For many years, perceived wisdom – whatever that may be – has stated that the European markets for corporate e-learning are strongest in the UK and the other northern European countries, notably Germany and France. Corporate e-learning was said to have not made the same mark in the southern European countries – mainly Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.
Learning Light’s findings about the European corporate e-learning scene, published at the end of last year and summarised at http://www.e-learningcentre.co.uk/, tend to confirm this generalisation. Learning Light’s figures show that the UK e-learning industry is currently worth some £472m a year, while the market in France is currently worth £375m, and, in Germany, £242m. These three markets are easily the largest single corporate e-learning markets in Europe.
Yet it would be wrong to think that e-learning in southern Europe is neither sophisticated nor well used. Figures have just emerged from Italy that just one project – the Training Innovation Research and (job) Orientation (TRIO) project, a web-based learning system in use in Italy’s Tuscany Region since 2002 – has now delivered over 550,000 courses to some 195,000 users. Moreover, some 65,400 people used the system last year.
Indeed, TRIO is proving not only popular but useful and so, according to Gianni Biagi, Training and Orientation Director for Italy’s Tuscany Region: “We’re now involved in similar, on-going projects with other Italian regions – such as the Marche region, which is working on de facto implementation of the platform, and with Emilia Romagna, where there is collaboration based on knowledge sharing. Moreover, we’ll soon be announcing the Tuscany Region’s participation in the Copernicus Project, launched by the Province of Bolzano.”
TRIO provides free, on-demand job skills related learning materials. This not only helps individuals develop their work-related knowledge and skills but it helps companies to establish and maintain a competitive edge – especially in the light of increasing international competition and the continuing, challenging economic situation.
“In Tuscany, the use of learning technologies is playing a major role in helping people and organisations to improve their performance standards and more than meet European standards in professional qualifications,” commented Fabrizio Cardinali, the Chair of the European Learning Industry Group (ELIG) and CEO of eXact learning solutions, North America, which is one of the Tuscany’s technology partners in the TRIO project.
“TRIO meets the growing demand for training, providing opportunities for re-training, knowledge increase or re-orientation, to ensure the business skills needed to succeed. In this, it contributes to the creation of an integrated regional system of education, training and work,” explained Gianfranco Simoncini, the Tuscany Region’s Minister for Education, Vocational Training and Labour.
Spurred on by increasing competition in international markets, European companies know they need to keep their workforces learning – because only by working smarter can they can beat off competition from the world’s fast growing economies. Moreover, there are signs that the people of southern Europe are keen to take a lead in embracing the possibilities of personalised, contextualised mobile learning – delivered to a range of devices – rather than use what has become known as ‘traditional’ (albeit ‘web 2.0’) computer delivered e-learning.
In parts of Africa there are similar signs – although these are driven by the accessibility of mobile phones, compared with the often unreliable electricity supplies to computers. In southern Europe, the attraction of mobile devices for learning – over traditional computers – might be the ‘cool look and feel’ attached to learning in this way. Whatever the reason, e-/mobile learning is on the rise in Italy, along with Spain, Portugal and Greece – and this learning is meeting both individual and corporate needs.