What else will happen this year?

Another year over and another one just begun. Looks like interesting times ahead for e-learning following the various mergers and developments last year. We reflect on the current e-learning market at the start of 2007.

Overall in the UK we saw a lot of activity last year and continued price pressure in the mainstream market. This led many e-learning development companies to focus on niche areas where they could protect their clients and their margins. Epic announced in December that their sales were slightly down but that they were focusing on higher margin work. Line, however, announced they had trebled their turnover in the last 3 years. Congratulations to Piers and all at Line.

Fuel continue to focus on key areas such as defence and telecoms. Fuel were recently selected as preferred suppliers to BAE Systems which means they are now suppliers to 3 of the 4 largest Defence manufacturers and preferred supplier to 7 of the 9 largest UK telecommunications companies.They are currently working with Thus to develop a product knowledge programme for each tier of their sales team. 

Last year saw more mergers and a few failures. In the bespoke market we are having to rewrite our list of suppliers. Adval which merged with Maxim went into receivership, ebc was acquired by Futuremedia for £4.4m, and Bourne was acquired by Redtray for an undisclosed fee. This year we hear rumours of some major acquisitions in the bespoke space shortly. If we were buying, Line would be right up on our list- - however, the visa bill for the Kineo Christmas party put an end to that plan. This year we’ll join a savings club so we can acquire something nice.

This year we will also need to add NIIT to our list of bespoke companies operating in the UK. NIIT are launching their new UK e-learning services at the Learning Technologies conference at the end of the month. For people who are not familiar with the company, NIIT is a global learning solutions company that has been busy growing both organically and through acquisitions. After integrating Cognitive Arts, the company founded by Roger Shanks, NIIT recently added a large off the shelf catalogue to its portfolio with the acquisition of Element K. The Critical Mistakes Approach pioneered by Cognitive Arts, if you want to find out more you can see Sambit and Therese on their stand and if you say you read this article Therese will stand you a glass of Jack Daniels!

Walkgrove have been selected by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) - the world’s largest and fastest growing global professional accountancy body - to work with them to develop motivational and interactive e-learning materials to support both ACCA trainees and their workplace mentors in the planning, obtaining and recording of practical experience requirements for the new ACCA qualification.   

Walkgrove are also exploring new generic products and their accredited health and safety product seems to be a winner.  It has already been sold to seven colleges and one local authority.  This follows their success with their Mixed Messages product. Generic could be a new line for Walkgrove.

Futuremedia will also be at Learning Technologies later this month following their acquisition of ebc to unvei their new Learning proposition and to promote their ideas on social networking and learning.

Ambient Research, one of the few research companies focusing on the learning market, note that in the US until recently the customers were predominately enterprise companies and US federal government agencies. They are currently still the largest buyers but the demand for eLearning products and services is now growing much faster from other smaller organisations. These smaller organisations are demanding faster and more cost-effective e-learning. Research from the E-learning Guild last year found that:

  • 78% of organisations need faster development
  • 70% of organisations need to reduce costs of development

These organisations are increasingly looking to use authoring tools to take greater control of their own learning. Such tools allow them to focus on specific needs, react faster, lower costs and update content easier.  As organisations purchase authoring tools, the ‘now what’ question emerges. Kineo’s Rapid E-learning Services, including the guides and resources available at the Rapid E-learning Store, are designed to address that question.

Josh Bersin in the US noted recently that Performance Management is the hottest new application area. We can confirm that there is a renewed focus on performance improvement including task focused learning at the point of need rather than libraries of content. This means shorter task focused learning which can be used in the workplace. The new generation of authoring tools is ideally suited to producing such short learning modules. This month we review Raptivity, a prime example of a rapid authoring tool of this kind.

Thus we are seeing a convergence of demand on easy to use, low cost tools which can generate performance based learning objects.

The growth of authoring tools continues unabated. Desktop based tools which use Powerpoint or Word are doing well. Also doing well are the server based tool providers such as Atlantic Link who now have over 60 client organisations. Every new version makes it easier and faster to create content. However, these tools do not overcome the fundamental issues of:

  • Design
  • Scripting
  • Graphics
  • Launch
  • Support

An authoring tool helps to accelerate development and reduce cost, but to deliver more, you need to look at the whole rapid development process. Read our article on seven tips for moving beyond just an authoring tool for more. .

We were interested to see the slides that Ted Cocheu will be presenting at ASTD Tech Knowledge in February 2007. He notes that the E-learning Guild research quoted earlier found that when developing content internally:

  • 86% rely on SMEs as the primary source of content
  • 53% report problems accessing SMEs
  • 60% report problems getting content reviewed

Recognising these issues at Kineo, we have produced our unique e-learning flatpacks to help organisations. These flatpacks are specifically designed to be used with authoring tools and include design, full scripts, and images. You can buy flatpacks from the Rapid E-learning Store.

We believe we may be at the start of a tipping point in the use of open source tools for e-learning. These range from blogs, to Google Notes, to wikis, to Audacity, to eXe, to Moodle LMS. Jane Hart's new resource centre on open source e-learning tools is getting a huge amount of interest as are our own resource on free tools for e-learning.

The growth of Moodle continues with over 19,000 installations and 7m users. What is particularly interesting is the use of Moodle in the corporate market. Our own demo Moodle LMS designed to show people what Moodle can do has received lots of interest.

For other crystal ball gazing from some of the top commentators in the industry, take a look at our E-learning Crystal Ball 2007. Some of it may even come true….

Finally…

Good luck to Jane Hart and Vaughan Waller who recently left Learning Light to form their own consultancy. Look forward to seeing you out there, guys….