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Predictions for 2005

By Lisa Neal / January 2005

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Where will e-learning take us in 2005? How will learning be impacted by the use of portable devices, blogs, and search engines? Will we better understand and have metrics for quality e-learning? Read on for predictions from some of the most thoughtful and opinionated people in the e-learning field.

"I predict more advances in dedicated devices than in the Internet. I predict an infusion of clever and effective educational toys for children. LeapFrog has developed intriguing toys that make great educational sense (see their "Twist and Shout® Multiplication" tool). Intelligent toys already teach reading. But why restrict these to children? I expect language tutors for adults. Why not combine hand-held dictionaries, phrase translators, and CD-ROM courses into a portable device? Will educational tools for adults show up in 2005? They could."
Don Norman, Nielsen Norman group, Northwestern University, and author of Emotional Design, USA

" • Deconstruction of the Course: More learners are grazing content to select just those modules that they need RIGHT NOW!
• Increased use of search/Google-like learning vs. structured portal pages
• Lower cost alternatives for LMS and LCMS systems with 'lighter' feature sets
• Rise of collaboration servers from Microsoft, IBM and Others
• Integration of Learning with Document Management"
Elliott Masie, Founder of MASIE Center's e-Learning CONSORTIUM, USA

"We've entered a new era of culturally-sensitive e-learning. Reflection on the slow infiltration of e-learning in Japan led us to realize that the model should be more culturally based to be successful. Japan is a geographically small country with high population density and many universities and colleges; hence it is easy for students to enter the university and attend the face-to-face classroom. Instead of an alternative medium for face-to-face learning, e-learning could be used as a supplementary medium. Thus many of the technologies touted in other regions will not be necessary in Japan, and providing well-designed course materials and resources will be enough. We should always consider the cultural and social background of the target society when we introduce e-learning." Masaaki Kurosu, Professor, National Institute of Multimedia Education, Japan

"2005 will be the year of b-learning optionsblogs, blends, boards, and beyond. A key option, thanks to the Sakai project, is open-source courseware. Jumping on the open-source bandwagon may mean supporting innovative pilot projects, funding code enhancements, and joining the Sakai community. Second, e-learning partnerships will become increasingly global and lifelong. No Child Left Behind combined with the coming uptick in the economy has left us no choiceto do something meaningful, higher education must work with K-12 schools, as well as on-demand workplace settings, in new and exciting ways." Curt Bonk, Professor, Indiana University, and President, SurveyShare, USA

"What I'm seeing is a long awaited return to a vibrant job market. Even though the federal budget slices funding for educational technology by close to 28 percent, opportunities in private industry abound. At San Diego State, companies large and small are calling again looking for people who understand what technology, science of learning, systems, and customer focus bring to the table." Allison Rossett, Professor of Educational Technology, San Diego State University, USA

"The term 'learning objects' will be further defined to make it practically useful for teachers and practitioners. Increase in the sheer number of standards emerging in this area will be questioned and more efforts will surface to simplify the conversion of learning-object metadata from one standard to another. These efforts will significantly contribute towards the process of e-learning content standardization and make it a norm in the next few years." Kinshuk, Associate Professor and Director, Advanced Learning Technology Research Centre, Massey University, New Zealand

" • The three major commercial vendors of Course Management Systems (Blackboard, WebCT, and Angel) will begin to make visibly defensive moves in response to the growing threat from open-source alternatives.
• A sea of change will begin among academics regarding their relationship to intellectual property as the values of creative commons, open access, and open source work their way into the mainstream. This sea change will be partly triggered by the growth of e-learning but will have implications far beyond it.
• In the private sector, particularly in large corporations, e-learning content developers, training departments, and learners alike will continue to suffer the consequences from investments in expensive, bloated, and unwieldy learning-content management systems.
• As the technologies behind desktop sharing and software simulation authoring tools continue to commoditize, a new class of affordable tools for capturing and sharing workflow knowledge will emerge."
Michael Feldstein, Assistant Director of CourseSpace, Learning Environments Department, The State University of New York, USA

"A trend worth noting is the polarization of quality in e-learning. The quality of e-learning is heading to the extremes of terrible and terrific at the same time. The proliferation of SME authoring tools and the increasing use of PowerPoint programs as Web-based training has created a glut of 'instruction' you wouldn't force your worst enemy to complete (not to mention assessments that are often unintelligible). At the same time, there are large- and small-budget WBT programs with exemplary design that fully exploit the potential of e-learning for collaboration, increasing understanding through the use of multimedia, smart branching, and personalization." Margaret Driscoll, Consultant, Human Capital Management, IBM Global Services, USA

"The e-learning industry has become a sub-industry and is gradually being reintegrated back into the areas it supports, including higher ed, primary and secondary ed, and corporate training. This is symbolized best with the merger of the Online Learning conference back into the Training conference. What that means in practical terms is that technology isn't likely to make any great leaps in 2005, just like in 2004. Some of those who live on the bleeding edge of technology may differ with this assessment, but most organizations are still trying to adapt to e-learning, and the process is slow. With e-learning going mainstream, until the typical learning group adapts to the technology we already have, there's little demand for the next generation unless it offers substantial improvements. Instead, the most exciting commercial technology developments that are happening seem to be slow and steady enhancements to existing products, like LMSs and authoring tools, and a slow, but steady, move by LCMS vendors to integrate their products with more mainstream content management systems (CMSs)." Saul Carliner, Assistant Professor of Educational Technology, Concordia University, Canada

"Consolidation and culture wars. The major playersMicrosoft, Yahoo, Googlemake their mark on some emerging technologies such as blogs, wikis, RSS, and podcasts. These technologies continue to evolve, drawing from work in the semantic web (such as ontologies) to extend their reach and range. But as grassroot technologies are appropriated for commercial objectives, conflicts over rights and use emerge, and competing standards extensions create genuine difficulties for users. Expect, for example, patent claims and threats of lawsuits over aspects of content syndication technology, lawsuits regarding unauthorized use of RSS feeds, RSS extensions that will work only with certain (proprietary) software, and the like. Despite all thisor perhaps because of itsupport for centralized LMSs begins to flake as institutions opt for non-proprietary learning systems (such as Moodle or Sakai) and content-management systems (such as DSpace) working in conjunction with blogging tools, wikis and collaboration tools. Support for learning objects (properly so-called) also begins to wane, outside the corporate and military space, at least (some scathing reports are published). Institutions discover networks2005 may end up being called "The Year of the Network"and begin putting plans to leverage connections, increase communication flows, recognize and tap into network properties such as self-organization and distributed management. This trend is gradual, but tensions rise as the use of these network technologies begins to clash with closed, commercial systems. Authentication takes center stage in 2005, as the major players try again in the wake of an ever-increasing barrage of spam, but is also seen as a response to open systems. Private networks begin to form. Behind the scenes (and mostly unnoticed), the Web is beginning to fracture. Some time in the next three years the first case of URL-piracy (releasing the address of a resource without authorization) will be heard." Stephen Downes, Researcher, National Research Council, Canada

"This year the field of 'Consciousness' moved onto the enterprise agenda. With corporate coherence now within reach both downward (CEO to enterprise) and outward (inherent knowledge tapped and redeployed), the next step addresses the mental capacity of knowledge workers and the harnessing of collective consciousness. Already some progressive companies offer meditation to managers for clarity of thought, and in some cases managers practice meditation prior to important meetings. With knowledge workers emerging as the corporation's most important competitive asset, the field of human-capital management will take a step beyond just knowledge and technology to investment in expanding the consciousness of the knower."
Jonathon Levy, Senior Learning Strategist, The Monitor Group, USA

"The cumbersome and controversial learning ROI measurements will be forced to the background as new and improved evaluation methodologies are 'discovered' and implemented. E-learning professionals will tie employee performance to e-learning program outcomes. Executives, students, and other stakeholders will demand 'evidence' that e-learning positively impacts performance. Learning professionals will need to lead the charge to develop appropriate metrics in cooperation with business unit managers." Karl M. Kapp, Assistant Director, Institute for Interactive Technologies, Bloomsburg University, USA

"The application becomes the platform: The 'Net was an app until the Web made it a platform. The Web was an app until eBay made it a platform. Can e-learning model this behaviorallow its apps to become platforms for the creation of new apps and new content? Much money will be (mis)spent on game-based learning: At one major U.S. Department of Defense conference this year (2004), every major trade journal had a cover article about using videogame technology in simulations and training. This usually means that RFPs looking for this kind of technology will begin to come out in the next 12 months. This has all the feel of '97/'98 with everyone throwing money at e-learning with no plan or strategy or metric for success. Can our industry successfully describe game-based learning as an adult-learning theory (independent of technology) and then successfully implement game-based solutions which integrate technology as appropriate?" Mark Oehlert, Associate, Booz Allen Hamilton, USA

"Colleges, universities, and the military will outpace corporations in rolling out innovative and effective learning programs. Computer games will increasingly be viewed as a new type of scalable content that will raise the bar on engagement and enable new types of skills to be taught. Training departments that do not take risks and focus on management training will continue to face significant loss of budget." Clark Aldrich, author of Simulations and the Future of Learning and the upcoming Learning by Doing, USA

"Business Leaders will be looking for training solutions that help achieve business results. In an environment of increasing global competition, shorter product lifecycles, and cost pressures, business leaders will be looking for training solutions that support or accelerate achievement of business objectives. Ensuring business readiness, reducing compliance risk, speed, and measurable business results will be required by training organizations. If internal training organizations are unable to meet the higher expectations, business leaders will be increasingly comfortable looking outside for total solutions. Traditional vendor relationships will be replaced by strategic longer-term partnerships to provide the timely training solutions."
Brad A. Johnson, Co-Founder, Intrepid Learning Solutions, USA

"2005 is the year that mobile learning comes of age. Mobile learning brings a true "anytime, anywhere" dimension to e-learning. Mobile learning will feature smart phones and personal communicators, while continuing to link learners with resources via laptop, notebook and tablet computers in a variety of physical settings. Faster network speeds enable transmitting more data in less time; while rich media capabilities enabled by the growing use of tools such as Flash result in richer, engaging experiences whether the device used to download learning resources is a notebook computer or a mobile phone or both." Ellen Wagner, Director, Global Education Solutions, Macromedia


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