Recently, e-Learning has been covered in numerous high-profile articles in mainstream media outlets, such as the New York Times and Forbes Magazine.
It was a topic of discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It’s even been the topic of a Thomas Friedman column.
What does this mean?
Is e-Learning mainstream? Does the guy in accounting who still uses a Palm Pilot know about it yet? He probably does, and his aunt Gertrude told him (Thanks, Gert!).
e-Learning At A Crossroads
It’s a funny thing, being part of a trend. You feel like the guy at the wedding who starts a new dance routine, and some of the cool people join in. Then when everybody else picks it up you head back to your table. It’s not cool anymore. There’s a sweet spot you need to be in: not the first one to try something; but the one who observes, learns the weaknesses, and improves upon it.
“Oh, I see, let’s tie the bungee cord to the bridge this time.”
This is where e-Learning, including organizations like edX, Coursera, Blackboard, Skillsoft, Udacity, lynda.com and nearly a hundred others choose a path to become tomorrow’s Googles and Apples (or DECs).
Did you know that college enrollment fell for the first time in 15 years, while enrollment in online courses rose for the 9th straight year? The numbers are of course incomparable, but the trends are telling. So is the fact that enrollment in accredited online courses is rising more than 10% each year.
How To Choose Your Next Platform
Whether you’re part of a university, or a company building its own training courses, you should probably think not just about making e-Learning technology part of your programs, but centering your strategy around e-Learning tools. Beyond the standard features like ease of use, LMS integration, SCORM compliance, test management, and internal communications tools, the capabilities you should demand are:
- Rich Media Compatibility: How are you going to interface with your trainees? Are you going to use video, Flash, audio, Podcasts, PowerPoint slides, PDFs, high-resolution graphics? No matter what you want to use, your e-Learning platform should be capable of integrating all of it into the learning interface. It should also be possible for end users to select the method that works best for them and control the playback.
- Social Integration: It’s possible to use social tools as a major avenue of communications for your online training programs. If you choose a learning platform that can integrate social media into the user interface, you’ll be better able to create a community around your courses and communicate in a way that students and trainees have become used to.
- Cloud Hosting: There is little need to store all of your materials in your own servers any longer. Unless your IT department requires a high measure of security, using cloud storage makes it easier for students to take part in your courses anywhere, anytime, without using a VPN or specialized software applications. Cloud hosting also alleviates your responsibility for the immense storage and memory requirements of an e-Learning program.
- Personalization: Trainees and students interface with your organization and its brand, not the learning platform’s brand. Why should they be forced to jump from the experience you wish to provide to a different one dictated by someone else’s design? An e-Learning platform should be configurable to match your look and feel, and beyond that, it should be possible for the trainees to define their own experience.
- Accessibility: This can’t be stressed enough. Trainees will have different learning preferences and may have trouble dealing with one method or another. Your chosen e-Learning platform should be capable of making courses accessible to people with hearing or vision impairments by using captioning, selectable text sizes, audio controls, and specialized downloadable materials.
e-Learning has hit the big-time, but it’s still only the beginning. You should definitely evaluate as many of the latest tools as you have the patience for, but beyond picking a platform, it’s your strategy that is most important. It should combine the latest technologies, communications tools, and storage capabilities, to stay ahead of the curve.
Originally published on The KnowledgeVision Fresh Ideas Blog.