Can Councils make money from e-learning?

I recently used Adobe Captivate for the first time to make a training module on Data Protection. What struck me about the experience was the following.

First, it was relatively easy to rewrite a policy into a series of PowerPoint slides (which is good way to convert to Captivate) to an interactive module.

Second, any module will need to be fine-tuned to make it look and feel professional. Working with a good digital editor, or a lot of extra time, would polish it into something marketable. There are options to add videos as well as voice-overs within the slides. The options are quite extensive if the subject lends itself to using multimedia or voice-overs.

Third, any module is only as good as it is used. Therefore, extensive user testing will be required to refined its fit.

Fourth, the modules can be interspersed with quiz slides to test learning and enhance understanding. All of these are only the technical requirements, what made it interested was the opportunity it may afford to local government.

What makes this interesting is how easy it was to turn an existing policy into a training module. Given the cost of procuring external training or training modules, something like Captivate (there are other packages available) allows a Council or an organisation to leverage its own internal knowledge base into training and awareness modules. Yet, this is only one part of the potential from e-learning created by the social media opportunities. The wider opportunity is selling and marketing that training to other organisations. For example, a large council could create basic training or awareness modules on all sorts of subjects for its parish councils in the area. They could be sold for a nominal price £15 or licensed for use. To be sure, the goal is not to make money but to offer a lower priced alternative to training by external providers. Aside from the economic question, there is a further wider question to consider.

How far will e-learning take us in developing knowledge workers within local government and the public sector? If 73% of BT staff prefer to learn from their colleagues, it suggests that there is an untapped market within organisations for training and awareness e-learning generated by staff.

The issue is one that the private sector examines so that they can leverage their workforce and reduce costs of replacing staff because it is less expensive to retrain that it is to recruit. For example, BT developed a programme for sharing learning content.

http://www.towardsmaturity.org/elements/uploads/Towards_Maturity_BT__Atlantic_Link_-_Accessibility_case_study_Final_Nov_2008.pdf

At the same time, there is an opportunity to engage staff and to develop leaders based upon such work.  For example, staff could be recognised for their expertise on a subject.  Also, it would be a way for leaders to be developed as social networking and use of social media becomes an important leadership trait for future leaders within an organisation.  One successful module is not going to make someone the next Chief Executive, but it may help find staff with an initiative or enthusiasm to develop and expand their skill set within the organisation.

The question though is whether certain industries benefit more from e-learning or lend themselves to it. At the same time, does e-learning require a certain type of learner? To be sure, no one would say one size fits all, yet e-learning and social media are in some ways methods that lend themselves to a different type of worker or at least a different approach to work. The knowledge worker, a term often overused or inappropriately applied (http://www.slideshare.net/trib/knowledge-worker-20), suggests a type of worker that would select this approach. If this is the underlying trend (e-learning and knowledge workers) and public service is become a knowledge intensive business (as it takes on a more regulatory and commissioning role) then what does this mean for employee learning?

The dare2share work at BT suggests that employees benefit from this type of approach to learning and it provides benefits for the company. http://www.towardsmaturity.org/elements/uploads/BT_-_next_generation_learning_at_work_case_study__Final_20_march_09.pdf

A couple of challenges, though, remain as the learning needs to be deepened and developed if it is to help to educate an employee. For BT, this may not be a problem, but for smaller local authorities, the number of staff limits the pool of expertise. Second, the knowledge developed internally will reach a point of diminishing returns. Even teachers have to learn from someone else. Thus, the challenge is to find new teachers or go wider than the organisation for the learning. In that sense, there is a need to find a way to overcome the push-pull dilemma. How to push knowledge to those who are not yet demanding it and creating knowledge for those pulling it. There has to be a dynamic learning system that can cater to more than one approach and one type of learner.

The tipping point, or the unresolved transition point is when awareness tips over to become learning and development. In a sense, when does information become knowledge? There are no easy or immediate answers to this question, but it does suggest that the e-learning is now reaching a point of a critical mass because the tools and techniques are scalable and affordable.

I would be interested in your views and experience with this type of e-learning and whether you think it will develop further in your organisation.

(Large sections of this post were inspired by work done by Dave Briggs (see in particular http://davepress.net/2011/05/17/knowledge-worker-2-0/ and http://davepress.net/2011/07/10/social-knowledge-and-learning-at-bt/

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About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
This entry was posted in elearning, information management, knowledge worker, local government, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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