Get over doubts or be left behind by Web revolution

If
only we remembered half of what we learned. With companies focusing on
corporate knowledge to create competitive advantage, it is no surprise that the
growth of e-learning is skyrocketing. It is driving a quantum change in the
nature of corporate training.

IDC
forecasts e-learning content, delivery and solutions will grow tenfold between
2000 and 2004 (Corporate eLearning: Market Forecast and Analysis 2000,
International Data Corp (IDC), Analysts: Sheila McGovern, Beatrice Sarraf, Oct
2000).

Although
e-learning benefits are well documented, they are still treated with
scepticism. Having spent over 20 years in classrooms, I understand that, yet I
welcome a different approach if retention and skill levels can be increased
more effectively.

The
change in approach brings new challenges to HR managers. You must grapple with
issues that were once the sole domain of IT. You will be tasked with working in
a much different environment for new skills development, requiring the
development of new roles such as the online tutor. And you will have a new
level of control over organisational learning.

When
it comes to e-learning decisiveness, many British organisations are akin to
rabbits staring into headlights. This state of frozen indecision when faced
with a sea change in technology has its root cause in several factors.

First
and foremost, the number of vendors in this market is overwhelming. The M4
corridor is the first international port of call for most pre-IPO,
"vulture" capital funded, Internet-bubble, "this is my first
trip to Europe" US startups.

Much
of what they offer is derived from partnerships and their claims overlap. The
core of what they produce is often an impenetrable nugget in comparison to
their inflated, wafer-thin, marketed shell. Their pre- and post-sales support
in Europe can be paltry at best.

There
are also numerous home-grown, single-customer solutions looking for second
homes. The result is buyer confusion.

Second,
our economy is top-heavy. There are a number of slow decision-making,
international companies, few medium-sized firms and many small businesses.
Medium-sized companies tend to move more quickly on new technology. In other
countries they provide a springboard for technology vendors into larger
enterprises.

Larger
enterprises move at a measured pace, so it may take up to two years before you
hear of the tears and joys of your peers.

Finally,
we have an almost innate resistance to change. We tend not to do anything
unless we have to, but when we do, we move quickly.

We
are rapidly approaching the e-learning flash point, when many HR managers will
be feeling some loss of control over training methods. You may already have a
wall-to-wall learning management system. Learning portals with no link to your
systems may spring up. It is important to be familiar with these methods, as
employees, customers and partners will increasingly demand e-learning.

Unfortunately,
e-learning savvy doesn’t come easily – it moves at Web speed. It is impossible
to keep track of all the information.

Some
domestic conferences, particularly those with a high entry fee and a wide
variety of non-vendor, US speakers with above-average presentation skills, are
good places to hear from the experts and self-promoters – talk to fellow
attendees in other companies on a similar voyage.

There
is no doubt about the merits of e-learning. It gives the possibility of
tailored offerings to suit an individual’s needs. Reinforcement becomes easier
and retention is longer. The ability to achieve and prove consistent competency
are attractive features of e-learning delivery and management systems.

The
death of the classroom may be slightly overstated, but soon there will be no
feasible alternative but to learn online. In time, we may learn that learning
the way we want to learn is a prerequisite to learning at all.

www.astd.org
www.massie.com
www.baol.org.uk 

By
Jim Moffat, e-learning marketing manager at Lotus

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