We see more demand for Web 2.0 technologies in the e-Learning world. On the other hand, web sites are becoming more like knowledge centers for products, services and companies. They are expected to answer questions. Take for instance Wikipedia – where everybody can spread his own knowledge. An interesting development, the differences between the two worlds is becoming harder to determine.
Some personal history: Sana is part of a bigger company that has been developing web sites since about the time Internet became mainstream. Thanks to an acquisition in 2004, e-Learning became part of our company’s proposition. The target company, originally founded in 1985, was among the first in the world that used computers to train the employees of its customers. That acquisition was about six years ago, but still very little “web” people have feeling with what their “learning” colleagues are doing and the other way around. This is strange, since they share so much of the same technologies.
Let’s look at how e-Learning (or as it was then called Computer Based Training) evolved. In the beginning it was merely text, and as we all know, learning text from a screen is not as comfortable as reading from a paper, so there was no added value. The real power of e-Learning was unleashed when animations or even videos were included. Due to the lack of available bandwidth this was forming a constraint to go online, and Computer Based Training was mainly distributed on CD-rom and CD-I. At this point, a split between e-Learning and Internet became inevitable. Because who would have thought back then that 10-15 years later most of us have access to a 20mbit always-on internet connection at home?
It was only in the beginning of this century that e-Learning found its way back to Internet, when Shockwave and Flash made it possible to create lightweight interactive content and LMS’s slowly became mainstream. The LMS itself opened up portal functionalities it is still most used for nowadays. They were upgraded with forums, wiki’s and chat. From that angle, LMS’s can be seen as the first social networks, but on a smaller scale. One other big difference is that most people use social networks for fun, where an LMS always feels like an obligation to use.
I think the biggest asset of any network is the combined knowledge of its users, perhaps the best example being LinkedIn. By connecting corporate portals (intranet) to these networks, the LMS is starting to lose ground, as Jane Knight points out in this post. Especially when this network is sharing knowledge, answering questions and boosting innovation. There is still one weakness we cannot fully cover as of now; track-and-traceability of learners and their results. Sure, Google Analytics can cover parts of it (as can be read in one of our last blogs 1, 2, 3) but to analyze data, normalize questions and generate full reports, the LMS still fulfills a major role. But what if we would replace the SCORM API in any e-Learning course by an interface to a web service that in the background stores all interaction data – while learners are enjoying their social learning experience?
This means it will not only use web 2.0 technology and philosophies, it will even boost them. Maybe e-Learning 2.0 is the spark for web 3.0?!