Market Update July 2006: Rapid E-learning

This Month:Rapid E-Learning Round-up

Speed and cost continue to drive the e-learning market. Nearly every report shows that the demands on trainers continue to increase faster than budgets or resources. Businesses not only want more learning for less, they want it much, much faster. If you're not looking at rapid e-learning, prepare to be left behind. This month we look at emerging trends in rapid e-learning.

What is Rapid E-learning?

Rapid e-learning is a step change in corporate training and communications. In essence developments in online tools means that learning content can be built easily and very, very fast. The emergence of rapid e-learning means that organisations are truly beginning to exploit the power of online content. It has always been extremely fast to deploy online content, in essence you can load it to a server tonight and roll it out to your entire workforce access tomorrow. However, the problem with e-learning has been that it can take many months to develop. Ironically it has often been faster to design and develop classroom training than e-learning. This has made it easy to be cynical about some of the promised benefits of e-learning.

Rapid e-learning changes everything. For critical information and product knowledge e-learning can be developed in hours and days rather than weeks and months. Rapid e-learning is generally taken to be anything developed in less than 3 weeks (though we think this is rather long).

They're talking trends

Hats off to Josh Bersin who saw it coming. He predicted that “In 2006, most organisations with any e-learning initiative will be evaluating and using rapid e-learning tools and rapid e-learning approaches.”

The latest E-Learning Guild Research Report on rapid e-learning appears to confirm the findings of Bersin a year ago, namely that 89% of companies need to develop e-learning solutions within 3 weeks or 21 days. It also confirms the need for low cost solutions.

According to Clive Shepherd, leading e-learning commentator, "The demand for rapid e-learning is felt most acutely for product training and technology training - subjects where timeliness is most critical and the content is most likely to change."

Why do we need rapid e-learning?

It has become a truism to say that the pace of innovation and change has never been faster. Sony brings out 1,000 new products a year. That’s an average of four new products every working day. Some 80 per cent of these are improvements or enhancements to existing products — usually new features with better performance at a lower price. Trainers and communication departments have the task of keeping pace with these changes. A 3-6 month development cycle is not acceptable.

Rapid Tools to the Rescue

The quality and ease of rapid authoring tools means that it has never been easier for trainers and subject matter experts to author their own content. Such tools have also enabled learning designers to produce quality content faster and more cost effectively than ever before.

Rapid e-learning tools doesn’t just mean the powerpoint to e-learning conversion tools, or the automated screen capture tools for system simulations. The growth of wikis, blogs, podcasting and vodcasting means that other web tools can be used to create rapid fit for purpose solutions. At Kineo we have recently created some rapid audio learning for several major corporate clients.

For more on rapid e-learning authoring tools see kineo rapid e-learning.

Rapidly collapsing prices...

The impact on the e-learning companies has been marked, there are less large projects being tendered and lower tender prices. It has also seen an explosion in small niche companies developing e-learning at rock bottom prices. As an example Nlightn Media have published their development prices which are as follows:

One hour knowledge based e-learning £4,500, two hours £8,100.

One hour application based e-learning £5,500, two hours £9,900.

Optional extras include one hour of audio narration £725.

The need for speed

Over recent years the adoption of quality processes by e-learning developers has lengthened rather than shortened production cycles. Quality is important but quality processes have to reviewed and changed. It is simply no longer tenable to spend three weeks writing and agreeing a Project Initiation Document or a Design Document for certain types of learning. Newspapers are changing their processes to get quality news out the same hour online rather than next day in print. E-learning companies have to do the same.

Training managers that continually tell the business they have to wait for a learning programme are unlikely to be training managers for long. E-learning companies will have to adapt and deliver at speed or find that organisations will either do it themselves or find somebody else who will.