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Thwarted eLearning research
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Wouldn't it be great if white papers and research reports came with ratings and commentary from readers?

I just wasted nearly half an hour reading Thwarted Innovation, What Happened to Elearning and Why. Some of this "study" is entertaining, for example the way they skewer Michael Moe for projecting a $50+ billion market which turned out to be $7 billion at best. Or there's the flimsy nature of the "evidence" the venture capitalists wanted so hard to believe.

The study, produced by Penn and Thompson, began with ambitious plans. To avoid remaking the mistakes of history, they would set up a dozen "weatherstations" to monitor what was going on. Once you're in the report, you find that the half-dozen weatherstations that were going to look at non-profits didn't come off. For-profit corporations were not observed either. The project couldn't recruit enough students on any of a half-dozen campuses to ask statistically valid questions.

Instead of field studies, the researchers decided to visit the websites of 262 eLearning vendors. (!) No trend data? Oh, the researchers did monthly Google searches for more than a year, entering things like "eLearning" and "LMS." They didn't look at the individual results, they toted up the number of times each vendor was mentioned.

Finally, after 60 pages of blather, the authors draw their conclusions. The first is:
Develop a Catalog of Lessons Learned. First
and foremost, the industry needs a catalog
of lessons learned. Our hope is that this
report represents a start in that direction.
The second is:
Map the Obstacles still to be Overcome.
Second, we will need a more realistic
mapping of the obstacles that must be
overcome—in terms of the technology itself;
in terms of assuring that universities in
particular become platforms of adoption as
well as sources of innovation and invention;
and in terms of achieving the market
conditions necessary for growth.
The bottom-line, final sentence:
The underlying information technologies on which elearning
depends are themselves too ubiquitous,
and the people attracted to having them serve
as learning platforms too smart, for us not to
take seriously the prospect that major changes
will flow from their efforts.
Oh, well, there is no truth. It's all academic.


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