The Time Has Come – Digital Learning

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I don’t know about you, perhaps you have never seen it. Or paid attention to it.  Or even realized that the term means one thing and yet vendors (some) see it in a different way.

I’m referring to e-learning. 

As I have stated before in numerous past posts, e-learning is an umbrella term (and always was designed to be that way) for anything online, including LMSs and their subsets, authoring tools, web conferencing, online learning tools often stated as e-learning tools and so forth.

The problem though is that too many  LMS (including subsets) vendors for whatever reason (some times I think they just don’t know or care to know) list within their system the term “e-learning” when referring to an online course.

WBT Fact Time

The actual term to refer to online courses is WBT: Web Based Training.  You see prior to WBT, there was this little thing called CBT aka Computer Based Training. 

CBT was not designed nor created to go online.  After all,  a CBT course could go up to 640mb, and with a modem speed of 12.2KBS, you would still be waiting right now to see that course (plus or minus a few years).

I remember accessing an “online course”, in 1999.  Yep, slow speed, but back then everyone was stoked about their slow speed, because we saw it as fast (clearly we were all suckers).

The point is, that e-learning was born the moment folks could take a course online.  Nowadays however, there are some within the e-learning community that seem to have a revisionist history. 

Those people see e-learning to mean electronic learning and therefore, having a course in the sixties on a mainframe, was e-learning.

Of course this is totally erroneous, but hey if that is what makes you happy, go for it.

Getting back to the whole WBT, it was widely used to represent training in the corporate space.

LMSs back then used the term “online” courses or web courses and I can’t recall anyone using “e-learning” to mean “online course”. 

It was always the umbrella term.  Heck it is still today, but that time…

Digital Learning

I, yes I, who has always fought to the end that term e-learning should not be used in an LMS to mean an online course, has come to the realization that something has to change.

Not that this is just about a bunch of folks who are using the term in the wrong manner. 

Rather it is based on several factors, which I see happening online and offline when it comes to learning and training.

  • Technological advances:  Virtual Reality is coming, well in a sense for some places in higher education and even corporate (lucky folks who get to have it), it is either here or on its way in just a few months.   Full VR usage won’t be in 2016, nor do I see it as everyone is using it in 2017.

Other tech advances that exist today or on its way include, augmented reality – which has been around for years, but with the Pokemon Go craze, it is like a “light bulb” came on for the industry.

 I’ve always been a fan of AR and what it can do, especially when integrated with some social functionality.

Internet of Things. It’s already here. The issues is how often is it being utilized not just in consumer marketplace, but in our case in learning.  I know of one vendor who says you can see their courses on an Apple smartwatch.  Thank you, Ill pass on that.

Switching just a second back to VR, Microsoft Lens, I believe can have a strong impact in our industry, once it rolls out and is used not just by the early adopters.

Other tech advances include gesture free capabilities with your desktop, laptop and tablet/phablet/2to1.  I’ll add speech capabilities too including “voice recognition within a mobile app, similar to a “Siri”experience (already one vendor has it in play, but is not using it to its full potential).

I could see voice as the answer to authoring tools, move this here, this there all by my voice.  And the best piece is that it is multilingual.  Which I hope that down the road, the voice recognition mobile app per se is multilingual too.

  • Usage – Game based learning.  Fun games that people want to play.  Take Pokemon Go for example.  It is unreal how hot is this game.  Forget the fact that people are spending hours walking around to find these characters.  What they are doing is getting engaged. 

The downside to the game is that there are people not paying attention to their surroundings.  Examples include falling off a cliff (they are ok), driving your car up on a curb, getting into accidents and walking into dark and scary places at 3 a.m.

But the game showcases to me what is possible with a game that folks would want to take and play (minus all the bad and not paying attention items).

  • Using online materials as a form of training and learning.  I know of people who have no issue with their learners going to YouTube to find videos they can watch as a form of skills building.  While we can debate whether that is a smart move, and I have concerns about that, there are individuals that see that as a stage of learning. 
  • Reading ebooks, digital interactive textbooks both of which can be used offline too.  Accessing news sites for up to date information.  Going to other net sites to find reference data or insight or who knows as a matter of content capturing.
  • Playing and using apps.  Some go right into the net and you need the net to play them or use them, others you don’t and even one like Zinio you download the magazines you purchased and read offline. 
  • Cutting the Cord – There are many of humans out there who have cut the cable cord and moved straight online.  Maybe they are using Roku or Fire Amazon TV or some other type of device.

Or maybe they just access the net and search for free channels. 

But there are people doing it and when you think in that way, the usage of video based courses which are moving quicker into the market, will change and already has with ideal VBT being two to three minutes in length.  

  • Amazon Echo and similar devices out there –  Potential game changer in my mind.  Consumer world I could question that, but a lot of people use them and love them.  To me, though its potential is a few years away for a total impact into what I now see as the digital learning industry.
  • Robots.  They are here and yes while they are not human looking and I strongly doubt you will see them anytime soon in a corporate environment, it does show a hint of what might be here in a couple of years for the corporate L&D (those who can afford them).  I honestly have no idea on how awesome or crummy they will be that is for future tech to decide.
  • AI – Artificial intelligence.  Right now, you can experience parts of it with some vendors via deep learning (aka in the consumer market as machine learning).  However, I see its possibilities in empowering other digital devices to gain insight or information on your learning mechanisms and then creating new learning paths via OJT (because people still use it) or for those who cannot give up ILT, change the way even they learn from there.   I mean think of AI with a touch of AR including social and VR.   Yowsa.

What I am saying

The terms we all know so well:

An LMS? Under digital learning.  Authoring tool? Digital learning.  Reading an ebook or watching an employee video (and falling asleep doing it) offline?  Digital learning.  VR headset? Digital learning.

I don’t expect the industry to just switch from the term e-learning to digital learning. 

E-Learning is highly and widely used and one that still has a lot of miles to go on it. 

Bottom Line

I realize that with current learning tech, e-learning is adopting. With future tech, online learning will modify to such a degree that it will change. 

Technological devices such as VR will play a role (small at first).

At some point to have an”interactive” and “social” experience, you will go online (via a variety of tech options including mobile), but offline will still be available.

That said, I’m not recommending you open your drawers, look thru your cabinets to find a ViewFinder and start using that again.

Nor am I saying that ILT is back and let’s all use it – because I’m not and it isn’t. (Time to retire ILT and take any remnant of an eight track tape with you.)

What I am saying thou is that this digital experience to learning takes e-learning and mixes it a bit with technological devices (now and in the future).

A brave new world?  Perhaps.

But a digital learning world for sure.


 E-Learning 24/7 (and just FYI – the blog and my Linkedin group, will still be called E-Learning 24/7)






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