Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Rise of Rapid e-Learning

Mike Alcock, MD of Atlantic Link Ltd has written an article over at The Rise of Rapid e-Learning.

Some insightful industry analysis, surrounded by a lot of marketing speak.

I'm going to quote heavily from the article here, inserting my own thoughts along the way.

Subject matter experts are embracing the more sophisticated rapid e-learning tools which allow server side development with international collaboration and “instant” course deployment. They have become adept at incorporating flash animations, pdfs, PowerPoint presentations, audio-visual material and any number of other techniques for getting training messages across to users in effective and imaginative ways.

This sounds like a bit of an overstatement to me. How adept are these SMEs really getting? Are they producing high-quality e-Learning? Is it really the SMEs using the tools? Are they working with in-house instructional designers? Does anyone actually have any real statistics on this? I'd be interested to see those.

This continuing technological development means that e-learning developers can no longer rely on being more technologically sophisticated than rapid e-learning and need to utilise their other natural competitive advantages to sell their services. These lie in their creativity, knowledge, understanding of instructional design techniques and their experience.

I completely agree with this. E-Learning development houses need to be able to demonstrate a clear value in their services. Why should companies go with e-Learning vendors when rapid e-Learning tools are available? Why pay someone else $25,000 when you can buy Articulate or Captive for under $500 and do it yourself? Either these companies won't have the time or the resources to do it internally, or they will be looking for that extra-edge that a focused e-Learning company can provide: instructional design expertise, graphic design, interaction design.

Next, the author provides a short case-study. I think this is definitely the wave of the future. I've seen this trend with my company as well:
Laurence Wilson, who runs an independent e-learning consultancy, recently employed this approach on a project for recruitment giant Vedior. By building the courses for Vedior on-line using a collaborative authoring tool, he was able to share the development process with the end customer, ensuring that the client was happy with every stage of the development. At the end of the development cycle, Vedior purchased the tools so that they could update and maintain the courses that Laurence had developed. The client can now commission Laurence to create additional courses for them, confident in the knowledge that they will receive top quality materials that they can then maintain themselves.

Have the e-Learning vendor create the first few custom programs. Then take the development in-house, using rapid e-Learning tools. Vendors create solid relationships with their customers this way -- creating an environment of collaboration and respect for mutual expertise. A partnership grows.

...further change in the industry which I believe, within five years, will see rapid e-learning tools being used almost universally in the production of e-learning, both in-house and by consultants. Many companies will continue to buy e-learning from consultants in order to draw on their non-technological expertise, but they will insist on these courses being written using rapid e-learning tools which enable the company to collaborate on, amend, and extend the learning as it suits them.

Let's see what happens.


Dan said...

This is exactly what has been happening on one project I have been working on.

The client has a tool that they purchased, but no real ID resource. So for the first few courses we did the whole course for them, written in their tool.

Now we can really only offer advice and access to really good graphics as they have developed the skills to use the tool effectively, and some sense of how to build simple elearning themselves.

This has developed in to a partnership for sure, and it is one that benefits both clients and elearning companies.

Clients get simple, effective elearning for much less than they used to; elearning developers get to work on only the more interesting and involved projects.

Cammy Bean said...

That's interesting. So is this client now mostly self-sufficient? Are they doing it all in-house, or do they still come to you for the more involved projects?

Did you provide any formal/informal training or guidelines on good ID, or are they modeling their work on programs you built?

David said...

I've been talking to a lot of corporate trainers and SMEs and am finding (slowly but surely) that their business priorities are less about the content and more about consulting services. They will continue to create a solid foundation of content for which share and teach, but their businesses are moving more in the direction of Expert as Consultant to ensure effective follow-through of the content advice.

I believe that this shift will push the Rapid eLearning trend a bit harder, allowing for employees to learn when they want and then get the tutoring to ensure it's being done right.

So the end game is transferring the knowledge in an easy and effective manner, and then following up in person.

Granted, I'm not commenting on the design nor the quality of the material. Those will still remain all over the spectrum. But at least the tools are out there to produce in an affordable manner.