Friday, October 10th, 2008
The new 360 report by the e learning guild on e learning 2.0 has some fantastic data on what and who is driving the adoption of web 2.0 tools in e learning. I’ve been trying to make sense of the data, especially in relation to other reports that have just come out like the BECTA report on web 2.0 in UK schools I wrote about yesterday, and the Technorati survey of the blogosphere from a few weeks ago, which suggested that there were a significant number of older bloggers, with more than 50% of those in the USA and Europe over 35. All these reports make significant issues of the age issue, and made me question who is driving e learning 2.0, younger workers coming into industry with facebook accounts or older e learning specialists who have been using email and macs since before many of these digital natives were born??
The E learning 2.0 report was authored by some big names in the industry, including Tony Karrer, Michele Martin, Jane Hart, Steve Wexler and Brent Schlenker; and is based on almost 3,000 replies from e learning professionals who are members of the guild. Overall, the whole membership is completely sold on the idea that e learning 2.0 works, with almost unanimous feeling that it had delivered substantial benefits to their organisation. Europe, Middle East and Africa are significantly further down the web 2.0 line than the rest of the world, with 57% reporting some use of e learning 2.0 compared with 39% in the US and 40% overall. (I have to say it would ahve been much more useful if europe had been separated from the middle east and africa to get a more nuanced view of adoption)
One key set of conclusions that seems to be buried at the back of the report if the ranking of web 2.0 tools in use by sector, which is topped by business e learning training providers followed by universities. However, if you look at this data a bit more carefully, you see that in the key areas of growth in web 2.0, blogs, wikis and, universities are way ahead and leading the pack by a substantial margin, with Europe and Asia/rest of world leading the way by a significant margin over the USA. Corporate e learning providers make massive use of electronic performance systems, learning games and simulations, which greatly increases their overall score.
So this got me thinking, who is driving the adoption of e learning 2.0? To me it seems that universities and higher education, especially in outside of the USA, are playing a key role as the transitional zone between the workforce and companies, and are effectively giving the students who are coming from schools with a good grasp of the social networking tools that are out there but as the BECTA report noted, no real critical awareness of what these tools can do to enhance understanding and knowledge, and without the ability to evaluate and assess them effectively. Businesses, according to the guilds report, see the pressure from new younger staff to adopt web 2.0 as a major driver of the need for e learning 2.0, with 66% of respondents citing this as a major factor for them. 57% felt that Using web would allow their organisation to attract more and better talent. However, half felt that their staff didn’t have either the skills or the infrastructure to enable web 2.0 activities, and half felt that there want any real demand from staff to adopt them anyway. so there is a misfit between schools an industry, a misfit that higher education perhaps needs to bridge.
In terms of what guild members saw as the engines of adoption, 52% felt that their own personal use of tools was the most important factor, with only a third claiming that Learners or staff are requesting it, and just 25% that it was management driven.
Where it gets very interesting is in examining what members felt were the most effective strategies to drive forward the implementation of successful projects, with half citing engaging content as being the most important, and just less than half seeing management backing and tutoring as vital. Things like reward systems, helpdesk and internal advertising showed a poorer response, with less than 20% seeing them as significant. However, when the figures are broken down by length of e learning experience, a different picture emerges, with 44% of older, more senior specialists maintaining that effective change management was the most important thing.
One very interesting and slightly counter intuitive point is that the more experience a member has the more likely he or she is to embrace new approaches to education, with older members of the guild showing a higher propensity to use things like blogs, wikis, social networking and communities of practice.
So trying to make sense of this it seems to me that the real driving force behind e learning 2.0 is the e leaning community, especially its’ older, more established members, people like the team that put together the guild’s report, people with the significant important blogs, people like my fellow participants in the work literacy workshop, people who are in high enough positions within their organisations to effect change but not so high that they don’t have the time to experiment with web 2.0, to try it themselves and as Jane Hart maintains, lead by example. Within this, higher education is playing a key role in helping workers navigate the transition from using facebook and myspace as predominantly for entertainment, to using them for learning, understanding, knowledge production and analysis.
This certainly fits with my experiences of trying to move my institution forward, most of the growth has been grassroots, driven by individuals at course director level who are in their late 30’s to 50’s, and who have always used technology in their lives. They are now in positions where they can influence eat least the courses around them and drive forward the adoption of new ways of thinking, teaching and learning; management tend to be the generation above who haven’t the time nor the incentive to grapple with the tools, but are more than happy and supportive for us to do so. Slowly we are shifting though out of the e learning pocket into an e culture, where the tools that seem so new today will merge into our lives as seamlessly and ubiquitously as the internal combustion engine, the book, cell phones and the internet itself.