Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Top ten bad behaviours

E-learning vendors cause a lot of problems in the market – here are just ten of their most common faults.

1. Vendors’ definitions of e-learning are often misleading because they are devised to lend disproportionate importance to their own offers.

2. Vendors rarely know much about learning, yet profess to be experts in e-learning – they’re not.

3. Vendors’ simplistic understanding of learning leads to technology of limited value, missed opportunities, and poor e-learning implementations.

4. Vendors often claim to offer complete e-learning solutions, when in fact their core competence lies in just one part.

5. Vendors use technological jargon to mystify e-learning, when they should be trying to make it more accessible. “E-learning 2.0” is a term used by vendors to cover up their past failures, while offering the same products as before.

6. The benefits vendors claim for e-learning serve more to make the vendor’s business case than to identify real benefits for their clients (e.g., ‘scalability’ helps vendors target larger clients, but is meaningless for small-to-medium-sized clients).

7. Vendors typically just sell their products, rather than helping identify clients’ problems and finding solutions for them.

8. Vendors tend to have a better understanding of technology issues but don’t share it in an open and honest way.

9. Vendors over-emphasise the importance of e-learning technology standards.

10. Vendors sometimes offer misleading price information, excluding items such as updates or expenses, which can be a high proportion of the client’s real costs.

Friday, 4 April 2008

They’re not listening

As I mentioned last month, I spent a few years at the eLearning Alliance mediating between vendors and their corporate clients, bringing together two different communities who spoke two different languages, and encouraging them to learn from each other. This experience left me with the conviction that a lot of the problems of e-learning are down to the vendors.

HR and training managers are rarely technology specialists, and often inexperienced buyers, and vendors have exploited this to win (short-term) business, at the expense of learning more about their clients’ needs and adjusting their offers accordingly.

This is a theme I shall explore in some detail in my forthcoming book, How to Implement Successful E-learning, so I don’t want to give away the farm right now. What I am prepared to say is that e-learning vendors, on the whole, have misunderstood and underestimated what is involved in learning, and so have failed to take advantage of huge potential in the market. They have frequently opted for quick fixes rather than best solutions.

And this has been a causal factor in poor e-learning programmes and thus widespread learner dissatisfaction with e-learning.

Vendors need to re-examine what learning and development is about, and re-think what sort of technology tools they can offer to facilitate it. This is enlightened self-interest, as those who don’t will hasten their own demise.