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Predictions for 2002
e-learning visionaries share their thoughts

By Lisa Neal / January 2002

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What will be e-learning's successes, failures, and innovations in 2002? Since I have an easier time coming up with a wish-list than a vision, I asked a number of esteemed colleagues in the e-learning field for their thoughts on what the year may bring. Will online courses evolve into informal, as-needed learning opportunities? Will we develop new and innovative ways to measure learning? Please read on…and post your own predictions in eLearn's discussion forum. Don't forget to check back next year to see which predictions came true.

Adoption of e-learning for workplace learning will continue throughout the year. 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 Learning Management System (LMS) purchases will be slow, reflecting their high price-point. As IT rebounds late in the year, so will LMS purchases. The best news in 2002 will be that budget constraints will force more trainers to adopt an ROI justification, and more thought will go into building the business case for e-learning. Simulation will emerge as the widely recognized gold standard in instructional design for e-learning. Mobile e-learning will be on many people's lips, but not on nearly as many people's hips.
—Brandon Hall, Ph.D., CEO,

There will be a greater realization that e-learning has limited value, and that people also need to learn through print and people contact. This will lead to a rebalancing of methods in e-universities. There will be a move toward better video communication via the Internet and mobile devices, and this will begin to be seen as having educational uses as well. There will be real progress towards standards and sharing of e-learning tools and platforms. Maybe some of this is just wishful thinking! But whatever changes happen for the better, they will be slow.
—Professor Diana Laurillard, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning Technologies and Teaching), Open University, UK

Workforce development within government will continue to be a challenge, and e-learning will be seen as a less costly approach to address this significant human capital shortcoming. In both government and the private sector, the main challenges will be how to make e-learning relevant and how to engage employees in this new way of learning.
—Dr. Jacob Lozada, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Purchasers of Learning Content Mangement Systems (LCMS) will continue to be disappointed with overpriced, over-hyped, poorly implemented, and poorly documented software that supplies none of the promised benefits. The SCORM specifications will begin to be better understood, although they won't result in substantial breakthroughs in actual products until 2003. Substantial Open Source e-learning platform alternatives will show up on the market for the first time. "Community" will continue to be a hot topic, although failure rates in implementations will remain high.
—Michael Feldstein, Feldstein & Associates Consulting

We're going to see significant new thinking in e-learning with a programmable web freeing innovation. Some changes: partnerships among government agencies, software industries, and universities will focus on technologies that enhance activity-based learning, embedded assessment, immersive collaboration, and extended mobile computing with less importance placed on lecturing and test-taking. You'll see new highly collaborative and visual technologies for education such as gaming and simulations. Quality assurance will be the cornerstone for proof of investment and assessment validation. The accreditation boards will take a harder look at how to accredit these environments as they emerge, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math. And most important, learning will start being fun, and, in some cases, enchanting.
—Randy J. Hinrichs, Group Research Manager, Learning Sciences and Technology, Microsoft Research

E-learning will become part of the fabric of our daily personal and business routine. We will use a blended learning solutions approach, combining advanced technologies with traditional modalities, to craft learning to meet the needs of individual learners when and where they need it. e-learning will expose the vast wealth of knowledge that exists in the minds of individuals, corporate documents and databases, and elsewhere across an extended enterprise. And new technologies will 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, breaking down barriers to yield a better-educated world population.
—Leon Navickas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Amy Finn, Ph.D., Director eLearning, Education and Training, Centra Software, Inc.

2001 marked the end of the first round of converting content and delivery to "e." What happens next? A new wave of do-it-yourself tools are reaching the market. However, even the best tools do not deliver quality content. In 2002, consumers will recognize that sound digital instructional design is the underpinning of quality content.
—Bill Hitchcock, Global Director of EDS' Digital Learning Service Line, and SmartExecutive's E-learning Executive for the Year 2001

The downturn in the economy will refocus corporate educators on the bottom line and on achieving results. Organizations will take more interest in filling the knowledge gap as a means to increase productivity and reduce cost. This means less focus on technology for technology's sake and a greater emphasis on training workers, customers and partners. Irrational exuberance will be replaced with a greater level of sophistication in how success is measured; more attention will be paid to workers' ability to perform. Watch for e-enhanced informal learning using e-mail, threaded discussions, instant messaging, e-meetings, teamrooms, and virtual workspaces.
—Dr. Margaret Driscoll, Director, Strategy & Venture, IBM Mindspan Solutions

e-learning is both cultural and technological and the cultural will trump the technological every time; in 2002 there will be more focus on the successful adoption of new technology/processes. More memory and processor power will increase the use of handhelds (PDAs and cell phones). Games are too powerful a way to learn to ignore. A primary focus is and should continue to be how e-learning is improving peoples' performance. Long-range prediction: "guilds."
—Mark Oehlert, Deputy Director for Communications, ADL Co-Lab

This will be the year that the promise of learning objects comes to fruition. With the advent of authoring tools with built-in standards compliance, and with the distribution of desktop and local server learning object repositories, authors will create small and focused nuggets of learning content instead of entire courses. Commercial learning content providers will continue to extend their hold over an increasingly consolidated industry though exclusive content distribution agreements. Watch for some major LMS or LCMS companies to be acquired by a major publisher.
—Stephen Downes, Senior Researcher, National Research Council of Canada

There will be a revolt against high price and complex e-learning products and a return to easy-to-use, low-cost and rapid content-creation tools that are less demanding of the user's time. Training Departments will be split up and report to specific functional areas, such as sales and customer relationship management.
—Irwin Hipsman, Business Development, Brainshark

The current distinction between "e-learning" and "contact sessions" will fade, as more and more companies realize the benefits of blends... and see technology as a tool for more efficient and professional learning support for any participant. Benchmark measures for training departments will shift away from input indicators (number of days of attendance, number of sessions completed, number of logins to a Web site, etc.) toward meaningful and authentic output measures (evidence that concepts from a course and contacts made within a course result in a meaningful impact on workplace practice).
—Prof. Dr. Betty Collis, Shell Professor of Networked Learning, University of Twente, The Netherlands

As the new year unfolds, practitioners and decision-makers will increasingly realize that they have to make a strategic decision: to adopt a model of e-learning that is as close as possible to face-to-face instruction or to unleash the power of distance education and e-learning. Some institutions will continue to use technology to offer a centralized and uniform system of education. Their graduates will fulfill a need in the job market, but one that will decrease as the century unfolds. Organizations that understand the decentralized, self-organized and emergent characteristics of the new market will see an expanding demand for their graduates. They will thrive and prosper.
—Farhad Saba, Ph. D., Professor of Educational Technology, San Diego State University and CEO,

Watch out for a launch in 2002 of a major corporate e-learning initiative backed by some of the most prestigious U.S. universities. Wideband applications will rapidly increase, leading to a spurt in learning object/learning resource management initiatives, but they will get bogged down in intellectual property issues. Faculty associations will start playing hardball over ownership of Web courses. A new computer interface based on speech recognition will have a major impact on the design of e-learning courses.
—Dr. Tony Bates, Director, Distance Education and Technology, Continuing Studies, University of British Columbia

Successful online courses will be those of high quality in terms of content, instruction, and career relevance. Education may not end the threat of terrorism but ignorance is not bliss—particularly ignorance of different cultural norms and values. World-class online educational opportunities will help developing countries, especially those that have not had access to quality education, as well as contributing to cultural understanding between nations.
—Professor Richard Larson, Director, MIT Center for Advanced Educational Services (CAES)

Most schools will now proclaim that they offer e-learning, when they only have course home pages or slides available on the Internet. But just as a crystal grows around a seed, teachers and students will hear about, try out, and adapt for their own needs Internet-mediated interaction and learning. The crystal will grow, but it will take years for e-learning to become a viable option—and it will never replace face-to-face instruction.
—Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff, FHTW Berlin and Virtuelle Fachhochschule

Customers will demand quality, value and convenience. Quality will be synonymous with a desire for courseware that has measurable impact on business performance (good design); value will come from increasing the scale of e-learning deployments enterprise-wide (efficiency through scale); and convenience arises from ease-of-use.
—Robert Todd, Learning Experience Architect, DigitalThink


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