The real e-world

New
technology has the potential to bring on your training in leaps and bounds. An
e-learning show in June will help you decide on the best options for your
organisation. By Sue Weekes

The
e-learning market is expected to grow by 96 per cent over the next five years,
according to a study by employment law firm Clifford Chance. But while senior
management is happy to enjoy the benefits that a flexible learning system
brings, many training professionals remain uneasy. They share the fear that
learning via the Internet or a CD-Rom is a culture shock for learners and that
it brings with it a whole set of problems yet to be addressed.

What
is clear when you talk to anyone in the sector is that practitioners and
providers still have a lot to learn themselves. With this in mind, the
conference programme at E-learning London at the Business Design Centre,
Islington, on 6 and 7 June aims to bring many of these issues out into the open
with plenty of real-world case studies and hands-on experience relayed to the
audience.

The
programme will be opened by Ettie McCormack, director of Unisys University
EMEIA, whose keynote speech will look at the value e-learning can add to your
business. McCormack is responsible for the training and development of over
12,000 employees at Unisys and its virtual university uses a blend of online,
classroom and self-study. Hence McCormack will be speaking from direct
experience when she weighs up the benefits of e-learning against the costs and
looks at whether it can determine success and competitive advantage.

Whether
a “virtual” classroom can be as effective as a real one is frequently at the
centre of the e-learning debate and the session dedicated to this (X1), aimed
at those in the early stages of e-learning, should prove enlightening. David
Hookham, programme manager of the Scottish Agricultural College, will be
talking about how it is implementing an online learning forum and virtual farm,
designed as an introduction to organic farming. It is principally aimed at MSc
students, but will also be available to farmers for their continued
professional development. Hookham will give first-hand experience of how the
system was developed and the issues that have arisen along the way.

Howard
Hills, development executive of the Forum for Corporate Universities, will be
more concerned with the pedagogical issues of virtual classrooms and will be
looking at what we can learn from real classrooms, as well as exploring how
different personalities react to them.

If
you like a bit of audience participation, head for the Getting Started in
e-Learning (X2) session, where chairman Thomas Bergulund, CEO of the Edvantage
Group, and speakers Stephen Newman, program director of Ericsson Management
Institute, and Karen Smith, associate director, training and development of
Quintiles, will be gearing up for some heated, interactive debate.

Building
blocks

They
aim to cover the building blocks required for successful e-learning and will
look at how you can assess your business needs and create a project plan. Newman
will talk about how his company intends to use a learning community portal in a
multi-module leadership development program for the next generation of Ericsson
executives, and Smith will be relating Quintiles’ overall experiences.

An
independent view will be provided by Clerical Medical Investment Group training
operations manager Alastair Thorn, who will be reminding trainers how wary some
users can be of new technologies. “It is not enough to merely give them the
system and expect them to know what to do with it,” says Thorn.

For
e-learning to work in a company, you need buy-in from personnel from the bottom
right to the top, and it needs to be embedded in company culture. If you’re
starting out in e-learning and are struggling to get the necessary commitment
from elsewhere in your organisation there are two sessions that may help you:
Marketing e-learning from CEO to office junior (Y2) and Evaluating and
certifying e-learning (Y3). You can hear real-life experiences from training
managers at two major corporates in shape of Paul Mallinson, head of corporate
training and management development at Pfizer, and Ursula Kerrigan, regional
training manager, Bass Hotels and Resorts.

Jim
Ellis, chief training designer and project manager at BP Chemicals Project, and
Dave Buglass, e-learning consultant at the Royal Bank of Scotland, will be
taking things one step further and exploring how you can match an e-learning
programme to business objectives and how you can properly evaluate it.

When
the Open University talks on the subject of learning, people listen, so expect
Jim Flood’s industry-wide critique of training material that has been
re-engineered to be one of the highlights of the programme (Z1).

Flood
is the academic operations director of Corus, the OU, and will be drawing its
30 years of experience and research into distance learning in his presentation.

Another
big name, Consignia (The Post Office), will also feature in this session, with
Mel Leedham, senior management development adviser, presenting a warts-and-all
case study. It will look at Consignia’s early successes and failures in trying
to convert existing courses into a mixture of online and classroom sessions.

With
a headquarters in London and offices in Scotland, Jersey, Germany, Japan and
the USA, investment management company Gartmore employs 850 people. In a
session entitled How to Become a High Performance Organisation (W2), Gartmore
dynamic duo Karen Martin, the technology skills development manager, and Angela
Brier, technology skills development officer, will report on the company’s
implementation of an e-learning system. “We’ll explain what went well and what
went not so well”, says Martin.

Obstacles

There
will be illuminating tales along the way about obstacles they met and the
presentation will touch on areas such as promoting intellectual capital in a
company.

The
importance of sustainability in an e-learning system will be a key topic in the
session on the longer term benefits of e-learning (X3). Ian Shaw,
communications and development manager of Friskies, will report on how a system
can fail if it doesn’t have this staying power.

He
was involved in a pilot project at Friskies Europe, which has given parent
company Nestlé valuable experience on which to build its current e-learning project.
Even before you tell anyone that you are about to embark on a system, says
Shaw, it’s important to have a number of factors in place, such as buy-in from
HR and links to your competency framework.

Chairwoman
Martine Garland, of professional learning services at Xebec McGraw-Hill, aims
to cover how to nurture online learning communities, as well as look at the
“what’s in it for me” factor.

Blended
learning, which brings together methods used in e-learning and more traditional
learning, is seen by many as the key to a successful training programme, and
the session devoted to it (X4) looks set to bring some lively debate. Expect a
full and frank presentation from the vice-chairman of the British Association
of Open Learning, David Wolfson. “I will be emphasising that e-learning is only
a tool which should be used with face-to-face delivery and other traditional
methods,” he says.

In
the same session, Gestetener’s Tony Milne will present a case study, focusing
on the problems, rationale and costs of implementing an e-learning programme to
4,000 users across EMEA in 14 languages.

Do
you really need a learning management system? There is an assumption by many
that you do. But of what real benefit are they to the more experienced users,
for instance? Learning management and content delivery systems and portals will
all come under close scrutiny in a session which looks at the future of
e-learning (Z2). You can hear from Jane Knight, e-learning consultant at Cisco
Systems, and Julian Wakeley of Unilever will put forward another independent
user’s view.

An
e-learning system is only as good as the content within it but e-learners often
report that the substance of some courses lacks appropriateness or it’s just
plain dull. A session entitled Why Content is King (Z3), chaired by Alistair
Morrison, divisional director, Vega Skillchange, will look at how you can match
content to the medium as well as effective instructional design. “We’ve got the
technology and can do amazing things,” he says. “Unfortunately, we can do
amazingly bad things with this technology!”

Dave
Bullock IT customer and service manager of law firm Herbert Smith will be
talking about the importance of good quality training content and the relevance
of learning content in respect of your business. “We need to encourage authors
to develop material that users want to use, not page-turning, dull stuff,” he
says. Content that crosses cultural boundaries is another issue likely to be
raised.

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