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Predictions For 2003
E-learning's Leading Lights Look Ahead

By Lisa Neal / January 2003

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How will e-learning change this year? I asked esteemed colleagues in the field for their thoughts on what 2003 may bring. (I also asked those who also participated in last year's survey to assess the accuracy of their predictions.) While there are no clairvoyants here, there are some great ideas, as well as many provocative and conflicting points of view. Share your own thoughts on 2003 in eLearn's discussion forum. And don't forget to check back next year to see which predictions came true.

"2003 is going to continue to be a 'let's calm down' year. The economy will stay depressed and institutions will be unwilling to experiment. We will see slow, cautious implementation and expansion of some existing efforts, but I do not expect to see any innovation or major new efforts. Moreover, most of the e-learning courses will be rather conventional 'read the textbook on line' courses. All the heady excitement over problem-based curricula, simulations, and the like, will be quiet, not because those are bad ideas but because they are simply far too expensive to implement, especially today. One possible area of expansion is computer games. I see more and more educational games used for pre-school through grade 3 and for the military. This area does seem to be growing, even if very slowly."--Don Norman, Principal, Nielsen Norman Group, Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University, and Member, Editorial Advisory Board, eLearn Magazine

"Mobile devices capable of sending and receiving text and graphics, browsing and writing to the Web, and even reading barcodes and radio-frequency identity tags, will make 'mobile e-learning activities' and even 'augmented reality' applications for e-learning a real possibility. The affordances of mobile communications and online media will have to be tailored to the opportunities for e-learning in the field, whether it is scientific research in natural settings or social science experiments on the fly."--Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs

"Many of last year's predictions proved not only true but also valid for 2003. The best news in 2003 will be that budget constraints will encourage the growth of e-learning, using existing technology and inexpensive tools, with the financial, pharmaceutical and e-gov industries experiencing the greatest growth. The continuing bad economy will lead to more off-the-shelf course purchases, as companies take advantage of the least expensive way to get significant ROI via e-learning, and LMS purchases will be slow, reflecting their high price-point. There will be less of a focus on extending the boundaries until the economy improves. More importantly, learning will become part of human capital management, incorporating the procedures and technologies of knowledge management and human resources, to support workers from hire to retire."--Brandon Hall, Ph.D., CEO,

"There will be much more interest and activity around wireless and mobile applications for e-learning, mainly to target learner motivation among the young and disinclined. Interactive whiteboards will become the route to achieving large-scale take-up of e-learning among classroom-based teachers as this technology remains well within their comfort zone. But it could also act as the Trojan horse for more interesting learner-oriented e-learning at a later date."--Prof. Diana Laurillard, Head, e-Learning Strategy Unit, Department for Education and Skills, Government, UK

"2003 will bring increased consolidation and integration in the vendor community. e-learning will become more mainstream and integrated with the classroom, and the functions of content management will become more integrated with document management. The hype of e-learning will continue to deflate. Since few e-learning companies are creating magic in the stock market, we will look towards adoption rates rather than sales as indicators of the success of the field. 2003 will bring easier content production, fewer all-you-can-eat content subscription sales, more modeling of the online gaming community, and a more prominent role for higher education in content domain development. Finally, there will be more sharing of technology and methodology, as corporate, higher education, consumer, hobby, and K-12 sectors come to see commonality in each other. For extra credit, there will a shift from ROI to accountability, which is a whole lot more meaningful to measure."--Elliott Masie, President, The MASIE Center

"Using technology in education is in its infancy; we haven't seen valid techniques and methodologies for enhancing project-based, hands-on learning with technology. This year will bring new ideas from research in learning science and technology to revolutionize the classroom experience. We'll see emerging technologies inside and outside of the classroom: pen-based computing, mobile location-based technology, game technology, rich collaborative video conferencing, learning Web services, self-correcting learning environments, and secure individualization. Innovations will move us away from classrooms, lectures, test taking, and note-taking into fun, immersive interactive learning environments that allow students to envision their own learning, participate in explorations both alone and with others, and participate in an extremely high level feedback world in which they practice skills until they can use the same behavior outside of the learning environment. We're going to see innovation, and an explosion of ideas that focus on learning science, math, engineering, technology and the humanities. It's going to be a year of enchantment."--Randy Hinrichs, Group Program Manager for Learning Science and Technology, Microsoft Research, and Member, Editorial Advisory Board, eLearn Magazine

"2003 will further integrate technology into the classroom until e-learning and face-to-face instruction are no longer distinct. In the middle- and high-school levels, the greatest impact of e-learning will arise from how teachers utilize the tools and courses available on the Internet to become better educators; how subject-matter experts develop courses to teach specific concepts to students around the world; and how teachers customize these courses to fit the needs of their students. E-learning will be merged with traditional learning to bring the best of each to the classroom."--Dolores Hirschmann, Director, NFTE Online Learning, The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship

"E-learning will blur the line between the physical and virtual in 2003, especially at museums, where Web-based communications will remove the barriers of geography, traditional hours of operation, long lines, and admissions prices. Museums will restructure and invest in new technologies to connect larger and more diverse audiences with their public mission. Accurate, updated teaching resources are scarce. E-learning advancements will enable museums to offer credible, engaging curricula for classrooms (and family rooms) around the world. Starting with its own assets of cultural historians, museum teachers, and a library of arresting images of recreated 17th century environments (Native and European colonial), Plimoth Plantation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, exemplifies this trend through the creation of online curricula for teachers and their students to provide access to the latest in scholarly research through engaging learning activities."--Nancy Brennan, Executive Director, Plimoth Plantation

"Copyright issues will become increasingly important as calcified corporate dinosaurs refuse to understand the new environment; this issue could strangle content production more than lack of specifications. Disconnected learning will increase in both demand and supply; learners want the convenience; companies want the agility; more powerful PDAs and tablet PCs will provide the medium. Companies will begin to understand the power of peer-to-peer learning that already exists within their organizations and will start to harness, appreciate, and empower it."--Mark Oehlert, Deputy Dir. Of Communications, ADL Co-Lab and Editor, e-Clippings Newsletter

"The bad economic situation and a fear of losing their jobs will motivate people to acquire new knowledge and skills to protect themselves. Most of them will not be directed toward e-learning, but will attend vocational training schools, for example, perceiving them as cost effective and liking the inter-personal opportunities. Based on the consideration of this trend, e-learning courses will put more emphasis on cost-effectiveness and the community aspect. This will be accomplished through increased use of 2nd and 3rd generation cell phones with small cameras."--Masaaki Kurosu, Professor, National Institute of Multimedia Education, Japan

"The demand for online modules, courses and full-degree programs will increase exponentially; the slow economy will not stop the e-learning revolution. The quality and relevance of e-learning instruction, content development, and support services will be the critical success factors for both standalone and institutional online offerings. A new market of 18-year-old postsecondary students will begin to grow. A "new breed" of faculty who become certified experts in online teaching will become more credible. E-learning will move significantly across national boundaries to serve students worldwide. And pressure will increase for e-learning providers to develop courses with higher levels of engagement and multimedia."--Dr. Pamela S. Pease, President, Jones International University

"As usual, Tim Berners-Lee (the father of the World Wide Web) will prove to be smarter than everyone else. Real growth in e-learning interoperability and innovation will be driven more by the technologies behind his idea of the semantic web than by the committee-driven IMS and SCORM standards. The Open Source e-learning platforms that started to appear in 2002 will mature and gain market share in 2003. These above two changes will turbo-charge development the distributed learning object repositories that Stephen Downes has been promoting. At the same time, we'll see increasing cross-over interest with academics looking at learning object publication more seriously and corporate types taking collaborative distance learning more seriously. All of the above will lay the groundwork for 2004 to be the year when real widespread innovation in e-learning finally happens."--Michael Feldstein, CEO, Feldstein and Associates, and Member, Editorial Advisory Board, eLearn Magazine

"As the market for e-learning services contracts, we will see more mergers and alliances. eLearning services will become more integrated into employee- and customer-relations management systems, as well as converge with e-publishing and content management. These trends are being driven by the need to share common back-end data repositories and their associated processes. At the same time, more sophisticated means of gathering and interpreting data will enhance the learning process, providing new insights into participant thinking."--Kathleen Gilroy, CEO, The Otter Group

"In 2002 organizations examined training as an expense and the industry saw spending drop over $2 billion U.S. down to $54.2 billion.The downturn in the economy raised important questions about learning as a business decision. As a result of these questions, training professionals in large enterprises will see the following trends in 2003: broader organizational involvement from senior management in decision-making regarding learning; increased connectedness between instructional technology and back-end systems such as CRM, HRIS, ERP & SFA (i.e., less of training as an island of technology); and faster time to competence due to tools that enable the democratization of teaching."--Dr. Margaret Driscoll, Director of Strategy & Ventures, IBM Lotus e-Learning

"I predict that those who are innovators will be focusing on stimulation and support of learning-oriented workplace activities with a business impact via networking, mentoring and group-based learning rather than content provision via LMSs (or PowerPoints in classroom sessions). Problem solving related to authentic business needs will make use of reusable resources of a variety of types, but those submitted by participants based on their own workplace cases will often be more valuable than pre-made content objects."--Prof. Dr. Betty Collis, Shell Professor of Networked Learning, University of Twente, The Netherlands

"The number of LMS providers will drop during 2003 but not by a significant number. Rather, at least 25% will introduce low-end/lower-cost versions of their offerings in hopes of penetrating the market for less ambitious offerings. Some new players will enter the market with just that focus (e.g., Xtention). Such a move is unlikely to have either a significant effect on their revenue or significantly improve their chances of survival in an overcrowded market. Beginning in Q4 2003, we will see a decrease in the number of vendors with most of the failures, mergers and/or acquisitions occurring in 2004."--Larry Moyer, Managing Consultant, EDS Learning Solutions

"2003 will be a turbulent year for the e-learning industry as vendors strive to find their footing in a marketplace that is dependent on the overall economic and corporate spending environment. While larger application software companies will begin to enter the e-learning market, there will still be many opportunities for both best-of-breed players and even new entrants. The key to success for both vendors and customers will be to establish the value of the learning process as something more relevant than "human capital management" as an HR application. Tying the application of knowledge to measurable improvements in overall business performance with a quantifiable top- and bottom-line impact on corporate performance will be what separates the wheat from the chaff in the e-learning industry in 2003."--Dave Mandelkern, CTO and co-Founder, Docent

"CEOs, instead of axing the bottom 10% of performers every quarter, will put programs in place to improve performance. CEOs will realize that focusing training strategy around people will increase shareholder value more than any other single initiative. Industry gurus will realize that learning is not about LMS or LCMS, but about infrastructure that allow people to learn anytime, anywhere, anyhow."--Massood Zarrabian, CEO, OutStart

"Through e-learning, we will reach into an untapped and diverse learning audience fostering our ability to continuously learn, interact, and communicate. We will use a solutions approach to communication, crafting our interactions to meet the needs of individuals and communicating when and where needed through real-time collaboration. The learning community will work together to weave e-learning content into the devices we use and the environment we live in. Through e-learning we will connect those who know with those who need to know. In doing so, we will breakdown perceived barriers yielding a better, well-educated world population."--Leon Navickas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Amy Finn, Ph.D., Director eLearning, Education and Training, Centra Software, Inc.


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    Lisa Neal
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