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Online Learning 2002 Conference snippets


At this year’s Online Learning 2002 Europe event Bob Eades, of Ascot Systems, discussed the history of virtual classrooms and explained how the virtual classrooms concept is set to change many people’s learning experiences in the next few years.

Taking part in a series of workshops, organised by the eLearning Network (ELN), Eades commented: "Increasingly, research indicates that more and more people are turning to e-learning as a means of acquiring new knowledge".

“According to CNN, more than 14m people in the USA are now logging on to their computers and double-clicking into virtual classrooms. With students taking undergraduate classes as well as acquiring graduate degrees in fields as diverse as nursing, business, engineering and technology, experts predict that e-learning will become a $2bn industry within four years.

“Virtual classrooms offer an excellent way of introducing elements of collaborative learning – inherent in classroom based learning – into the online learning environment. Up to now, though, technology – notably bandwidth – has hampered the development of virtual classrooms. Now this is set to change.”


Sambit Mohapatra, General Manager of Tata Interactive Systems in the UK, commented: “Up to now, many organisations have been wary of committing themselves to any form of computer based or e-learning because of fears that rapidly advancing learning delivery technology could leave them with courseware that was obsolete – thus preventing them from fully realising the return on the investment they had made in that courseware. Some companies have already experienced this – having previously espoused ‘non-mainstream’ learning delivery technologies such as interactive video or CD-I.

"Understandably, this can make these companies less open to investing in today’s leading edge learning delivery technologies, such as online learning." (At the show TATA were demonstrating their courseware conversion and management services which overcome these reservations).


If you're trying to sell in Europe, treat each country as a distinct entity. Hire staff from that country. And pay attention to the local culture. Don't merely "send a top guy from L.A." to "recreate the U.S. ethos," cautions Adrian Snook, Corporate Development Director with Training
Foundation plc, a Coventry, U.K., business.

United States business typically "underestimates the degree of cultural fragmentation" in Europe, says Snook.

"If you're launching a business in any of the European countries, you really need to start from first principles and see what elements of your business model apply," he adds.

Stefan Hellberg, who works both sides of the Atlantic, says that Europe is a "very complex market." That's so even in Scandinavia. "It's very hard for Swedes to sell to Danish people or Norwegians, just a one-hour flight away," says Hellberg. He is executive vice president with BTS Sverige AB, a Stockholm training-simulations firm.

E-learning's particular challenge is that education and job-training regimens change every time you cross a border, notes Cambridge, U.K., e-learning consultant Jane Massy.

"If you're going to deliver e-learning into this, you've got to actually learn how to be part of that system," she says.

In Germany, for example, young people decide at about age 14 whether to follow a technical or professional education track. Consequently, e-learning initiatives in Germany are layered in joint decision-making by business, government and education institutions.

So there's little point, says Massy, in a vendor cold-calling on a German company and asking whether the firm would like to try e-learning, says Massy.

Germany is poised for a big e-learning initiative, says Massy. It will roll out e-learning initiatives not company by company but occupation by occupation. It will begin with sectors that "require rapid up-skilling, such as auto mechanics," says Massy.


Phil Green, a Sheffield-based consultant thinks learning professionals are "frustrated," by e-learning. E-learning is a "wonderful new tool" - and after they try it, "they wonder why they're not getting the returns that they want," he says.

Green led a session on matching learning objectives with how to deliver that learning - whether by e-learning, traditional classroom or a blend of the two.

Interest in blended learning represents a "backlash" against moving too quickly out of the classroom, says Green.

In its present stage of development, Green thinks, e-learning has too much "tell and test."

Meanwhile, it gives users too little "exploration, discovering, managing their own learning, sharing learning and solving problems."

Saul Carliner of Bentley College, Mass. thinks that learners may be weary of the same old design approach.
"E-learners want a really quick trip to the store," he contends. "We're making them walk through the mall. "That's global. It has to do with short attention spans on the screen."

It also has to do, says Carliner, with e-learning's
role as "add-on learning" or "reference learning" -
something you take in addition to traditional courses.


Saul Carliner also suggested a novel way to gain extra funding - implement that poor "book on the Web" project the senior managers requested. They will then realise more funding is required to do a proper job. Risky approach, we'd say!



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