eLearning: snake oil or salvation? Changes in theworld are forcing corporations to rethink howpeople adapt to their environment. How do peoplelearn? Why? What’s eLearning? Does it work?This paper addresses these questions andrecounts the history and pitfalls of computer-basedtraining and first-generation eLearning. It tracesthe roots of CBT Systems, SmartForce, InternetTime Group, and the University of Phoenix. Ittakes you to five years of TechLearn, the premier eLearning conference, from dot-com euphoria totoday’s real-time realities.The subject matter here is corporate learning, inparticular mastering technical and social skills, andproduct knowledge. The focus is on learningwhat’s required to meet the promise made to thecustomer. While there are parallels to collegiateeducation, the author lacks the experience to drawthem.Corporate CEOs are finally telling the truth whenthey say “People are our most important assets.”Intellectual capital has become the primary factor of production. To raise their “corporate IQ,”managers treat workers as if they were customersof learning.We explore why people learn much more abouttheir jobs in the coffee room than in the classroom.We hypothesize that equipping peopleintellectually to prosper will become a corporatediscipline every bit as important as marketing or finance. Web services will mark the advent of workflow learning in real-time organizations.
eLearning, e-learning, computer-based training,CD-ROM, dropouts, TechLearn, corporate training
Deep thanks to David Grebow, a visionary incorporate learning, for suggesting numerousclarifications and additions to the originalmanuscript.
Intellectual capital has become more valuable thanhard assets. Networks are replacing hierarchy.Time has sped up. Cooperation edges outcompetition. Innovation trumps efficiency.Flexibility beats might. Everything's global. Thepast no longer illuminates the future. We needfresh thinking. eLearning was supposed to be theanswer.Some of the material ahead is controversial. It’sprobably better to skip around than to plod straightthrough. I’d prefer that you take away a few thingsthan that you read all the words. There’s no test atthe end. That reminds me of a story.A group of Harvard students was given a paper onurban sociology and told, “Read this. You will betested.” A matched group across campus wasgiven the same paper and told, “Read this. It’squite controversial and may be wrong. You will betested.” The second group did much better on thetest. Why? Because uncertainty engages the mindand the senses.When you come upon an outrageous claim or misspelled word, I may have done it on purpose tohelp you learn. To engage your mind.
© 2004, Jay Cross, Berkeley, California3