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FIVE. What Do Today's E-Learning Thought Leaders Say?

You 're about half way through the book, and now is a good time for a change of pace.

I interviewed several of the leading thought leaders in the e-learning field, and this chapter is the result of those interviews. Each of these thought leaders is on the job every day working to make e-learning a reality in companies around the world.

All of these thought leaders are forward thinkers, but more importantly, they each have strong practical experience. They know today's state of the art and what's really practical to do, both today and into the near future. And they each know that making e-learning a success for a company is more than a question of technology—it's also a question of company culture, project focus, and leadership.

-1. Elliott Masie

Elliott Masie is an internationally recognized speaker, futurist, humorist, author, and consultant on the critical topics of technology, business, learning and workplace productivity. Elliott is the editor of TechLearn Trends, an internet newsletter read by over 41,000 business executives worldwide, and the editor of Learning Decisions, a subscription newsletter. He heads The MASIE Center (masie.com), a think-tank focused on how organizations can absorb technology and create continuous learning and knowledge within the workforce. Elliott's professional focus has been to demystify the world of technology in order to allow organizations to use their wisdom and resources to make key choices.

Question: What do you see as the impact of e-learning on companies and enterprises?

Elliott Masie: I think there are two things. The most important thing is that it greatly expands the perception of the reach of learning and training and knowledge interventions without being limited by the overhead cost of "When can we do it by?", "Can we get people there?", "Can we get an instructor there?", and "Do we have a facility?"

So one of the impacts is that it's applying the same kind of empowerment that other kinds of "e-processes" do. I think it's profound that there are fewer conversations now about "I wish I could train a lot of people, but I can't, so I'll only train a few." There's more of a sense of "OK, if I need them to be trained, I'll reach them with an appropriate way to do it."

The second impact, from a business point of view, is that there is a growing excitement about leveraging learning as a strategic tool—both from a talent deployment point of view and ultimately from a point of view of using it for extending and enriching the customer relationship with knowledge, learning, and training.

Question: Do you think the impact is something to look for now, or is it still in the future?

Elliott Masie: When you think of the empowerment perspective I just spoke about, then people perceive that right now. I think, given the sophistication and the levels of investment we're seeing in some organizations, there are lines of business that are achieving it right now. Certainly with the IT business units today, there is less of a perception that "I have to wait to send them to class." They'll say "What does Netg, or SmartForce, or IBM have as resources?" so they can start to learn today.

We're doing a major rewrite of an application in my own firm, and my statement to my group was "What do you need to learn?" and their first reaction was "Let me see what's online." Five years ago it would have been "Let me call the training company nearby and see when their next class is."

So I think depending on the infrastructure and on the readiness, business units are doing this today. I think we're seeing a pretty steady slope rise in that, and there are early arrivers and mid-arrivers, and early followers and late followers.

 
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