-Learning" was dead. On the "Ins and Outs" lists, it was in the "outs" column. Their reasons included 1) the death of the dot-com era, 2) failed e-Learning projects, and 3) the suffering of e-Learning vendors....

No, what I really said was that eLearning would go on because it brought too many benefits not to. But..."eLearning" is a marketing term, an attempt to get under the halo of eBusiness, and that it has outlived its usefulness as a marketing term because many senior managers consider it a fiasco.

Insider: .... But Insider argues that we shouldn't toss away a perfectly good term. Think about it for a moment...

I go further out on the limb than that. I don't think learning is an easy sell in the executive suite. They're called executives because they want to execute. We need to position what we do as the key to execution.

Insider: The term "e-Learning" has served many of us really well. For one thing, it is a term that CEO's, CIO's and CFO's understand. Granted they may not entirely get the big picture of the breadth and potential of e-Learning, but they know the term. Remember, they actually sat up and took notice of our requests to fund e-Learning initiatives, even if only because Wall Street took notice too. This was a good thing! It was the term "e-Learning" that opened the discussion about how we can create substantial and sustainable organizational value.

"Was." Past tense. In today's lean and mean economy, executives pay for performance. They often defer maintenance, including maintenance on human capital.

Insider: Another reason to keep the term "e-Learning" is because it is easy to remember and our students "get it". Those of us in the training/learning industry get really caught up in the "performance improvement", "knowledge enhancement", and "productivity accelerator" terms, but our students and their bosses are really much more responsive to a simpler term. "E-Learning" fits the bill. When they hear the term, folks know that they are going to use technology to get the information/learning/training they need to do better on their job. And that is all they really care about.

If eLearning were synonymous with performance improvement, I'd be a happy camper. The most popular title at ASTD Press is Telling Ain't Training. You know what? Business people do not care. Better numbers will make them happy whether they result from training or telling or taking smart pills or prayer. They want performance from their workers. (We're the only ones who call them learners.)

Insider: While we have had ups and downs, I have not seen a better term appear to replace "e-Learning", and until I do, and until the hundreds of thousands of people developing e-Learning and the millions using e-Learning stop using e-Learning, I think I will stick by it for a while longer.

We agree on this. I haven't come up with a replacement. As I said, I'm working on it. I no more relish changing the name of eLearning Forum than you guys want to rename the eLearning Guild.


This is about all I've got to say on this issue. We have bigger fish to fry than semantics.

While I enjoy sparring with my friends at eLearning Guild, I am a big fan. If you didn't get eLearning_Insider in your email today, you probably haven't upgraded your membership from Associate to Guild Member. For $99, it's a great deal.

Posted by Jay Cross at April 29, 2003 07:07 PM | TrackBack

James Sisk emailed me a comment that really rings true: The learners don't call themselves learners either.

Posted by: Jay at April 30, 2003 07:36 PM

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