Will everyone soon be
accessing e-learning through a mobile device? Learning a language as they
walk the streets with their i-Pod? Doing a health and safety induction
e-learning module on an i-Pad in the coffee shop or an anti money laundering training
course on a Blackberry?
Making a prediction is an invitation to make a fool of yourself. Back in
1975, an article in Business Week predicted we would soon see a
paperless office. In reality, consumption of office paper doubled
between 1980 and 2000 - largely because computers made it easier to
generate and print documents. About the same time, Ken Olsen of DEC said there
would never be a need for a computer in the home.
When the internet was taking off in the 1990s, I remember visiting a
computer show to see if it was possible for a company to distribute
recorded corporate video to each desktop to be viewed on demand – a sort of
internal news service with the CEO’s comments on the annual results,
the announcement of a new product or whatever. What’s so easy today on
YouTube, BBC i-Player and numerous other on-demand video channels. Only
one company at the exhibition, a Canadian outfit called Newbridge,
understood what I was talking about. One cocky salesman from a software
company, that had just launched desktop video editing, told me that
video companies were dead. Soon everyone would edit their own video and
I would be out of a job by 1995. Twenty five years after that exhibition, I’m
still here and busier than ever.
Are the training room or even the desktop PC obsolete as platforms for
learning in 2010? Will everything be mobile by 2015 or 2020? Some people
would have you believe that, so it’s refreshing to find someone who has
actually done some research into what learners prefer. This gives a far
better idea of which learning technologies will succeed.
Web usability guru, Dr Jakob
Nielsen reports a
which compared people reading a short story on various platforms –
conventional printed book, i-Pad tablet, Kindle and PC. People reading on the
mobile platforms, i-Pad and Kindle were 6-10% slower than those with a
printed book. There was not such a difference in user satisfaction, with
book, i-Pad and Kindle all scoring 5.6 to 5.8 out of a possible 7
points. More significant was the PC, which people don’t care for when
needing to read a long text; this scored a feeble 3.6 points.
I can remember when
Apple launched the i-Pad and people were saying "what the hell's this
for?", but now they are amazingly popular. There is a lovely clip on
Youtube of a
toddler trying to make a printed magazine work like Mummy's i-Pad.
In reality the question is not so much whether the learning platform is
mobile or not, as the quality of the e-learning or training material and
how engaging it is for the learner.
It seems dangerous (although tempting) to let the in-house knowledge
owners regurgitate their wisdom in the form of Powerpoint, which is then
uploaded to the company’s intranet and called e-learning. A new client I met recently was keen
to check that this was not our approach. They’d tried it and the
take-up of their e-learning courses was disastrously low.
When I first started this business, I lived in Suffolk and used to catch
train back from Liverpool Street. Young guys from the City financial
firms would get on, dig a fat ringbinder out of their briefcases and
start to read page after page of “training” material. As we rumbled
through Essex, their heads would droop, the pages would turn more slowly
There has to be a better
way than this, I thought.
mobile devices don't seem to like
e-learning designed for the PC. Neither Apple or Android devices run
Adobe's Flash content, so we have to use HTML5 instead
SCORM standards for tracking e-learning,
recording user's access, completion of e-learning modules and test
scores, requires a constant network connection. Now we all
know what happens to our mobile phone signal when the train dives
into a tunnel ...
Since writing this item,
the European Parliament has conducted research with Facebook users in
Europe to see what difficulties young people coming out of education are
facing when looking for employment.
Particular issues that
the learners raised included:
courses not relevant
to the job market, making it difficult to find a job matching the
person's qualifications or else not equipping the learner with
knowledge and experience to fit the job they really wanted
degrees and diplomas
not recognised in other countries
This suggests that the
future may see shorter courses and more flexible content, with more
knowledge delivered as e-learning. The EU's emphasis on "life long
learning" seems quite far sighted.