Elearning Market Update - December 2008

Boom time for ideas?

There was an interesting article in the Financial Times recently which suggests that the long term effects of a recession can be very positive on work and working habits because they give rise to innovation. This month we ask if we will see this effect in the elearning market?

The short term effects of a recession can be very difficult for both companies and individuals. However, the very nature of a recession can lead to new ways of doing things based on the idea that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. This term is often attributed to Victor Hugo, though others say it was anonymous Latin saying of ancient Rome. Or maybe it was Hugo’s mother? Either way the same sentiments are been aired during the current economic crisis. Dire times generate bright ideas.

Let’s not do lunch

Lynda Gratton, a professor of the London Business School, argued recently in the Financial Times that the 1981/82 recession ended the notion of a job for life and that the 1990-91 recession led to significant growth in outsourcing work to lower cost locations. Looking to the current recession she argues that group-ware technologies could be a major beneficiary. People are no longer jumping on planes to meetings, instead people ‘are being forced to use video conferencing and webcasts’. Habits may change once the recession is over but Professor Gratton argues many people ‘will have fundamentally changed their habits and begun to build working communities that are virtual.’ That’s assuming you have any colleagues left, of course. If organisations clamp down on travel for client meetings, it is unlikely they’re going to allow it for training.

Learning innovations

The recession appears to be forcing changes in modes of learning delivery. According to the latest poll of 254 learning and development professionals conducted by Cegos, 36 per cent of businesses say they will be increasing their use of elearning next year.

In addition to using more elearning, we are seeing other innovations in training behavior including:

  • Increased use of virtual classrooms including new innovative designs for virtual sessions
  • Smarter blends to deliver cost effective solutions integrating low cost and open source software
  • Streamlining of elearning development processes to deliver much faster
  • Greater informal learning using a range web 2.0 technologies

These innovations may become embedded and survive in the longer term.

Start with nothing, see what you can make of it

In summary, it may be a tough year ahead but in the longer term the recession may be good for elearning because:

1) It forces people to be frugal. Expensive and overly engineered solutions get squeezed out in favour of fast, smart, low cost solutions.

2) It forces people to look again at processes and to find ways of streamlining processes, so those lengthy design documents get replaced by rapid prototypes. We can expect elearning to get leaner and more cost-effective as a result.

3) It forces people to be creative and really examine how to get more out of limited resources. This can mean combining low cost and open source technologies. We can expect to see greater innovation and changes in e-learning solutions.

4) Greater scrutiny of the effectiveness of elearning. If you have less money you need to make sure what you are doing is effective. There are likely to be more ROI questions than ever but this should lead to solutions that add real value.

5) You can get a head start when things improve by proving your value when things were tough. The survivor mentality is going to count for an awful lot over the next few months. So buckle down and get tough with your e-learning. And ask your mother for some good ideas. Can’t hurt.