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e-Learning Summit Sees Need for Unified European Voice

By Bob Little / December 2010

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e-Learning Summit Sees Need for Unified European Voice

December 9, 2010

The e-learning industry in Europe needs a single, independent, and impartial voice to promote e-learning to government in every country in Europe, according to delegates of a summit hosted in Sheffield, England, last month.

Delegates to the European e-Learning Summit, which was arranged by and held at Learning Light, included strategists, content developers, and systems developers from countries including the U.K., the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, and Greece. And one observer from Australia joined the group as well.

According to leaders at the summit, it is not just a case of coming together to lobby government. Rather, there is a need to band together to source contracts collaboratively, both as individuals and as wider consortia to fulfil large contracts placed by, for example, global businesses and governmental departments.

"Basically, we're all very small businesses," Piers Lea, CEO of Line Communications and a member of the European Learning Industry Group, said to a videographer for Learning Light at the event, "but [we're] a lot of businesses that are really getting fantastic results. But this is just not coming through in public perception. We've realized as a group of companies that unless we club together and speak with one voice, somehow, then we're never really going to get the message across, and it's never going to come through with the power that it needs. And frankly, the industry as we've seen is not growing at the rate it ought to be considering how important it is for the future prosperity of this country [the U.K.] and of Europe."

"For me it's actually probably about changing the 'e-learning' title, and actually trying to find a new economic way to describe what we're trying to achieve by bringing together people, technology, and content," said Kirstie Donnelly, director of service design and development at LearnDirect, and a keynote speaker at the summit.

Donnelly also pointed to the rapid pace of change in terms of people becoming familiar with technology in their everyday lives, not just their working lives. Educational institutions and the governmental agencies that affect them need e-learning professionals and strategists to help them adapt to these major shifts. "It's a completely different construct to how I think education might look in five years' time. And I don't think it's 20 years' time. I think it is five years' time where we actually might see the red brick colleges, the red brick universities-still a very important part of our social fabric in terms of supporting learning-but perhaps quite a different business paradigm for actually delivering it."

Summit delegates and attendees largely agreed that e-learning needs to be seen as being about transforming business performance: helping users sell more, deliver compliance for less, reduce costs, and increase profits, rather than just another tool for the HR learning and development armory.

Another concern raised at the summit was e-learning's name, credibility, and visibility among business leaders, as well as the apparent dearth of certified instructional designers, and a consistent standard for certifying them.

One of the results of the summit is a manifesto for e-learning, drafted by the summit organizers, designed to raise the profile of the corporate e-learning sector with government. A number of the summit delegates have since taken initiatives to bring government and corporate e-learning sector representatives together.

"It's important that government decision-makers realize the key role that corporate e-learning plays in supporting change and helping to maintain competitive advantage, as well as promoting increased worker efficiency and effectiveness in difficult economic times," said David Patterson of Learning Light, which organized and hosted the event. "We hope that the results of the summit, notably in the form of the manifesto, will help to promote such a realization."

About the Author

For more than 20 years, Bob Little has specialized in writing about, and commentating on, corporate learning—especially e-learning—and technology-related subjects. His work has been published in the U.K., Europe, the U.S., and Australia. Contact Bob at [email protected].


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