I wrote a chapter from The 2001/2002 ASTD distance learning yearbook called Stragetic E-Learning. Here is the conclusion.
The new uses of eLearning ping such CEO hot spots as:
This should be a boon for the training people. After all, they have been the enterprise omsbudmen for formal learning for decades. In fact, one should expect the person responsible for learning programs to be invited to the same meetings and retreats as the top operations officers, or at least the CIO.
- Through educating customers, building brand loyalty, increasing e-business acceptance, and generating incremental revenue; and
- Through educating employees, significantly changing entire cultures in weeks instead of months and years, perhaps towards realizing new visions, or after a merger or acquisition, or even in support of new bet-the-farm offerings.
That is not happening. The situation has strong parallels to the Information Technology departments five years ago. When you look at IT centric innovations such as supply chain management, Intranets, ERP implementation, sales force automation, and data warehousing (just to name a few), virtually none were introduced or effectively championed by the IT department. Instead, they were pushed by the product vendors, systems integrators, and the consulting community. IT’s involvement, if any, became maintenance.
History is repeating itself. Top officers are paying attention to strategic learning initiatives. But not to training departments.
Just as with the businesses they support, training groups need to treat eLearning models as both threat and opportunity. It will require strong planning and execution to make the transition to a highly strategic organization, but it is so much more fun leading the parade than sweeping up after it.
Implementers of formal learning programs should consider ten steps to stay relevant.
eLearning is the leveraging and automation of key pieces of the educating process. It has found some conventional sweet spots, including off-the-shelf IT professional training, virtual classrooms for salespeople, and enterprise-wide learning management systems. And in all of these cases the use of eLearning is growing between 50% and 100% a year.
- Outsource the non-strategic programs like end-user training. No one cares.
- Build a pool of discretionary funds of at least twenty percent of your total budget. You need some risk room for investments.
- Know the business's two-year plan as well as they do. Constantly evaluate how learning programs can help achieve their goals.
- Look into Learning Management Systems. Remember it's a great web front-end to order books still shipped from a warehouse that makes Amazon.com an e-business.
- Make your workforce eLearning compatible. For most employees, this means starting with business skills courses. Carefully manage that first use, providing as much help as the student needs.
- Support the new strategic initiatives eLearning as they emerge. Don't take on the role of professional curmudgeon. The IT approach of pointing out flaws in the business' strategy didn't work, and they were labeled as speed bump. Proactively find and suggest partners, and earn your way on the evaluating team.
- Work harder at competitive analysis. Go to their web sites and interview their students. The companies that are really using eLearning as a strategic differentiator aren't sharing much beyond marketing at conferences and user-groups. That would defeat the whole purpose.
- Develop a custom eLearning capability - only licensing generic courses will trap you in the maintenance space.
- Eliminate teach-speak. Only say things like design methodology and Level 2 Evaluation when no business people are around.
- Consider merging with the knowledge management group, if you have one. They have the budget and the alignment, if not the successes. Get the combined vision and organization in place immediately, and then work on processes and technology.
But the leading users of are doing so much more than that. Strategically deployed, eLearning can enable the alignment of entire organizations around new strategies, acquisitions, competencies, and products every six months, even every three months, instead of every five to ten years. As well, teaching customers alongside employees brings the market advantage of intimacy. Advanced uses of eLearning will both necessitate and fund advanced models of eLearning. Classroom replication will still play a role, but increasingly alongside immersive simulations, performance support systems, even assisted collaboration.
To meet these needs, the vendors as well will have to evolve, playing well as best of breeds today, but preparing to be providers of either end-to-end infrastructures and high-end strategic content around 2002. Many leaders today won’t make the transition to the new models as upstarts build their entire architecture around them.eLearning is a young discipline, but evolving fast. It's roots are in the focused, humble training world, rather than the boil-the-ocean challenge of intellectual brethren knowledge management. Yet the focused processes, multiplied, refined, measured, and projected, can have a staggering impact on workgroups, extended enterprises, industries, even cultures.
- Aldrich, C. (2001), 'Strategic e-learning: Trends and observations', The 2001/2002 ASTD distance learning yearbook, 3-29.
2001 Published Writing Include:
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'Is content king? The second half of a series on the six categories of e-learning vendors.', Online Learning 5(10), 38, 39.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'Party of six: Not all vendors are alike; in fact, there are six main categories of suppliers.', Online Learning 5(9), 54, 56.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'The state of simulations. Soft-skill simulations emerge as a powerful new form of e-learning', Online Learning 5(8), 52, 54, 56.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'Strong medicine. The pharmaceutical and e-learning indsutries have more in common than you think', Online Learning 5(7), 42-43.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'Wither the ivied walls? Universities struggle to find their place in the e-learning industry.', Online Learning 5(6), 50, 52.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'An open mind: Free chunks of e-learning content openly shared among course designers? It sounds like a fantasy, but it's fast becoming reality.', Online Learning 5(5), 66-67.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'The sound of learning: Blended learning may be difficult to orchestrate, but the result can be music to your organization's ears.', Online Learning 5(4), 62-63.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'Meeting of the minds: Get ready for a big merger - the one between knowledge management and e-learning.', Online Learning 5(3), 74-73.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'ExpertView: How to make learning programs matter', InformationWeek.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'Strategic e-learning: Trends and observations', The 2001/2002 ASTD distance learning yearbook, 3-29.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'Small chunks, big impact: the next turf battle in e-learning will be for the smallest pieces of content', Online Learning 5(2), 62,64.
Aldrich, C. (2001), 'The end of the beginning: Will foundational platforms be e-learning's new world order?', Online Learning 5(1), 27-73.