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E-learning content management – featured interview with Mike Newton, Kognita


Learning Content Management Systems are rising to prominence in the e-learning market. TrainingZONE talked to Mike Newton of Kognita, providers of Site4Learning, a business to business (B2B) hosted Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) service, about developments in the industry and new trends to look out for.

TrainingZONE Do you think that technical standards are emerging quickly enough in the industry?

Mike Newton The standards are probably developing as rapidly as practically possible considering the number of players involved – decisions made by committees are never made very quickly. I am concerned that these standards actually keep pace with the ever-increasing pace of developments in technology however – standards need to be enablers and should not impose unnecessary restrictions.

TrainingZONE Do you expect hosted Learning Management Systems (LMS) providing courses created by a ranges of providers to dominate the market in time?

Mike Newton We are certainly seeing a strong swing in the market towards hosted LMS provision being a preferred option. There will always be a number of large companies that have sufficiently large learning communities to justify an internal LMS but with the continued increase in Internet access and mobile/home working hosted solutions seem more practical and require less investment and/or risk.

TrainingZONE What other kinds of organisations do you think will be major players in e-learning in 5 years’ time?

Mike Newton Clearly, HRM system vendors have a role to play, but there will continue to be consolidation in the market and I expect to see a number of vendors offering comprehensive competence development solutions (from the e-learning and ILT world). We are also aware of several large conventional publishing companies looking to or about to enter the market.

TrainingZONE Where do you think we are on the graph of e-learning uptake? Will there be another surge in the near future?

Mike Newton Given the fact that the e-learning hype is over and the state of the financial markets, I expect e-learning to start to move into mainstream HRD practices. I do not expect another dramatic surge in uptake, but I do expect a steady increase in e-learning approaches and technologies.

TrainingZONE What are your predictions for the next few years in the industry? What areas do you think will grow?

Mike Newton I expect to see continued consolidation in the business skills and IT sector and an increase in the number of companies releasing high quality generic content that addressed the specific needs of vertical markets.

TrainingZONE Is e-learning really just for larger companies because of the initial investment required, or can the SMEs really get into it?

Mike Newton E-learning is clearly not just for large companies and government agencies. We have received a large number of enquiries from medium sized companies (sub 5000 employees) looking for a hosted LMS service with access to content from a range of publishers. Similarly, many education and training providers (particularly management development centres) are looking for similar solutions to offer blended services to their clients – delegates coming from large and small companies!

TrainingZONE Have you noticed any new trends in the use of e-learning recently?

Mike Newton Definitely. Many companies are now looking to use hosted LMS services – branded with their corporate colours – to deliver product training to their customers (B2C), to their vendor partners (B2V) and to their employees (B2E). Many high street retailers and industrial companies are eagerly looking at these possibilities. We are also seeing companies looking to deliver more and more training services into the home – such initiatives are usually linked with home PC programmes and companies are offering courses that are of interest to not only the employee but the all family members.

TrainingZONE Have you noticed any patterns in the types of LCMS features being asked for by clients?

Mike Newton Outside the ‘standard’ LMS features we are seeing providers of learning services requiring an e-commerce enabled LMS and access to a range of tools that support blended learning and large corporates are increasingly interested in competence management tools and needs analysis tools, in addition medium sized companies ask for a full administrative support service. All of these ask for access to a large reposititory of pre-integrated e-learning content that can be licensed, multi-lingual interfaces that are branded in corporate colours and the ability to upload their own e-learning content from their desktop.

TrainingZONE Any exciting recent innovations in e-learning technology or tools?

Mike Newton Yes, we are particularly excited about the latest generation of tools such as Impatica and eLecture that enable companies to assemble and publish their own e-learning content. These tools are great for companies to develop content that contains volatile information such as corporate inductions, procedural or product training. Easy-to-use tools such as these can only be good for the uptake of e-learning as they directly address the cost of content creation and maintenance.

TrainingZONE If you were going to give one piece of advice to a company taking their first e-learning steps, what would it be?

Mike Newton Run a pilot using a hosted LMS. By all means take your time selecting the company you wish to work with but ultimately you have to get your hands dirty. Run a small scale, limited exposure and risk pilot in order to test the water, demonstrate the benefit and get buy-in from the relevant stakeholders. Ensure that you set your evaluation criteria at the start and run the pilot for a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 6.

TrainingZONE If you had to select an LCMS provider, how would you choose to spend your company’s cash?

Mike Newton I would select a provider that enables me to deploy my learning services rapidly (seeing early returns is a must). The provider must supports range of tools that will help me to easily assemble my own e-learning content (and capture/retain corporate knowledge). The provider must provide a scalable solution in terms of the range of services that can be brought to bear (integration, tools, support, content development, consultancy) either through their own organisation or an extended partner network.

TrainingZONE There have been several high profile e-learning failures – what do you believe are the main causes of such failures?

Mike Newton It is difficult to generalise but often the causes have been attributed to not enough quality course content, promoting e-learning as a bolt-on service not part of an integrated HRD strategy and ignoring the need to motivate learners to undertake and complete courses (using the carrot and stick approach for instance).


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