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Jon Kennard


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The TrainingZone interview: Brightwave


As part of our New Technologies month, TrainingZone caught up with Charles Gould, Brightwave's Managing Director and Matt Turner, Managing Director of LiveTime Learning - Brightwave's interactive learning channel to discuss the year gone by and the year ahead.
TZ: Has it been a good year for elearning and the training world as a whole?
CG: From our perspective it has been a good year; we've grown by about 40%, we've taken on 25 new permanent members of staff during the year, and we’ve got recognition from the industry.
How far that is reflected in the wider market is difficult to tell for us - I think the challenges in the context of the economic doom and gloom and the challenges for the training profession are as real as they ever were and are likely to continue to be there, so that's the Brightwave perspective; From a trainers perspective there seem to be certain safe areas with very specific requirements whereas more generalised training that seems to be the area that’s under most threat.
I think since 2008 the elearning market has been reasonably buoyant, and a central reason for that is it's seen as a means of efficiency and cost reduction. But the breadth of organisations that are using elearning has moved to include smaller companies. That is not to say that they're spending less, necessarily, which you might read into that that elearning is getting cheaper and smaller orgs can now afford it but I think smaller orgs recognise the value of it.
TZ: What are your tips for putting compelling and useful elearning content?
CG: It's less about design and more about really understanding what you're trying to do, what you're trying to change - people will only invest in training or elearning if they want to improve or change something and training is a means to an end and not an end in itself, so more than ever we're insistent that we understand what our clients are trying to achieve.
"Without understanding the audience and what motivates them there's no point even starting designing elearning"
And the other thing is to get a clear picture of who we're designing the elearning for. So we'll talk to representatives of the target audience. It's funny, it sounds obvious but that is something that's often missed. Those are the key things, and then you've got the skills of the designer to make best use of the technology available, but without understanding the audience and what motivates them there's no point even starting designing elearning.
TZ: What are the challenges for 2012?
CG: Having won a lot of new business and new clients, our challenge will be to prove that what we're doing with those organisations is making an impact. That means being able to measure where possible the difference between before and after, working and delivering elearning; another one for us as a business would be to consolidate on the growth that we've had and deal with the economic situation, as we're predicted to be back in recession.
MT: From a product perspective what we offer is still something that's relatively new and where we had real success is that we've managed the risk for people. We've insured that there are more opportunities to trial it, we’re insuring that we are matching what we can offer against organsiations' competencies and once they can begin to do things like that they can begin to see the benefits. They can begin to use that and I think that will be a trend for other forms of new technology – this is a time when companies don't want to take too much risk.
CG: I think that for L&D the challenges are going to be dealing with the public sector cuts and the reduction in their market - what that will then mean is their ability to re-skill or make themselves more relevant, so the economy whether you like it or not is going to depend on the private sector to find a way out of this. That is going to need innovation, energy and ideas to create new products and ultimately new jobs down the line – hopefully - and L&D has to be a part of that, has to play a role and make sure that we're relevant.
TZ: what are your predictions for the industry as a whole?
CG: It's difficult. We've seen constant, perhaps accelerated change in all areas of technology including elearning over recent years; Will that continue at the same pace or perhaps will that kind of innovation dry up in a recession? I'm not sure – if I was to guess I think we'll see a continued increase in mobile technology with elearning and online training; I think live online training does offer training professionals the opportunity to move themselves into more of a technology-driven world.
MT: We find that trainers we work with are really positive and recognise that it's a big opportunity for them - if you can apply what you would traditionally do in the classroom then there is a big market waiting for you, and I think where people are going to have to try and be clever is how they learn how to do that. I think for a lot of trainers running their own businesses, it's going to be about how they can work with other trainers to build up that knowledge so they can begin to use technology and add another string to their bow which will always help in recession.
CG: There seems to be a willingness within L&D in large organisations to share their knowledge and experience, so people coming in to using elearning for the first time can learn those lessons that the larger organisations have learnt. When we get new clients we are able to share all the experience that we’ve had with organisations that have been using elearning for a long time. So maybe there will be more of the community spirit in L&D in the next year.
TZ: Any final thoughts?
CG: Elearning can be increasingly considered as a business strategy, not just an alternative way of training people and if L&D professionals can recognise and understand that and focus on the impact that it has, they do have an opportunity to make themselves more relevant in this economic climate; elearning is different, typically it requires more deliberate investment, whereas face to face training has more of an even spread of marginal cost so you need to get the ear of more senior people to get the investment signed off for elearning, and there is an opportunity to make learning more of a business strategy.
MT: We think there is an opportunity for more blended solutions too. We are already beginning to offer elearning and mixing it in with some live online training; as people begin to understand what each of those individual disciplines can do, and probably the live online training and virtual classroom area is weaker at the moment, you will see your work underpinned by elearning and supported by live online training and in the classroom too.
Charles Gould is managing director of Brightwave and Matt Turner is developer and lead trainer of Livetime learning. For more information on their award-winning software click here

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Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

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