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Praise for Beyond E-Learning
"Marc Rosenberg has done such a wonderful job that I may replace all of my other books on e-learning, knowledge, and performance with this one book. Beyond E-Learning demonstrates how organizational leaders can take online learning to the next level—where it's seamlessly integrated into everything we do. Finally!"—Marcia L. Conner, managing director, Ageless Learner; editor, Creating a Learning Culture; author, Learn More Now; and former vice president of education, PeopleSoft
"There is a quiet revolution occurring in the field of organizational learning—traditional learning programs are giving way to more effective knowledge solutions. In this outstanding text, Marc Rosenberg leads the way."—Donald A. Deieso, Ph.D., president and CEO, EduNeering, Inc.
"Marc Rosenberg has done it again. In Beyond E-Learning, he breaks through all of the buzzwords and clutter and presents fresh, exciting insights into how organizations can get real breakthroughs in workplace learning."—Diane Hessan, president and CEO, Communispace Corporation
"Marc Rosenberg's book has 100% of your daily requirement of truth, wisdom, and visionary thinking with none of the hype and hysteria that usually surround e-learning. If you are a CLO, or want to be one, buy this book and meet your future."—William Horton, author, Designing Web-Based Training and Evaluating E-Learning
"Business requirements are changing so rapidly and powerfully that it is hard for learning professionals to keep up. We all need to look beyond our current practices for new perspectives. Beyond E-Learning provides multiple visions of the future for our field. Extremely helpful in these crazy times!"—Elliott Masie, president, The MASIE Center, and author, Learning Rants, Raves and Reflections
"There are numerous publications on e-learning, but none with anywhere near the depth and wisdom that Marc Rosenberg consistently provides. Beyond E-Learning is meaty, meaningful, and a must-read not only for learning and performance professionals but even more importantly for managers responsible for investing in costly learning technologies and systems. Just great again!"—Harold D. Stolovitch, emeritus professor, Université de Montréal; principal, HSA Learning and Performance Solutions LLC; and author, Telling Ain't Training and Training Ain't Performance
Learning is a much more complicated phenomenon than can ever be limited to a classroom. In organizational learning efforts, the confusion of learning and training is fatal. -Peter Senge
Training has a significant role to play in any successful business. Organizations need highly skilled employees and great skill-building programs. Faced with the ongoing challenges of constant change and an insatiable need for knowledge, organizations have embraced technology-enabled learning as a way to keep up. But sometimes the implementation of learning technology becomes the objective rather than the means to a valued end. There is no question that learning technology is getting better and that it can support successful, sustainable learning. But the perfect use of technology to deliver bad or unnecessary training, or training that's offered to the wrong people at the wrong time, is worthless for the most part. E-learning is indeed a revolution in the way people learn and improve their performance. But like most other things, overindulgence (or, more often, misapplication) seems like the right thing at the time, but afterward, you wonder what the point was, or whether you should do it again.
This chapter is about where e-learning is and where it is going. Once the hype of the e-learning craze has gone, what's left? What's myth and what's real? How can another binge be avoided? What's worth keeping, and what needs to change? It is a wakeup call for e-learning zealots and Luddites alike as the field embarks on new paths.
Overpromised and Underdelivered
The future of learning technology is full of promise, but charting its trajectory is not easy, as can be seen from its shaky past. Although computer-based training (CBT) has been around in various forms for more than thirty years, until recently, most business and training leaders considered it marginal or were not quite sure how to best take advantage of it.
In the past, training organizations dabbled with CBT, putting out an occasional course that promised to revolutionize organizational learning, only to find that poor design and a lack of workstation standards and network connectivity hampered the program's effectiveness. Furthermore, course content required continuous updating, and development cycles were long. It's no wonder that classroom training continued to dominate the learning landscape. Then the Internet was born, and the common Web browser platform began to mitigate technology challenges. Because programs could be updated instantly, online training could keep up with the pace of change, or so it seemed.
With the advent of the Internet and the "e-enablement" of many business operations, such as customer care, sales support, e-commerce, supply chain management, and customer relationship management, investment and enthusiasm in e-learning exploded. Like every other industry in the Internet economy, e-learning company valuations went through the roof. The hype was on, fueled by industry experts whose books, speeches, and company Web sites proclaimed the revolution to be in full swing. There was nothing e-learning could not do. Consider this single well-meaning comment by Cisco Systems' CEO, John Chambers. Of all the pronouncements about the e-learning revolution, Chambers's remark was one of the most quoted and perhaps the most famous: "The biggest growth in the Internet, and the area that will prove to be one of the biggest agents of change, will be in e-learning."
The same organizations that once touted their classroom offerings now wanted to put much of it online. Training organizations were eager to do with online training what they had done with classroom training: become a one-stop shop for all training needs throughout the enterprise. Content was purchased by the bucketful, loaded onto servers, and made available to all. Some companies put all or part of their training operations in the hands of third-party service providers. Many organizations operated on the assumption that more training was always better than less. But many training organizations that "went online" continued to measure themselves the same way, advertise courses the same way, and use the same processes, skill sets, and organizational structures as they had for classroom training. They applied their old business model to the new "e" business. This was a mistake. In their study of the use of e-learning in higher education, Robert Zemsky and William Massy note, "The hard fact is that e-learning took off before people really knew how to use it." At the end of the 1990s, this was also true within many corporations. And just as the irrational exuberance over e-learning was peaking, the Internet bubble collapsed.
What a difference a few years make. The e-learning industry was hit as hard as any other by the Internet crash. Investment slowed significantly and in many cases came to a screeching halt. Most critical, executives looked at their e-learning investments and wondered where the value was.
E-learning became marginalized in some organizations; the bills for the large investments that were made in the previous years were now coming due, and e-learning was seen as an expense that could no longer be afforded at anywhere near the current pace. When business value proved to be more elusive, it was harder to build the case for e-learning. Although a solid business case is certainly appropriate, getting a hearing and a favorable response became much more difficult, and many training organizations were ill prepared for the type of scrutiny they were now getting to their requests for funds, personnel, and even permission to move forward. Organizations were questioning not only the value of technology-based learning but also the value of training in general. Training looked increasing like an unnecessary cost. Layoffs increased, and whole training functions were outsourced.
In many cases, business managers at all levels either had differing views from each other or didn't completely understand what technology could do for learning. For example, a study of senior human resource (HR) managers noted that while most managers had ideas for learning solutions, they were not sure if their approach was correct; they had a weak or nonexistent strategy. As far as technology was concerned, most solutions addressed only part of their needs, and they didn't quite fit the most pressing issues. Complementing this lack of clear direction for learning technology was the fact that implementation was often in silos, different areas of the organization were doing different things, and budgetary constraints were significant and long-term.
Of course, lots of companies have maintained their commitment to training in all forms. But in many organizations, there is no doubt that the overselling of learning technology, sometimes without a comprehensive strategy or clear vision, combined with new economic realities, has caused a lot of rethinking about learning.
Is the Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full?
For all the efforts of two generations of research and practice, the most recent data suggest that e-learning is still a small piece of the overall training pie. A 2004 Training Magazine survey reported that only about 17 percent of all training is delivered by computer (another 8 percent is delivered by an instructor via a "virtual" classroom), and as much as 70 percent of all training is delivered in the classroom (another 5 percent was allocated to "other").
In many cases when e-learning does get off the ground, it fails to deliver on expectations. Martin Sloman and Mark Van Buren reported that as much as 62 percent of all learning technologies fail to meet expectations. These researchers also cited a study by DDI (Development Dimensions International) that, after studying 139 companies in fifteen countries, found that 75 percent of the respondents rated the effectiveness of e-learning as less than five on a ten-point scale.
Do these findings suggest failure or greatly diminished expectations, or is e-learning advancing out of the wisdom gained from past experience? Can training organizations alter their mission to more effectively employ e-learning even as e-learning continues to evolve? Is the glass half-empty or half-full?
Those suggesting the glass is half-empty argue that e-learning can never live up to its promise and that those associated with it are not to be taken seriously (or as seriously). They say that advocates of e-learning have squandered opportunities to demonstrate real value and have lost credibility. The half-empty contingent suggests that training organizations are failing to get outside the classroom model in a serious way. They note that with lots of money already spent, it will be hard to get more and that a critical mass of funds and personnel will be almost impossible to bring together. Naysayers point out that the emphasis of technology over instructional design has so diminished the professional skill sets of practitioners within many organizations that those skills are no longer identifiable, and that too much time and effort is still being spent on "Webifying" classroom courses rather than redesigning learning to leverage the true interactive nature of the Web. Those who forecast the end of e-learning, as it is practiced today, say that layoffs, downsizing, outsourcing, and offshoring are not just a short-term reality but represent a significant and permanent shift in how organizations will run training. Their perspective is that e-learning has not demonstrated that it is consistently better than classroom instruction from a learning perspective, so why bother? This points to a not-so-promising future, where past disappointment about e-learning will make it harder for people to accept the next iteration.
For their part, proponents of a glass half-full suggest that e-learning is embarking on a new phase or journey that will be both different and more valuable. They suggest that there are real success stories that need to be found and used to reeducate key constituencies about the power of e-learning. Furthermore, they note some positive trends. The increasingly competitive and information-rich marketplace has finally gotten the attention of executives around the power of the knowledge-centric workplace, new technologies promise greater abilities to do it right, with better integration and lower redundancy, and customer e-learning, as an adjunct of successful e-commerce initiatives already in place, presents a huge opportunity for all forms of e-learning. They argue that a poor economy (global, national, or industry specific) is not a time to cut back; rather, it is an opportunity to retool, relearn, and start fresh. They point to a revitalized training and e-learning industry that is trying to respond with new ideas and better, easier-to-use products, a hopeful sign. Although learning effectiveness from e-learning is often only as good as classroom training, this is not a reason to abandon it, say e-learning proponents. E-learning is significantly more efficient, accessible, and updatable, which provides a positive business rationale. And in some situations, e-learning techniques can do better, especially when live training is too risky, complex, time-consuming, or expensive to be done with the necessary authenticity to be effective. Finally, those in e-learning's corner say that the e-learning hype, and subsequent disappointment, has caused everyone to take it all more seriously, carefully, and thoughtfully. The field has sobered up.
While the downside indicators are all too real, the upside potential of e-learning is tremendous. Business research firm IDC sees corporate training, including business skills and information technology training, rebounding from the downturn, with a robust expansion going forward. And e-learning will be a significant part of the recovery, IDC notes, with "increased use of the Internet as a training creation, delivery, and management tool; increased familiarity by U.S. workers with collaborative technologies, which will drive demand for synchronous content and shared learning technologies; and new technologies and services that foster e-learning implementation, richness of content, and other improvements."
The glass is indeed half full, but it's a different glass than the industry drank from in the past.
The Myths of E-Learning
The overhyped promise of e-learning was in part fueled by nine myths:
1. Everyone understands what e-learning is.
2. E-learning is easy.
3. E-learning technology equals e-learning strategy.
4. Success is getting e-learning to work.
5. E-learning will eliminate the classroom.
6. Only certain content can be taught online.
7. E-learning's value proposition is based on lowering the cost of training delivery.
8. If you build it, they will come.
9. The learners are the ones who really count.
Buying into these myths has led individuals, organizations, and entire industries to make decisions based on beliefs about the ease and acceptance of e-learning that are, at times, naive. But the myths are not historical in nature; they continue to influence e-learning strategy and decision making. Understanding and getting past them is the first step toward moving forward to a more sanguine, successful, and durable strategy.
Everyone Understands What E-Learning Is
There continues to be significant confusion about the term e-learning, as with a host of other terms, like online training, Web-based training, and even older terms such as computer-based training. This is complicated by differentiations between asynchronous, or completely self-contained e-learning, and synchronous, or virtual, leader-led e-learning (sometimes referred to as a "virtual classroom"). Adding in new fields and technologies makes defining e-learning more complex. Even the word learning attached to the expression is a source of confusion. Without agreed-on definitions and a common framework for thinking and talking about e-learning, confusion reigns.
Sometimes a change of name is significant-and sometimes it's not. To many practitioners, e-learning equals e-training. To them, e-learning is simply courseware online or e-training. The paradigm that e-learning equals e-training keeps the field moving down a path that's much narrower than it should be. Even the continued confusion between training (the means) and learning (the ends) lingers in the professional collective psyche.
E-Learning Is Easy
Wish it were so, but in fact, it is hard work. Better tools do not equate to better skills. Building and deploying great e-learning that is both effective and efficient takes real effort, discipline, and experience in fields such as instructional design, information design, communications, psychology, project management, and psychometrics, not to mention a healthy consideration of needs assessment and evaluation. Think about word processing; the tools are getting easier all the time, but that doesn't mean everyone can write the next Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
The general assumption is that technology is the hard part and that most of the work and investment goes into getting the technology right. This is partially true. New technologies are often fraught with bugs, cost overruns, and a more significant learning curve than expected. And if you're not careful, technology issues can be all-consuming. But getting the technology right is nothing compared with getting the learning right. As the saying goes, "The delivery truck may be important, but it's what's in the truck that really matters."
E-Learning Technology Equals E-Learning Strategy
One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is leading with technology before a strategy is established. Too much money is spent too soon, resulting in disappointment and resistance to investing more when the proper time for the investment arrives. This isn't just an e-learning myth; organizations have often invested too much in new technology before they really knew what they were going to do with it or what its value really was. This is not to say that learning technology is unimportant-far from it. But you can't select the right learning management system, authoring tool, or any other part of your e-learning infrastructure before you have a comprehensive learning strategy (not just an e-learning strategy) that positions the technology appropriately.
Excerpted from Beyond E-Learning by Marc J. Rosenberg Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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|Introduction : getting the most from this book||1|
|1||Myths and warning signs||11|
|In the land of e-learning myths : a knight's tale||34|
|2||Learning, e-learning, and the smart enterprise||37|
|Learning decisions and disruptions!||62|
|3||Building a learning and performance architecture||67|
|Technology for e-learning - and beyond||99|
|4||Knowledge management in action||105|
|Who owns knowledge management?||153|
|5||Learning through online collaboration||157|
|The case for learning communities||189|
|6||Learning and performance in the context of work||193|
|The business singularity||216|
|7||True telecom's story||221|
|Learning evaluation : so much talk, so little meaning||249|
|8||Making the change happen, and making it stick||255|
|Seeing learning differently||270|
|Is e-learning underhyped?||289|
|10||From e-learning to learning to performance||293|
|Afterword : e-learning : advancing toward what will be||309|
|App. A||Nine e-learning warning signs||313|
|App. B||Knowledge management features, functionalities, and challenges||321|
|App. C||Collaboration technologies||333|
|App. D||Primary knowledge management development activities||341|
|App. E||Sample change management and communications plan||347|
|App. F||E-learning readiness assessment : executive team alignment||353|
|App. G||Additional resources||357|