Friday, 11 January 2008

Limits of e-learning?

People often tell me that they believe e-learning is great for information exchange but not for behavioural change, that it’s good for factual, knowledge-based learning, but not skill or competence development.

I don’t think this is true.

The reason people believe this is because of the limitations of e-learning programmes they have seen or can imagine, not the limitations of e-learning’s potential. It would be true to say that, so far, it is easier to develop e-learning that meets knowledge rather than skill needs, but this is changing.

I’ve created a matrix to show the impact of different kinds of e-learning. Each of the two dimensions that form the axes of this matrix is a continuum. On the horizontal axis, the continuum is from knowledge to skill.
Learning can include varying proportions of knowledge acquisition and skill development, some learning being very fact-based and other learning being more about acquiring a capability. Thus all learning can be placed somewhere on this continuum.

On the second, vertical, axis, there is a continuum from generic to bespoke content.

The content of a learning programme can be common to the needs of any organisation, or it can be specific to the needs of a particular organisation. It needn’t be entirely generic or 100% bespoke, but can be placed somewhere along the continuum.

Putting the axes together yields a classic two-by-two matrix, so beloved of consultants. In the bottom left-hand box, we have most e-learning programmes, especially those offered by vendors of off-the-shelf courseware, typically very generic and very knowledge-based – I describe this as the cash cow. But few vendors of generic courseware offer more skills-focused programmes, so I call programmes that fall into the bottom right-hand box question marks. Companies implementing e-learning, perhaps for new employee induction or to introduce corporate systems are getting quick wins in the top left-hand box – these are stars.
But we’ll know when e-learning has really arrived when organisations can readily develop bespoke programmes that impact on employees’ skills and competences – thus the top right-hand box is the holy grail.

There are many ways to use this matrix, but I hope it at least shows it is possible to do more with e-learning than simply transfer information from one to another. Perhaps I’ll revisit this in future posts.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Happy New Year!

At this time of year, I'd like to wish my family and friends, clients and associates, and everyone who reads this blog, all the best for a peaceful and prosperous 2008.

May the New Year bring you everything you want, and if there's anything I can do to help bring that about, please let me know!