According to a report from Elliott Masie, the world renowned e-learning guru, the ‘e’ in e-learning seems to be vanishing. Masie’s The Masie Center, in Saratoga Springs, New York state, has noticed that:
- There’s been a 20 per cent decrease this year in advertised ‘e-learning’ job vacancies. Apparently, ‘e-learning developers’ are now more likely to be called ‘learning developers’ or ‘designers’.
- Fewer organisations are labelling their digital learning programmes or modules as ‘e-learning’. There’s been a slight increase in the use of the word ‘online’, a decrease in the use of the word ‘virtual’ and many people are just using the words ‘learning’ or ‘training programs’, with reference to the delivery being via webinar or learning portal.
- Webinars are growing in numbers but they’re not being classified as ‘e-learning’.
- Almost all of the more engaged, social or collaborative learning formats have drifted away from using the term ‘e-learning’ as their primary category.
- Video segments, also known as ‘Knowledge YouTube elements’, are growing in popularity but are rarely called ‘e-learning’.
- ‘User supplied content’ is also rarely called ‘e-learning’ now although, more often than not, it’s presented in digital format.
- Mixed and blended learning providers are also using the phrase ‘e-learning’ less frequently.
- Mobile and device-friendly learning programmes are more likely to refer to the mobility platform rather than ‘e-learning’.
- In many organisations, e-learning seems to have become associated with compulsory, compliance-based ‘check’ off programmes. Many learners don’t specifically associate ‘e-learning’ with performance outcomes.
Moreover, terms such as ‘e-commerce’ and ‘e-business’ have dropped out of common usage as the ‘e’ has been dropped. When people order a book on Amazon, for example, they don’t talk about it as an ‘e-commerce experience’. They just order it.
Comment: Elliott Masie’s first point – the 20 per cent decrease in overtly ‘e-learning’ job vacancies could be because there are fewer jobs about, courtesy of the current economic conditions, tightened budgets and so on. However all of the nine points he makes have the ring of truth – and could be equally applicable to both sides of the Atlantic, as well as elsewhere in the world.
Way back in the final years of the last century, when the term ‘e-learning’ was in its infancy, there was general agreement that the term wouldn’t last. It was said, then, that either e-learning would be subsumed into the general corporate learning tools armoury and, thus, would lose its ‘special’ nomenclature to just become part of ‘learning’ (which appears to be the case) or it would be superseded by other, more advanced means of technology-delivered learning. This could also be true, as mobile learning grows both in popularity and technological capabilities.
Faced with this situation, the key issues appear to be:
- Can e-learning specialists reinvent themselves to become specialists in several – or all – forms of corporate learning delivery?
- Can technology-delivered learning continue to maintain its own separate sub-sector of the corporate learning world?
- Will it be completely subsumed into ‘corporate learning’ – itself a sub-set of the HR/ training function – or will it ally itself with technology specialists, perhaps becoming a sub-set of the gaming/ virtual reality sector or even the web-delivered applications sector?
- What will the UK’s eLearning Network (eLN) – known as The Association for Computer Based Training (TACT) until 2000 – rename itself now?