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WOLCE review


TrainingZONE has a problem. How to avoid becoming jaded by attending exhibitions where the same companies appear time and time again?

It could be the lack of exciting distractions, which Training Solutions seemed to excel at, but WOLCE appeared to have the same dilemma. Full of familiar names (and a few new upstarts) from the world of e-learning, anyone attending this event would take home the impression that open learning has now been completely overtaken by e-learning. Gone are any attempts at correspondence by mail, telephone or remote study from workbooks and videos. Perhaps tellingly, there was no sign of the Open University, which surely must be a pioneer which retains its place as an important provider of open learning.

So, what news to tell TrainingZONE members who couldn't make it to the NEC this week? Having only been present for the first day of proceedings, TrainingZONE lacked the time to visit all the stands at the show, missing the likes of Click2Learn, Docent, Lotus and Maxim training.

But we did have a chance to see some e-learning in action. Educational Multimedia showed courses which could be run using several different versions of technology (see the recent article for more information about the company).

Wide Learning, specialists in financial training, had a particuarly novel approach to explaining the intricacies of The Securities Institute to the youth of today, using fun animations, which did seem to liven up what can be extremely dry and dull content!

TrainingZONE has great sympathies with those who attend training shows and go home laden with bag upon bag of brochures and information, with a few freebies thrown in, and then have to try and wade through what they've been given. DigitalThink were definitely one of the worst offenders in the battle to stuff the most information into a glossy folder. As I sit here trying to condense DigitalThink's 14 inserts and newsletters for the benefit of readers, I can't help thinking that people would be less likely to switch off altogether if they were given the facts on one A4 piece of paper.

Big in the US e-learning market but less known over here, with customers such as KPMG, Sun Microsystems and Adobe Systems, DigitalThink are obviously confident about the future: "e-learning is on its way to being the accepted platform for all corporate learning" is the optimistic quote from one of the brochures.

DigitalThink provide software and content for web-based training and learning management systems. We didn't have a chance to see any DigitalThink courses in action, but course content is mainly IT based, covering Microsoft certification, Oracle, Lotus, Unix and web development, Java and other programming languages.

QA Training were announcing their collaboration with Epic Group Plc over combining their respective knowledge in instructor-led and web-based learning, which we reported on last month.

BlueU have introduced two new types of software to work with their online learning - bluePrint, which helps learning material to be streamed across the web without plug-ins or extra software needed, and blueUnity, which allows tutoring to be added.

VideoArts and Echelon have joined forces to produce modules of learning based on video classics from VideoArts such as 'If looks could kill' and 'An inside job'.

Centra were showing their all-singing, all-dancing interactive software, or should I say it was absolutely fabulous, as Patsy appeared to have stumbled upon the NEC, bottle of bolly in hand. "Darling, you need to sign here", she gestured, as we tried our luck in the competition to win a PalmPilot.

On a more general note, chatting with several of the exhibitors, the view was that the field of e-learning is due a major shake-out, with consolidation the order of the day. It's evident from recent news that platform, content and learning management system providers are already forming collaborations to offer 'a complete service', and this is only likely to continue.

There's more WOLCE-related stuff to come on the site: Michael Smith, Managing Director of Xebec McGraw-Hill and Martin Michell, Wide Learning's Head of Content took time to share their thoughts on the e-learning market with us, and we'll be publishing the discussions shortly. We also made contact with the British Association for Open Learning, one stand which stood out as a breath of fresh air in amongst all the technology. We'll be planning to run a full feature on their work in the near future.

In the meantime, have sympathy for anyone you saw struggling to lug a huge pile of brochures around Birmingham New Street station on Wednesday evening - we did it for you, remember!


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