Martyn Sloman examines whether the use of 'personalisation' and 'blended learning' are harnessing new technology
It is a difficult time for e-learning advocates. Research suggests the 'inevitable' increase in the use of electronic learning technology may have stalled.
Large industry players have issued profit warnings, some e-learning product vendors have closed their UK operations, and others have merged as the industry has consolidated.
A number of training managers will admit to costly mistakes. One speaker at the recent ASTD Conference claimed that in the US, it is now common practice to change a learning management system within two years of initial purchase. And UK trainers have reported difficulties in gaining cultural acceptance for some web-based materials produced by US suppliers.
Of course, it's not all bad news. As a result of thoughtful planning, many training professionals are developing and implementing strategies that make effective use of e-learning and its huge potential. The best way forward is to build on their experience, be honest about ourmistakes, and share best practice.
The alternative to this approach is to create a new vocabulary and pretend we have moved forward. In HR development, we seem to demonstrate a readiness to embrace and discard attractive labels. Remember the 'learning organisation'? This term seems to have disappeared without trace as attention has shifted elsewhere.
The 'learning organisation' was a lofty idea, but surely what matters is that a set of practical guidelines which allow specialist trainers or managers in organisations to deliver more effective training interventions has been created.
The considerable conceptual and practical difficulties presented by e-learning have spawned two new terms: 'blended learning', and 'personalisation'. They have emerged to offer different perspectives on the problems of implementation.
Before we go overboard, it is worth asking how much substance lies behind each concept. To quote a US hamburger advert: "where's the beef?"
Let's start with blended learning. This has merit of substance: it is more than a concept in search of an application. Try this definition: "Blended learning is a recognition that e-learning will be most effective when it is part of a strategy that involves classroom and on-the-job learning." This sounds reasonable, but the idea