Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The E-learning Paradigm Shift

“Never has an IT discipline held so much promise and failed so completely to fulfill its potential…”

I recall distinctly in 1999 when John Chambers, (Cisco’s CEO), proclaimed that e-Learning was the Internet’s Killer App and next big thing. I was working at Cisco at the time as part of their E-learning Architecture Team. I believed that message and was utterly convinced that nothing would stop us from proving it. I however, was wrong. Something did stop us and that something was the industry that sprang up and came to be known as e-Learning.

The e-Learning industry that arose differed from the vision that I had come to believe would allow learning to emerge as the Internet’s killer application. Much of that industry is still in place and is ever so slowly beginning to realize that the vision one adopts does make quite a difference in the resulting outcome.

The vision we need embrace is simple; e-Learning should be about a convergence of technology, philosophy and practice designed to liberate learners in the same manner that the Internet itself liberates users within a community of unlimited global discovery. E-learning is about trusting that people can in fact think for themselves and design their own learning strategies and learning paths.

Most importantly though, the true revelation behind e-Learning is this; learning does not end when school ends – in fact in many ways that’s when the real-world learning begins. Moreover, unlike at school, knowledge learned is relevant to your daily tasks, thus knowledge gained within your daily work paradigm can and should be integrated into the learning experience. Learning is the proactive mechanism by which all organizations add value to or receive value from knowledge – thus it should be at the heart of every enterprise IT solution, not as an afterthought but as the core driving process.

This represents a massive paradigm shift – one that will change the nature not only of the e-Learning industry but also for IT itself and the organizational cultures of any enterprise that adopts this paradigm. That is the vision that was missed – but we are fortunate, we can still achieve that vision. - Stephen Lahanas

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