Archive for January, 2011

E-learning and mobile platforms

Monday, January 10th, 2011

There has always been a training gap between in-house and remote employees. Anyone who has ever tried to roll out training to a largely mobile sales staff will understand the nature of this gap. Trying to round up sales personnel in the same room is something like trying to herd cats, but fortunately, you don’t have to try. Mobile technology lets participants take part in training courses from any location from any standard web browser.

The industry may be seeing some new changes coming down the road. Smartphones have been used for just about everything. Ever since Apple released its iPhone SDK, thousands of people have decided to become developers—and today there are huge numbers of small, mom-and-pop iPhone app development companies. So what’s next? It won’t be long before we start seeing training courses on the smartphone.

At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, we saw a couple of interesting developments that portend great changes in this industry. First, Skype announced that it is acquiring Qik, a mobile video software company, for something along the lines of $100 million. This is a lot of money even for deep-pocketed Skype (which is getting ready for an IPO), and there’s tremendous potential there. The Qik platform creates an environment where users can enjoy real-time video across multiple mobile platforms. The deal doesn’t have anything immediately to do with e-learning, but the potential is there. Successful e-learning rests on the ability to provide a dynamic, multimedia presentation, and companies like Qik are bringing that capability to the smartphone.

Another cool iPhone tool is the Vaestro Voice Blogosphere, which is a type of audio blog network that lets you record blogs, as well as comments, as voice files instead of text. It’s an iPhone app available for $2.99, and is just one more tool with potential to be used in the e-learning space.

This of course, brings up the question: Do we really want to put e-learning modules on smartphones? To answer that question, we have to determine whether it would add value to the e-learning environment. And to do that, we have to consider how ubiquitous the smartphone has become, and how mobile our staff has become at the same time. Certainly, a bigger screen is more desirable for most e-learning programs , but there are two goals to any good e-learning program: To provide educational material and facilitate an educated workforce, and to disseminate that material to as many people as possible. In accomplishing that second goal, it is important to allow access through as many avenues as possible. Because almost every professional has a smartphone in his or her possession at all times, it makes sense to include that platform in the e-learning environment. While longer sessions may be better left to a full-size screen, shorter on-demand sessions are well-suited to a mobile platform. Having an ad hoc client meeting is an excellent example—a casual client conversation may lead to a “how can I do this” question, and if the full-size laptop isn’t available, the salesperson can always whip out the iPhone for a quick demo. To date, e-learning has focused on other platforms, but it’s inevitable that some e-learning applications will move to the smartphone, at least as a supplementary method of educational training.

E-learning: What’s Coming in 2011

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

The domain of e-learning, virtual classrooms and remote training has advanced more than anyone could have imagined, just over the past decade. Remember the first experiments in “e-learning”? The very first remote training courses were little more than text on a screen that could be accessed from an FTP site or an intranet, offering the benefit of a remotely-accessed text, but not much more than that.

Today, e-learning has taken a whole new direction, creating a virtual environment that can be the functional equivalent of a live classroom, complete with multimedia, interactive environments, classroom forums, student tracking, and even electronic quizzes and tests. It is possible to provide just about any type of corporate training through an e-learning environment. In the academic world, if you’re ambitious, you can get an entire fully legitimate college degree online without ever setting foot inside a classroom. What’s next? Let’s take a look at what we can expect in the coming years in the world of online learning.

  1. More learning on-the-go. Ever since Apple came out with their SDK, there has been an explosion of mobile apps, and today everybody’s a wannabe mobile app developer. The ease with which mobile apps are developed means there are not only more apps, there is more demand for them—and mobile learning will be no exception. The smartphone is becoming more like a second computer, and people who are constantly out of the office will rely more on these devices to keep up to date through on-demand mobile training.
  2. E-learning gives businesses a closer connection to their remote workers. Remote working, teleworking, telecommuting an outsourcing are here to stay, and companies are relying on it more and more as the telecommunications and collaboration technologies that make it happen continue to mature. It is often speculated however, that remote workers are at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping up with office policies and new procedures, and as a result, are also at a disadvantage for upward mobility. Remote e-learning will take on a greater role in closing this gap, bringing remote workers into a level of parity with in-house staff.
  3. E-learning won’t diminish despite shrinking corporate budgets. It will however, continue to change. Rather than large, all-encompassing, hours-long training courses, companies will focus more on shorter, modular learning units that can be delivered on-demand.
  4. More employees will benefit from the e-learning model. In the past, corporate training was often geared towards certain sub-sections of staff, especially middle management and sales. The ease with which e-learning can be deployed (not to mention the low cost) will bring more employees into the e-learning fold—resulting in a better educated staff and better employee retention.
  5. E-learning facilitates outsourcing. The outsourcing trend, long ago acknowledged as an inevitability—as well as key to a modern corporation’s fiscal success—will get a boost from e-learning. Third-party service providers will take greater advantage of their partnerships with their clients, to take advantage of remote, modular learning units that are provided. This will give the outsourcing agency’s employees an opportunity to better understand their customers’ product lines and special requirements, and as a result, the lines between the outsourcing agency and the client will become a little less rigid.