Home Global-ICTGlobal-ICT 2002 e-Learning and e-cosystems

e-Learning and e-cosystems

by david.nunes
Brandon HallIssue:Global-ICT 2002
Article no.:3
Topic:e-Learning and e-cosystems
Author:Brandon Hall
Title:Chief Executive Officer
Organisation:Brandon-Hall.Com, USA
PDF size:56KB

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Article abstract

In Latin America e-Learning is vital to prepare its citizens for the global economy. In recent years e-learning has separated itself into three distinct areas of expertise: Content, Content Creation and Learning Management. The quality of the content is the real key and authoring software, to create content, has become a big part of the industry. Learning Management System software reinvents, organises, the training function and is transforming the industry in the same way that online buying systems transformed purchasing.

Full Article

The confluence of e-government and the telecommunications industry is very much like the joining of two rivers into one very large river. It creates eddies, lakes, shallows, islands and all manner of topographies. Most importantly, it creates an ecosystem where all manner of life can find a home. And tha4s a metaphor I think that business professionals in Latin America understand very well. That’s why I am excited by the movements I see in this area of the globe. I can’t comment on the specific ramifications, ripples and river rats involved in the environment that is developing, but as an expert in the field of e-Learning, I am encouraged by the growth. Because wherever I have seen tremendous growth in online environments, I have seen e-Learning embraced and advanced. And I don’t think we need to fear government influence in the development of telecommunications infrastructure. In fact, if I remember right, the U.S. Department of Defense is the birth mother of the Internet, and while many are concerned that the government can use the network to monitor citizens, I don’t know anyone who thinks that the U.S. government can control the Internet now that it has evolved. That’s what we are talking about, e-volution of an e-cosystem. When you build a computer network, whether wired or wireless, you create an environment where all kinds of activities can and will occur. We already saw some e-Learning advances in Latin America when we did our study, ‘E-Learning Goes Global’ less than a year ago. We wrote: The infrastructure in Latin American countries is developing at a rapid pace, and while economic and political unrest characterize some countries, others are experiencing the positive effects of trade and technology. This climate is therefore generally inviting of an e-Learning solution. Diana Cantú, Director of Sales for International Datacasting, says, ‘Demand is immense.’ And Professor Marta Mena from the University of Buenos Aires says, ‘It’s not a question of who wants to do this; it’s a question of who doesn’t want to do this.’ For example, in Argentina, all army officers above a certain rank must travel to Buenos Aires for a month of training, and the army does this every year. It’s an enormous expense. The question for them is, ‘How to do this online, meaningfully?’ Cantú says demand is high in the private sector as well. As a result, ‘There is lots of interest in these regions. AOL and Microsoft are very interested in distance learning, and they’re trying to get into this market.’” Building network infrastructure and making your country an integral part of the Internet is like the power of compounding interest in financial circles. Right now, in the e-Learning industry, we see a convergence of Learning Management Systems and other enterprise systems tied to human resources. This is creating a new field of investigation called e-talent, the ability to evaluate and deploy the right employees with the right skills to the right projects. This has dramatic ramifications in terms of workforce efficiencies and workflow throughout an organisation. It will be particularly important in successful future plans for e-government in Latin America. Why do I mention this? Because, in emerging economies where they are just starting to build an online infrastructure, there are tremendous opportunities for leapfrogging. The old saying, “the second mouse gets the cheese,” is applicable here. As the e-Learning industry tries new things, takes risks, builds software systems and generally does much of the pioneering work, the developing nations benefit from what we learn along the way. We in the U.S. may be the first kid on the block with certain technologies, but everyone can benefit from our experiences, mistakes and lessons. And Latin America can benefit from both the technology and the proximity of the networks we have built. For example, I’ve been in the computer training business long enough to remember interactive videodiscs and the promises made around that technology. I’m sure they were very helpful and I know for a fact these devices are still being used effectively in many organisations. But they hardly became the widespread cure-all for our training woes that many predicted. We learned that many of the same capabilities could be delivered to more people using CD-ROMs and then, later, via the Web. While I can’t sum up what we have learned about e-Learning to date in this short article, I’d like to go over the highlights, strengths and convergences we have seen in the last ten years of e-Learning. I define e-Learning as any education, information transmission or training that is conducted primarily by electronic means—as opposed to traditional classroom or on-the-job learning. Our industry has separated itself in recent years into three distinct areas of expertise: Content, Content Creation and Learning Management. How Good is the Content? Content in the realm of e-Learning means courseware. The term ‘courseware’ (i.e. course software) is commonly used but can be misleading. In e-learning a ‘course’ isn’t necessarily the ideal unit of instruction. A learner might, for example, need or want only a twenty-minute chunk of content. In a sequence of many twenty-minute chunks it might be unclear what comprises a ‘course,’ especially if the whole instructional event was assembled on the fly. Courses vary greatly in size. You can find a five-minute online course on how to make coffee or a year-long, university-level online courses. · E-learning is more than just software. It could include online mentoring, online discussion, and other activities that go beyond interaction with the software. Being able to judge the quality of that content is the real key. We at Brandon-hall.com have evaluated multimedia and online content for years. Our list of ten criteria is a good starting point for evaluating courseware: Content: The course has the right amount and quality of information. ü) Instructional Design: The course is well designed. ü) Interactivity: The learner is engaged with opportunities for input. ü) Navigation: Learners can determine their own paths through the program with clear directions. ü) Motivational Component: The program engages the user through novelty, humor, games, testing, adventure, unique content, and surprise. ü) Use of Media: The program effectively employs graphics, audio, animation, and video. ü) Evaluation: Knowledge checks are included, relevant to real-world performance objectives. ü) Aesthetics: The program attractive and appealing to the eye and ear. ü) Record Keeping: Learner performance data is recorded. ü) Tone: The program is designed for the intended audience and avoids being condescending or trite. In our report on global e-Learning we wrote: “Cantú reports that there is high demand for interactive content in Latin American countries. She says, ‘There is an interest in interactive content, less passive learning, multimedia, media-rich content.” Mariano Bernardez, Director of the knowledge management consulting firm MBC Consulting, explains one reason for this demand: “Take this example: Brazil has 165 million inhabitants and its literacy rate [is] about 40 per cent. But television penetration is 95 per cent. They have a great interest in broadband technology.” He adds, “Where literacy rate is lower, demand for non-text e-Learning is going to be higher.” Authoring Tools and Systems Content Creation is what we in e-Learning refer to as authoring, and authoring software is a big part of the industry. Authoring is as simple as adding some interactive elements to existing electronic documents or as complex as producing video simulations. The term ‘authoring’ is used in two ways in e-learning. Authoring is used generally to mean developing your own course. Authoring is also used specifically to mean one of the user-friendly programs (such as Authorware or Toolbook) that produce content in a proprietary language–as opposed to ‘programming’ directly in a web language (such as HTML). We divide authoring tools into at least four categories: Instructional Design tools: Instructional design tools help you plan your course. They will help you do needs analysis, objective setting, return on investment measurements, and so forth. These tools help you think clearly about the performance gap and the best solution for closing it. Instructional design tools include Designer’s Edge and Advisor 3.0. Document Creation tools: If your course content is in standard formats such as Word or PowerPoint, you can save your documents as HTML files. By posting these HTML files to a Web server, you have created simple online content. E-learning aficionados will sneeringly call these documents ‘page-turners’ because the learners’ only interactivity is scrolling and reading; nevertheless, you made your content electronically available. You can use other tools to add simple interactive exercises. Web Development tools: Web development tools such as FrontPage and Dreamweaver are designed to make creating web pages easier. These tools produce HTML but the author sees a friendly WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface. These tools produce standard web pages rather than true instructional content (although Dreamweaver offers a Coursebuilder template for course material). Content produced with these tools does not require plug-ins. In Latin America, where a wireless infrastructure and wireless devices will be key tools for reaching employees with e-Learning, it’s important to find out whether your web development tools can be scaled down to simple graphics and text so you can deliver it on devices that don’t necessarily use browsers. Authoring tools: In ancient pre-Internet times, authoring tools were used to produce multimedia learning content for CD-ROMs. Learners accessed a course by playing the CD-ROM on their computers. CBT (computer based training) courses were rich in multimedia because the files were already in the computer (hence no bandwidth problems). The authoring tools were designed to be user-friendly. Their output was in proprietary format and learners required plug-ins or players. With the arrival of the Internet, authoring tools have reinvented themselves as online content tools. Programming languages.:HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the basic language of the Web. To write HTML you need a simple text editor, such as Notepad, and knowledge of the HTML language. Java is another programming language for writing applications for the Web. Like HTML, Java can run on any platform. Other programming languages include DHTML (Dynamic HTML), for making web pages that change for each user; JavaScript, a simpler form of Java for making web pages; and CGI (Common Gateway Interface) is a method for having data entered on web page search databases. Tracking Learners Finally Learning Management is reflected in the rise of a plethora of Learning Management Systems (LMS) and, the new kid on the block, Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS). Training as a function has typically been low-tech. While our participants used e-mail, voice mail, two-way pagers, and palm computers at breaks, we trainers passed around paper attendance sheets and paper reaction forms. Just filing that paper was an accomplishment. Load it into a database and we were pleased. Produce some statistics on who’s taking what classes and we felt downright scientific. A Learning Management System is the game-changer for training. It’s the big piece of software that didn’t exist before. In the same way that purchasing has been transformed by online buying systems, exchanges, and auctions, the LMS reinvents the training function. It is the foundation of online learning. Our general observations about LMS products are: · All learning management systems are multi-functional. They are learning portals, registration systems, course launchers, record systems, authoring tools, virtual classrooms, and competency management systems. Some have every one of these functions while others are more modest in what they do. · A learning management system is a big purchase. Trainers anguish over authoring tools or courseware, but an LMS determines what you are going to be able to do with e-learning in your organisation. · Learning management systems are not simple to buy. More than a hundred vendors offer systems that range in price from $350 to more than $1 million. You definitely need help from IT analysts and Finance. · LMSs are not simple to install. An LMS must be integrated with other organisational systems. Again, you definitely need help from IT. The latest development, the LCMS, is a hybrid of the LMS and authoring programs with an additional core facility provided by the LCMS – the learning object. Learning objects are the future of e-Learning and we think they will be to learning what e-mail is to the Internet—ubiquitous, vital and a key element to spreading e-Learning to every corner of the globe. In conclusion, we have these tips for those who are trying to expand their e-Learning into Latin America: § ‘Go for open standards – you want your stuff to have the capability to work with other technologies that may come along later. § Use tools that you can duplicate, that operate on open platforms. You don’t want to be stuck with a product where the company has just died. § Don’t get confused by the terminology Latin America . It includes Spanish, Portuguese, English and French languages, and it spans countries that are extremely diverse from each other. § Look at the economic model of the country or countries you want to operate in. § Look at the infrastructure of the country – it varies widely. § Develop a local team.

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