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19 May 2005 / erikduval

eLearning Conference in Brussels: introductory plenary

At the eLearning Conference in Brussel, I arrived late for the opening plenary.

My good friend Wayne Hodgins did his usual great job of focusing on the important issues. To begin with, how do we plan if the rate of change keeps increasing and the impossible while we plan becomes possible before the end of the project? As an aside, Wayne encouraged us not to beat ourselves up for elearning not happening! Looking at it in a different way, most of us have learned something in the last 24 hours with technology!

Wayne emphasized that putting “e” in front of something, while continuing with old methods is not innovation: airplanes are not based on flapping wings! He then proceeded to talk about his “every-one-learning” vision. We are moving from any to every and that is progress. However, let’s remember that only 9.6% of world population has internet connectivity! Recent phenomena, like blogs and folksonomies are a start of mass contribution. Now, we need to get to customization and personalization. While concluding, Wayne mentioned that, according to him, Europe is leading in this field and we should persevere in our efforts…

Hans Ulrich Maerki from IBM referred to the 2001 La Hulpe conference that started a new wave of activities at the end of .com boom. He acknowledged that we have been too optimistic, and that resistance to change is strong. He was still optimistic though, and reminded us that bubbles have happened before: we should persever, because it will happen. However, we should stop protecting what has become irrelevant: we shouldn’t protect jobs, but people. (This left me a bit uncomfortable, as it may be a cheap excuse to slash jobs. However, I do think he has a point, in that we should not try to maintain what has become irrelevant – Wayne often refers to this as “perfecting the irrelevant.)

I was of course quite happy to hear Maerki emphasize the role of standards to realize learning infrastructure. He also mentioned that this should be service oriented, but I think that is less important: it would have been XML based 3 years ago and component based before, and it will be something else in 3 years. Anyway, that is a detail… Another good point he made is that innovation is not invention, but using technology in new way.

Mikko Salimen from Nokia mentioned the importance of quality, cost and speed. A very good question he raised related to metrics: how do you measure? Learner satisfaction? Hours in the classroom? In his view, we should measure whether we have increased employee engagement, whether we have acquired relevant competencies, etc.

Overall, I arrived late, but from the three above, only Wayne used technology to at least illustrate his presentation with technology. Would be nice to see more of us eat the soup we’re cooking…

In concluding, Roberto Carneiro, chair of the session had an advice for making progress: “let’s try to make out anxiety of survival stronger than our anxiety for change”.

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