Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

eLearning in the enterprise vs. eLearning in education

I had an interesting chat with the IT teacher of Catholic High about eLearning. I'm following the subject for a very long time. In the early eighties I bought one of the earliest eLearning authoring tools called OpenICE from Dialog Video (a Swiss company which seems to be history now - the only trace of OpenICE I could google was in a document in the download section of The Morrison Company.
There is a lot of money spent on eLearning both in enterprises and in academic, but the stellar success stories are few and far between. A common fallacy I observed is to spend a lot of money on a LMS or LCMS and have no budget, time and energy left for content. When you hear statements like "Once the LMS is in place we'll ask our SME [Subject Matter Experts] to contribute content" you know your eLearning project is doomed.
Creating good eLearning material is hard and time consuming work. Brian Chapman published research findings in 2007 that put the ratio for slideware to eLearning conversion at 33:1, the creation of lightly interactive courseware at 220:1 and the creation of full fledged simulations at 750:1. So that tiny water cycle simulation of 10 minutes took more than 3 working weeks full time to be created. The study is currently to be updated and you can participate.
Another fallacy is the failure to integrate eLearning systems into the infrastructure. In corporate learning that means eLearning needs to be accessible from the tools I use in the job (a great widget to have is "related learning") and get away with enrolment procedures for short term learning (that enrolment is carried over from academic). In academic eLearning the failure lies in the lack of integration into other delivery methods. If enrolments, progress control, time planning etc. are not fully integrated into presence learning it will not fly.
There seems to be very little fruitful cross breeding between corporate and academic eLearning, which isn't surprising when you look at the core differences:
Enterprise learning Academic learning
The main purpose of employees is to contribute to enterprise goals (mostly: make money). Learning is an expense, not an outcome The main purpose of students is to learn. Knowledge and skill acquisition is the main outcome (not grades in case someone has forgotten)
Learning works well in homeopathic doses: 10min here and there related to a current job need Learning works best with multiple avenues of delivery (watch for a later post on this)
Learning is very skill focused, so the main delivery is training* Learning is wider and education focused*
Learning has no priority, its purpose is to "get the job done" Learning is the top priority, its purpose is to "get the job"
Learning is focused around a career Learning is focused around a curriculum
Learning needs are only partly planned (mostly by the HR department) and a lot of needs arise based on the nature of job roles and projects. Learning goals change more often as careers and market demands change Learning is planned out well in advanced, often by an external body (e.g. the ministry of education) for multiple years
Success is indirectly measured: can the learner implement in the day job what (s)he learned in the training? Did the ability arrive? Success is measured by passing exams. This is a challenge since learning to pass an exam is only loosely related to the acquisition of ability
Collaboration is strictly encouraged. Good working teams adopt "no comrade gets left behind" attitudes. If you collaborate during an exam you are out, so there is a natural tension.
* In case you don't see the difference between education and training: Most parents should be OK if their teenage kids come back from school and state: " Today we had sex education", but rightly will go berserk if they would hear: " Today we had sex training in school". --- and yes I know that sexual education is the most controversial topic in education, an epic battleground between enlightenment and denial.

I'll share more around eLearning in upcoming posts.

Posted by on 28 August 2010 | Comments (1) | categories: eLearning


  1. posted by Patrick Picard on Monday 30 August 2010 AD:
    I have to strongly agree with this point: Learning works best with multiple avenues of delivery (watch for a later post on this)

    I've been an online education student for the last 5 years (completing my bachelor from Athabasca University) and there's definitely a lack of multi-modal teaching methods. I wish the professors would supplement the book/study guide with a few videos like MIT does with its opencourseware