Fanfare for the future

and IT experts are about to gather for this year’s Learning Technologies show.
Patrick McCurry has a preview of the issues on the table, samples new products
and selects the best of the sessions

Key issues such as how to implement e-learning, whether and how to blend
training and to what extent outsourcing can relieve the pressure on training
budgets will be at the top of the agenda in the latest Learning Technologies

The event, which is aimed at buyers of IT and business skills training,
takes place on 30 and 31 January. Conference speakers and exhibitors will be
fielding some tricky subjects, not least whether the hype surrounding
e-learning has been justified.

"It’s pretty clear now that some of the wilder claims about e-learning
are not holding up and a lot of people are asking what its right role is,"
says conference chairman Don Taylor, an independent consultant.

"I expect e-learning to exceed the 11 to 14 per cent of training spend
that goes on computer-based training, but it will never reach 50 per

He argues that the growing realism about what e-learning can achieve is
leading employers to look at blending e-learning with classroom training.
"More people are seeing the two as complementary not in competition,"
Taylor says.

The two keynote speakers are Richard Reeves, head of consultancy at the
Industrial Society, and Nigel Paine, director of Science Year, a Department for
Education and Skills project.

Reeves will be speaking on the Industrial Society’s iSociety project
[Thursday, 3.30pm]. This is a major three- to five-year examination of the
relationship between work, life and information and communications technology
(ICT), and is supported by Microsoft.

The project was launched last April. One of the main themes in the early
research, to be included in the project’s first annual report in May, has been
how ICT is influencing the workplace.

Reeves says, "Investment in IT often fails to deliver the productivity
gains organisations expect because the technical changes are not accompanied by
changes in people management."

For example, companies may invest in web-based or mobile phone technologies
that increase workplace flexibility but still insist staff clock in and off
rigidly, he says.

If IT investment is not accompanied by changes in how staff are managed, a
lack of trust builds up. "Instead of seeing new technology as a liberator,
many employees regard it with suspicion, seeing it as a way for their employer
to monitor them," says Reeves.

In the opening keynote speech [Wednesday, 10am] Nigel Paine will be arguing
that the way new technology is used in schools will be crucial in determining
the UK’s future skills base and creativity.

"There’s a lot of investment going into technology in schools, which
will transform the relationship between teachers and pupils," he says.

But for young people to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by
computer-based and web-based learning the education system will have to shift,
Paine argues.

"There are two conflicting pulls, one supporting creativity and
innovation through the use of technology and the other focusing on standards
and exam results.

"There’s going to be a problem if young people are doing brilliant
multimedia presentations and investigating and analysing data through
technology but then have their performance judged on regurgitating received
opinion in exams."

The conference is split into two streams, learning issues and e-learning. On
the learning issues side, one of the key debates will be on what 2002 holds.

"Training budgets are being cut and there’s a continued trend of
devolving training spend to line managers," says Alan Bellinger, sales
director at Wave Technologies and chairman of the learning issues stream.

Training managers are increasingly not choosing what training will be
delivered, he says, but instead being left with the job of implementing it and
picking up the pieces when things go wrong.

But trends in 2002 offer some comfort for training managers, he believes,
"E-learning is helping organisations deliver training more cheaply and
many providers are cutting prices and offering training in bite-sized chunks,
which means staff are off work for less time," he says.

"Also, unlike classroom training, e-learning decisions tend to be more
centralised, which gives training managers more input into what’s

Bellinger also highlights the seminar on blended training. "For IT
training there’s a growing recognition of the benefits of teaching staff the
basics and principles by e-learning and then giving them hands-on training in
the classroom," he says.

"This approach can cut the total training days needed significantly,
while using the best of both approaches, but the problem is, many providers
only offer classroom or e-learning training, so it’s often left up to the user
to work out the blend."

Other key seminars in the learning issue stream include outsourcing IT
training [Wednesday, 3.30pm] and tendering for training [Thursday, 2pm].

Taylor says, "With current pressures on budgets, more people are
thinking about outsourcing, but they’re often not sure what should and
shouldn’t be contracted out.

"On the tendering issue, many people in IT training have never put out
a tender for a big contract and so don’t know how to find the right people and
how to run the tender process."

In the e-learning stream is a seminar on avoiding implementation pitfalls
[Wednesday, 3.30pm]. Speaker Jonathan Kettleborough, managing director of
technical training provider Corollis, says the most common error is introducing
systems without preparing staff.

"When I speak to people who have implemented e-learning but encountered
problems they always say if they were doing it again they’d spend far more time
on communicating the changes with staff."

He adds that it is impossible to overestimate the importance of getting
staff to buy into the idea of e-learning and to establish a receptive culture,
rather than imposing a system and expecting it to work from day one.

Taylor reinforces the message, saying, "One of the key messages in the
conference will be that too much attention has often been paid to the
technology but without enough thought about how people want to learn."

When and where

– Learning Technologies 2002 runs
over two days, Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 January, at the Olympia Conference
Centre, London (Kensington Olympia tube station).

– It is Europe’s largest gathering of IT training and
e-learning providers.

– The conference consists of two tracks (learning issues and
e-learning) with six sessions in each track plus keynote speeches.

– It runs from 9.45am to 3.30pm on the first day and from 10am
to 3.30pm on the second, with registration on both days from 9am.

– The delegate rate for the two days is £795 plus VAT.

– Entry to the exhibition is free.

– For information or to register visit


For more information about the
companies mentioned in this supplement, contact them on the phone numbers and
at the websites below:

blueU 01225 483100,

Centra Software 01628 509023,

Docent 0118 965 3472

Elearnity 020-7917 1870,

Futuremedia 01243 558553,

Global Knowledge 0845 304 0044,

KnowledgePool 0800 7831765,

Logilent 01793 644067,

NETg 0800 442285,

QA Training 01285 883334,

Sessions not to miss

– Claude Gerbaud, technology training manager at Compaq, will
be presenting his company’s experience of blended learning [Wednesday, 2pm]

– Don’t miss Big Bang or Steady Evolution, [Wednesday, 2pm]
when David Clarke, founder of Logilent Learning Systems, goes head to head with
Peter McClintock, director of e-learning at Global Knowledge

– Industry experts give their insights into the future of
e-learning and what tools will be hot this year at Where Next [Thursday, 2pm]

– Avoid the pitfalls of e-learning with Richard Monks,
e-learning practice manager at accountants KPMG [Wednesday, 3.30pm]

– Steve Preston, head of development and training at ING
Barings, gives his views on buying IT training from a single source [Wednesday,

– Benchmark your IT training and e-learning with Ayesha Okhai,
skills group manager at Microsoft UK, and Gill Honey, IT training manager at
New International Newspapers [Thursday, 10am]

Big names, new products

There will be more than 100
exhibitors, including most of the big names in e-learning and technology-based
training, at the event. Among those launching products at the exhibition are:

– Centra Software will demonstrate its web-based virtual
classroom, conference, meeting, knowledge and delivery systems. "We will
be unveiling how a multinational company will implement our technology to
deliver real-time courses to train over 10,000 staff in 30 countries,"
says a spokeswoman.

Consensus, which supplies training admin systems, will
demonstrate the latest version of its CourseBooker product, aimed at
organisations that need to market, sell and administer courses.

Docent will promote its acquisition of gForce in
October and, the acquisition of its technology for creating and distributing
learning content. "Their technology allows us to offer an expanded
solution for the delivery of content, learning and information," says a
Docent spokeswoman.

Electric Paper, a Dublin-based e-learning company,
will highlight its work in Australia to radically improve the IT skills of over
3,000 staff in Queensland’s Office of Child Care. The campaign, carried out
with Skillgate Pty, has been short-listed in the International Training Project
of the Year in the 2002 Institute of IT Training Awards.

Global Knowledge launches what it calls the first
pan-European virtual classroom e-learning programme. It consists of five
courses so far and will be delivered in five languages.

John Matchett will demonstrate its recently released
LMS Version 5. The integrated e-learning facility is based on standard
technology platforms that will fit with customers’ existing infrastructures.

KnowledgePool will launch Talent Solutions, a group of
tailored modules, based on web technology, designed to support all aspects of
personal development within an organisation.

Logilent Learning Systems, a leading provider of
web-enabled training for IT professionals, will be making a major announcement.

NETg will showcase its latest products in mobile and
blended learning and will unveil its vision for intelligent-learning solutions
as well as its professional development library, NETg Pro-S.

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