Your guide to e-learning: The future of e-learning

What the
future holds for e-learning

“Just
for me” learning

A
new model using “learning objects” is gaining momentum. Learning objects are
self-contained learning components (a course module, video or audio clips, for
example) that are stored and accessed independently. Learning objects can be
re-assembled to create new courses or sequenced to form individual learning
paths.

This
has clear benefits. It enables mass-customisation of learning with more
personalised and “just for me” content. And for authors there is the
opportunity to search for existing learning objects from within the
organisation or from external providers and reuse them, saving time and money.

An
open world of learning

Imagine
a library where books were not categorised in a usable way and you were only
able to read the book on the library premises.

The
Internet has the potential to be a vast database of learning content that is
searchable and delivered in a customised way to every individual. The
difficulty at the moment is there is no consistent way for learning materials
to be labelled or tagged (making it difficult to search effectively), and many
different types of published learning material will not work properly on
different types of learning platform.

To
this end, there are several organisations working toward standards to get
content labelled in a consistent way (using a language called XML and metadata
which is like a bar-coding system) and to make sure learning content is
“interoperable” with various learning management technologies.

Learning
agents

The
near future will bring us personal technology assistants or smart agents (using
metadata and XML) that can constantly search within your company or across the
web for new learning objects that match your exact interests and role
requirements.

Mobile
learning

Internet
access is now possible without being wired up to networks or telephone lines
using a protocol called Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). This combined with
the widespread adoption of handheld computers and organisers known as Personal
Digital Assistants (PDAs) opens the door to mobile learning or
"M-learning.” From your PDA you will be able to search company databases,
interact with colleagues and mentors and, with the increasing use of audio and
video, access interactive courseware no matter where you are.

Knowledge
management and e-learning merge

Both
e-learning and knowledge management (KM) focus on a similar goal of getting the
right knowledge and information to the right people. However, where e-learning
has focused on delivering courses and testing performance, KM takes a keen
interest in capturing the knowledge that exists in employee’s heads and
delivering it to others who need it.

Imagine
a top sales person who has developed a highly successful approach. Using simple
tools, he could quickly create and deliver a virtual seminar to share this
insight with sales teams globally.

A
specific area where you will begin to see the fields merging will be where
easy-to-use authoring tools are put in the hands of subject matter experts
(SMEs). Insights and best practice from front line employees can be developed
into reusable learning objects. In this way knowledge can be packaged and
distributed very quickly.

Where
are the big pipes?

Widespread
adoption of ADSL and other broadband technologies that enable you to download
content at very high speeds, will revolutionise e-learning because it will
enable course providers to create content-rich, TV-like quality learning
combined with more sophisticated applications such as complex multi-player
simulations.

No
more “e-”

You
may be surprised to read that “e-”learning is expected to disappear quite soon.
E-learning will have become so widely adopted that the “e-” ceases to be of
use. The focus will return to learning and training, with the choice of
technology-led or traditional delivery methods being less important.

Your
guide to e-learning was published with Personnel Today on 3 April 2001. Written
by Paul English of Futuremedia Plc. Contibutors: Laurence Scotford, Chris
Robinson, Kay Philips

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