I’ve been thinking a lot about conversations. Not small talk about baseball, weather or current events, but real conversations. Two or more people engaged in a collaborative discussion that allows all participants to walk away enriched.
It’s not surprising I’ve been thinking about talking. Our Fall 2004 CLO Symposium is coming up soon, and my most pleasing memory from the Spring 2004 CLO Symposium was observing and participating in fruitful conversations about learning and productivity, and strategy and technology. The Fall Symposium, Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs, Fla., promises more of the same. (For more information, visit www.cloevents.com.)
So, knowing what’s coming in a few weeks, I’ve been amusing myself in my spare time wondering what some conversational hot spots might be. I don’t fancy myself a futurist, but I know some of what’s coming. One topic I’m most interested in hearing debated is a perpetual one when learning executives gather: the benefits of e-learning and the management of classroom education.
Notice that I very carefully phrased that previous sentence to avoid the obvious this-versus-that comparison. There’s no doubt the classroom still dominates, and clearly some education initiatives always will be best-suited for face-to-face instruction.
But e-learning is unquestionably on the rise: Giga Research is one of many firms that have quantified that, predicting a 5 percent or greater growth in 2004, and more of the same for years to come. Closer to home, 38 percent of the Business Intelligence Board, CLO’s research panel of learning executives, expect significant growth in the use of training and e-learning vendors over the next two years.
Given all that, I’m not exactly climbing out on a limb when I predict e-learning will be on the conversational agenda when hundreds of learning executives gather to talk business. And if it isn’t, maybe this will help: I’ve recently seen a Forrester Research report warning about five e-learning mistakes. I wonder how many companies have managed to dodge these pitfalls:
- No top management buy-in and ongoing support.
- Boring and poorly developed content.
- Technology that is difficult to use and unreliable.
- A culture not receptive to or knowledgeable about the e-learning experience.
- Lack of e-learning objectives with measurable outcomes.
Those do sound like hazards, but like the sand trap, they’re easy enough to avoid with attention to detail and careful planning. I think the networking conversations at the Symposium will be less about falling into these traps and more about the clever avoidance of trouble that marks a successful executive, CLO or otherwise.
So in the spirit of getting that ball rolling, here’s what Forrester’s report recommended to pre-empt those five e-learning challenges:
- To ensure leadership support, start with an e-learning governance team that includes C-level representation.
- Pay attention to the content, ensuring it’s top-level quality and designed to keep the learner engaged.
- Work closely with IT to ensure the technology powering e-learning isn’t an obstacle to growth. The back-end should be just that, and the delivery should be seamless.
- Just because you build it, that doesn’t mean they will come. Make marketing the education a part of the plan and involve management at all levels.
- Make sure to measure the results, starting with a strong baseline and charting ongoing progress.
There’s a lot of food for thought here, and definitely something to chew over with your teams, your leadership and your peers. Feel free to include us in the conversation; share your thoughts on e-learning (or whatever else is on your plate) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m hoping to see you at the Fall 2004 CLO Symposium. Clearly, we’ve got a lot to talk about.
Editor in Chief