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Posts Tagged ‘online learning’

Online Learning and Higher Education: A Sleeping Giant Awakens

September 20, 2012 1 comment

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMSShortly after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, sending the tech-heavy NASDAQ stock exchange plummeting, I interviewed a director of learning and development at one of the major semiconductor companies. She mentioned that in 2000, about 95 per cent of the learning and development taking place within the company consisted of traditional instructor-led, classroom-based sessions. One year later, 95 per cent of the company’s formal learning was self-paced and online, and only 5 per cent was classroom-based.

That’s a pretty dramatic transformation in 12 short months.Students in classroom (Some rights reserved by Tulane Public Relations/Flickr)

The dot-com bubble meltdown had a huge impact on workplace learning and development. Publicly-traded companies that saw their valuations drop significantly were desperate to cut costs, thus raising their profits and stock price. Learning and development was an easy cost-slashing target; companies soon discovered that online learning could provide huge savings compared to traditional classroom-based instruction.

As painful as the bursting of the dot-com bubble was, the meltdown led to high adoption rates of learning technologies within the workplace, especially in larger organizations. In the last five years, learning technology adoption has expanded to include small- and medium-size companies. The result is that adoption of online learning has been faster in the workplace than in higher education.

Higher education never underwent a cataclysmic event that led to the widespread adoption of online learning. Consequently, although some academic institutions have been early learning technology adopters and innovators, many more have resisted the transition, sticking to their guns that learning is best done one way: with students sitting in a physical classroom listening to a lecturer present at the front of the class.

Suddenly in 2012, higher education seems to be experiencing an OMG!-We-need-to-do-something! moment. Barely a day goes by without a major news source publishing a story about the technological transformation of higher education. Just a few recent examples are here and here and here.

Whereas the dot-com bubble led to almost overnight adoption of learning technology in the workplace, the impetus for adoption in higher education has come slowly and from multiple sources.

  • In many regions, governments have been gradually cutting funding to universities, pushing the financial burden onto students, parents, and charitable donors.
  • Many students now graduate with many tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. This has created a ticking financial time bomb, with student debt surpassing the level of credit card debt in the U.S. The result is growing student resistance to higher tuition fees.
  • Universities must increase revenue to cover rising costs yet find they are between a rock (reduced government funding) and a hard place (student push-back against rising tuition fees). It’s tough to scale up a bricks-and-mortar educational model. If your only option for financial growth is to add more students, do you build another campus? Do you increase class size?

The result is that higher education is suddenly looking to online learning to solve the challenges listed above. Chalk board (Some rights reserved by shonk on Flickr)

This is going to be great for everyone involved in learning technology:

  • Whereas many institutions will film a lecture, put it on the Web, and call it online learning, many others will pursue innovative ways to use technology for learning. These innovations will spill into workplace learning.
  • Traditionally, many people only experience online learning once they’ve left school and entered the workforce. With the adoption of learning technology in higher education, these individuals are more likely to champion its benefits at work, leading to even greater adoption of learning technologies in the workplace.
  • Most importantly, the line will blur between higher education and workplace learning. Both will leverage similar strategies and technologies, and each will lead to the acquisition of knowledge and new skills.

How long will it be before a learner’s academic and workplace learning history are combined into a single transcript?

More Learning and Development Myths

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

As a follow up to my post of last December titled “The Biggest Myths in Learning and Development,” I asked the following  question within various LinkedIn discussion groups:

What other learning and development beliefs do we hold to be true but probably aren’t?

Here are some of the replies:

Universities are embracing e-learning to extend their audiences to people who cannnot afford to attend their institutions. — Jean-Marc R.

L&D facilitators need to be subject matter experts on what they deliver. It’s their job. — Ray O.

We must evaluate all learning activities and show ROI.  — Ray O.

By sending people off to training, we will get them back in a more productive condition. — Anders B.

Train for knowledge, coach for performance. — Hannah T.

Most organizations that have embraced online learning have no idea what, if anything, their workforce is learning. — James M.

Organizations understand the learning & development needs of their people and organization! — Barry H.

Management training is directly linked to attitude and behavioural change and tangible results. — Graham W.

Training improves on-the-job performance. — Leon N.

Well-trained staff are essential for superior workplace performance. — Leon N.

Effective training is the result of good training courses. — Leon N.

Fascinating submissions, everyone. Thank you.

The Biggest Myths in Learning and Development

December 22, 2011 10 comments

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMSIn the early 1960s, philosopher Abraham Kaplan and psychologist Abraham Maslow independently described the idea that being in possession of  an instrument affects our perception. The idea, now commonly called the Law of the Instrument, is illustrated in the phrase  “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” 

It’s important to be aware of this law because it gives us a glimpse into how our perception of the world is shaped by our experiences and environments.

So what does all this have to do with learning and development?

My introduction to using computers for learning stems back 25 years to a course I took in university titled “Computers in Music.” I was immediately hooked and began creating simple computer programs to teach music theory. This led to a lifelong career in learning technology as a content developer, entrepreneur, consultant, analyst, and now technology provider. Having worked in the area of learning technology for so long has created certain assumptions. These are the learning and development myths to which I’ve subscribed that are currently being debunked from speaking with organizations daily.

If you’re reading this blog, you may be a learning professional with interests in online learning. You too, may believe the following learning and development myths:

  • MYTH ONE: Most organizations provide some type of training to their workforce

False. A large percentage of organizations I speak with provide no formal training. People join the firm and figure out what needs to be done by shadowing people and asking a lot of questions—likely by e-mail—CC-ing as many people as possible. Consequently, the number one learning tool for new employees is the company staff directory. “I see there’s a guy in the IT department named Mitch. He may know how I should do this task.”

Often, organizations I speak with are trying to address the challenges associated with this approach. It isn’t that they’re anti social or informal learning, it’s just that they’re trying to make the process easier for everyone. They also want to make sure people learn the right stuff instead of old bad habits that have been passed on over the years though we’ve-always-done-it-this-way mentoring.

  • MYTH TWO: Organizations that do provide training have embraced online learning

False. Of the organizations that do provide training to their workforce, a huge number—large and small—are still tackle learning and development the way organizations did decades ago: exclusively by having learners physically participate in face-to-face, classroom-based sessions, either on site or in another location.

If your organization has no formal learning and development initiatives, or if training still takes place exclusively in a classroom with an instructor, you should feel no shame. You’re not alone. Gurus and pundits may have us believing that the biggest challenges facing organizations today is how to migrate online learning to new devices or software platforms. The reality is that most organizations are just looking at how to get started in online learning in a way that produces good outcomes, painlessly.