What’s happening in the eLearning industry?

By Maureen Aylward

Online degrees, distance learning programs, and corporate online training tools seem to be everywhere. The eLearning industry is growing rapidly. We wanted to know more about the technology, who is doing it, and what areas are growing. These Zintro experts provided us with insight on what’s happening.

According to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), US organizations spent $125 billion on employee learning and development in 2009. Jennifer De Vries, CPT, president and chief solutions architect for BlueStreak Learning, who works primarily in the corporate and non-profit/association markets, says that in 2010 over 50% of corporate training was delivered via eLearning. “This means that the use of eLearning has more than doubled in ten years. Plus, over 85% of the Fortune 500 companies have one or more Learning Management Systems (LMS) to deliver and track eLearning results,” she says.

De Vries  says that synchronous eLearning (live over the Internet) programs have matured, and this market is very competitive. “The market is dominated by big players, such as WebEx, GoToWebinar, Microsoft’s Live Meeting, Saba Centra, and Elluminate,” she says. “Asynchronous eLearning (self-paced) is still a growing market, with more and more people learning to use simple course development tools, such as Articulate, Adobe Captivate, and more.”

De Vries says that asynchronous eLearning standards have gained wide acceptance and are about to undergo some major enhancements in 2011-12. The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a set of technical standards and specifications for eLearning programs. It addresses how online learning programs communicate with a Learning Management System. The standards do not address learning content or teaching approaches.

On the horizon for eLearning is mobile learning. “With the prevalence of iPhones, Android phones, and Blackberries, we are now capable of delivering learning anytime, anywhere,” says De Vries. “Designing for a small screen and shorter attention spans is challenging and different than developing eLearning for a PC or laptop.” She suggests that individuals who may want to know more about mobile learning take a look at the  eLearning Guild’s annual conference that is dedicated entirely to mLearning.

George Stevens, an enterprise learning and performance improvement expert, says that online degree and learning programs need to resist the temptation to cut corners in order to meet the needs of online learners. “With the right combination of online knowledge transfer and a blended approach to coaching, feedback, and practical application, online learning programs can be very effective,” he says. Online degree programs must be accredited or they should be ignored, Stevens says, because the degree may not be recognized by other schools or by a company or organization.

Stevens explains that while mobile learning is still in a start-up phase, it needs to develop its scope and boundaries. “Social media and constructivist learning are relatively new and they overlap. This means that they may have great potential” in delivering mobile learning and evolving this sector further, but the boundaries of the learning model need to be defined.

By Maureen Aylward

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