Bob Little



First published in E-Learning Age magazine (February 05 edition) - and reproduced with permission from E-Learning Age ( )

Bob Little writes an open letter to Andrew Lloyd Webber to enlist his support in producing e-learning’s very own musical.

Phantom Aspects of an E-learning Superstar

Dear Andrew,

Back about the time Starlight Express was starting its mammoth run at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London, something called ‘e-learning’ was emerging – although, in those days, it was called computer based training.

Unfortunately, despite attracting a number of impressive corporate and public sector supporters over the past 20 years – who claim that it has saved them money; helped more people to learn more things and be more efficient, quicker and better at their jobs than ever before – e-learning has not really entered public consciousness. There have been attempts to popularise e-learning – notably through the Ufi and learndirect. The only campaign that did raise e-learning’s public profile involved the ill-fated UKeU - but that, perhaps, did not present this learning technology in the most positive of lights.

I now believe that the only way to raise e-learning’s profile with the punters is through staging a lavish, West End musical. After all, ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ has made a positive contribution to public awareness of Christianity – even if it hasn’t yet directly resulted in massive increases in church attendance – and people still like football, even after they’ve seen ‘The Beautiful Game’.

So, I’ve developed a synopsis for a musical about e-learning. It’s called ‘Phantom Aspects of an E-learning Superstar’ and I hope you’ll want to set it to music.

The story centres on Mary, who is well educated and ambitious. She gets a job in the City and is confronted with having to use e-learning in order to meet the compliance regulations for her industry. She keeps putting off her date with learning destiny until, with deadlines looming, she stays late at the office. She loads the e-learning program, studies the screen and, in the eerie, darkened stillness, she sings:

Midnight. All alone at the desktop.
Has the hard disk no memory?
It’s all terribly slow.
Even broadband seems impotent, the program’s too big:
That egg timer’s on the go.

Daylight, see the ray on the flat screen,
But my interest is waning,
Interest withers away.
Animations go slow or else the text is too long
Why – please tell me – should I stay?...

The next day, in desperation, Mary struggles with the subject and its online learning treatment. She complains:

I don’t know how to learn this –
What to do, how to qualify.
I’ve got to learn, yes, really learn
Or I’ll lose my job.
Yet it seems this course
Was made for someone else.

I don’t know how to do this.
I don’t see why it’s so easy –

So they said,
That’s what they said.
And I’ve learnt so many
Things before.

In very many ways
It’s just one more.

Should I quit the course?
Should I scream and shout?
My learning style to share –
Let my ‘Honey’ out?
I never thought I’d come to this.

What’s learning all about?

Don’t you think it’s rather funny
I should be in this position?

I’m the one
Who’s always been
So classroom cool -
Is learning’s fool.
Tutors got to go –
This scares me so.

I never thought I’d come to this.
What’s learning all about?

Split it into objects

And give me
I could cope -
Know I’d cope.
Wouldn’t turn my head.
Wouldn’t back away.
Confidence I need –
E-learning’s seed –
Nurture and feed –
And do this deed.

George, the HR manager, who has seen Mary’s progress report produced by the firm’s learning management system, puts her in touch with Alex, an e-mentor. Alex and Mary’s relationship gradually blossoms through Mary’s growing confidence in her IT skills.

With a career that is becoming increasingly successful, thanks to her grasp of e-learning materials and aided by e-mentor Alex, Mary hopes that she and Alex have a chance of more than online flirtation. However, her hopes of romance are shattered when she finds that Alex has also been mentoring George’s daughter, Jenny – whose impressive work performance, underpinned by e-learning, is rivalling her own. Mary redoubles her efforts in front of the screen, leaving Jenny and Alex to sing:

Learn. It changes everything.
When it’s online, then you know,
Love, e-learning’s everything!
How I love it – and you – so!
It, it can make the daytime fly
Or a night seem like a lifetime -
Yes this, it changes everything;

Now I want to spread its fame:
Nothing in the world will ever be the same.
Learn. It changes everything.
Computer aided: no more fear.
Learn. We can learn anything -
Skills and knowledge up to here!
Learning turns your world around,
And that world will last forever.

Yes, love, e-learning’s everything:
Brings you friends in ELN
Even when you go and hide within your den.
Off into the world we go
Planning futures, shaping years.
Love (comes in) and suddenly all our learning disappears.

Love makes fools of everyone
But e-learning’s rules aren’t broken.
And, love, it changes everyone -
Live and prosper in its flame,
You will never, never, never be the same.
You will never, never, never be the same.

I hope that this flavour of what I have in mind whets your appetite to write the music that e-learning needs in order to put itself on the public map. With your support, I’m convinced that ‘Phantom Aspects of an E-learning Superstar’ will be a success.

I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes.

Yours sincerely,
Bob Little

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