E-learning Market Update - May 2012
Yesterday once more or a radical future?
What does the future of e-learning hold? An increase in blended learning? Resources not courses? An increase in social learning? Greater mobile delivery? Faster creation of content? Arguably these are all ideas that have been around for many years and which are simply being delivered through advances in technology. This month we look at how these advances might radically change our thinking about e-learning. For example, in ten years will all e-learning scripts be written by computer algorithms not instructional designers?
Yesterday once more?
In 1973 the Carpenters released ‘Yesterday Once More’, which became their biggest selling single. The song included the lines:
Those were such happy times
In some ways these words could apply to e-learning as old ideas take new shape with advances in technology. For example, in 2007 at Kineo we published an Insight Guide, updated in 2010, which argued that Learning designers should:
A radical future?
In the decade ahead, advances in science and technology may open up fundamental and radical changes. Let us look at just two areas.
The first is script writing. Whilst new authoring tools have reduced the cost and time involved in building e-learning projects it has had little impact on the largest cost of e-learning projects, namely the time of instructional designers in understanding, designing and writing content. This may be about to change.
Narrative Science is a Chicago based company that trains computers to write news stories. Their software already writes news stories automatically for companies such as Forbes. Their CTO Kristian Hammond predicts more than 90 per cent of all news will be written by computers in 15 years time. Hammond led the Artificial Intelligence lab at the University of Chicago before moving to Northwestern University. At Northwestern he got students to develop systems that could transform data into stories. One of prototypes, Stats Monkey, analysed data and created credible accounts of college baseball games. Excited by the potential, Narrative Science was formed and the company created algorithms which already generate thousands of news stories primarily in sports and finance currently.
The writing engine has a number of steps: first it requires a lot of quality data; then it needs a structure or framework for the articles; finally, you can then apply a tone of voice you would like the article to have.
Whilst there are still some limitations, we expect to see a huge growth in computer written stories and the algorithms will improve all the time. If it works for news, why not e-learning? Could we see new product knowledge e-learning being written directly by a computer following a framework or set of rules; or scenarios being automatically written by computers given key information. The latter would be very appropriate as Hammond was heavily influenced as an undergraduate by Roger Schank, who has been a prime advocate of scenario-based learning.
You can read a more detailed article about Narrative Science in Wired Magazine.
There are many other advances in technology that could be applied to e-learning and performance support. For example, if you use Gmail, Google currently reads your mail and places appropriate adverts alongside your emails. Why not use this technology for performance support? Thus if the content in your emails is about a new product or regulation, you could place alongside the email information and links to relevant short learning modules. You would not need to go to a separate site to find the learning as the computer will see what you are reading, listening to or writing; and instantly push relevant learning to you.
We don’t have a crystal ball but we believe that the future of e-learning will go beyond implementing old ideas with new technology. The changes may be very radical and surprising.
If you've got a view on the future of e-learning, let us know in our eLearning Professionals group on LinkedIn.