Question: Can you tell us about a specific company where you know e-learning has been implemented?

Elliott Masie: I'll give you two, one a government example and one a corporate example.

The government example is the U.S. Department of Defense. The current military situation in Afghanistan is a perfect example of how intensive e-learning is taking place. You can't train somebody for a vague mission. What we're seeing is that people get trained to a certain level, and the final training takes place on the plane, in the tent in the field, at the base, and sometimes even through a handheld device. The military is a walking example of the sense of learning empowerment that is being felt.

A year and a half ago, I toured a submarine with the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and the captain of the submarine said that the schedule there is that the sailors are on duty for ten hours, they sleep for a couple of hours, and they eat for an hour. And then they don't have anything to do. In the old days they watched video games, but now most of them are taking classes—whether it's training about equipment on board or classes for pursuing a community college degree back in Virginia. So I think they are really a walking example of this learning empowerment you get with e-learning.

Here's my corporate example, in the pharmaceutical sector. There are at least four organizations right now that have changed, or are changing, the footprint for the training of new-hire sales reps, and the footprint of new-product launch training, both of which were extremely cost-intensive, residentially-based boot camps, lasting from three to five weeks. The boot camps still happen, but they are a much smaller footprint and they are incredibly more scalable, both globally and regionally. The bulk of the knowledge transfer is happening through asynchronous and synchronous online and distributed events.

Question: With regard to e-learning, do you think the impact on medium- and small-size companies is different from that on large companies?

Elliott Masie: The small companies haven't really stepped up to it for the most part. Part of it is that the marketplace is not really understanding their needs. The average small company is less likely to be tracking this, and the only arena that they are likely to be doing e-learning in is IT training, and the odd soft-skill training.

I think medium-size companies are doing it even better than the really big companies, sometimes, I think, because the medium-size companies want to act like big companies in a lot of ways.

But I think the market still has to figure out what the small-size company needs.

Question: How should companies get started with e-learning?

Elliott Masie: I think there are three things they should do.

One of the things is to ask the question "What training have we never been able to do in classrooms?" Not "What's our most popular training?" But what's something we never got around to. Then look for some off-the-shelf e-learning content that they can buy from a third party and start to apply as an optional or required piece. Say "You've always wanted training on X, and here's a way to do that."

The second thing I would look at is the use of instructor-led virtual classroom experiences, because you can get to that quickly. You can get a tool from IBM or another vendor, and you get one of your subject-matter experts and you can start to provide e-learning that doesn't require a lot of authoring.

I think the third is going to take a little longer. And that's to look for something that's going to drive a little revenue or significantly cut back expenses. I am convinced that for driving revenue the way to go is to look at those things that speed time to market for selling, or will speed time to deploy for new hires. And I'd pick a small project with high revenue impact, something that is closely related to observable revenue gains or significant cost impacts. Now along the way they are going to need a strategy and an infrastructure, and all that good stuff, but this way will give them a proof of concept and get them buy-in pretty quickly.

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