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An informal history of eLearning

  • Internet Time Group


eLearning: snake oil or salvation? Changes in the world are forcing corporations to rethink how people adapt to their environment. How do people learn? Why? What's eLearning? Does it work? This paper addresses these questions and recounts the history and pitfalls of computer-based training and first-generation eLearning. It traces the roots of CBT Systems, SmartForce, Internet Time Group, and the University of Phoenix. It takes a person to five years of TechLearn, the premier eLearning conference, from dot-com euphoria to today's real-time realities. The subject-matter here is corporate learning, in particular mastering technical and social skills, and product knowledge. The focus is on learning what is required to meet the promise made to the customer. While there are parallels to collegiate education, the author lacks the experience to draw them.
An informal history of
Jay Cross
The author
Jay Cross is the Founder of Internet Time Group, Berkeley,
California, USA and CEO, eLearning Forum.
Learning methods, Computer based learning,
Workplace training, Internet
eLearning: snake oil or salvation? Changes in the world are
forcing corporations to rethink how people adapt to their
environment. How do people learn? Why? What’s eLearning?
Does it work? This paper addresses these questions and recounts
the history and pitfalls of computer-based training and
first-generation eLearning. It traces the roots of CBT Systems,
SmartForce, Internet Time Group, and the University of Phoenix.
It takes a person to five years of TechLearn, the premier
eLearning conference, from dot-com euphoria to today’s real-
time realities. The subject-matter here is corporate learning, in
particular mastering technical and social skills, and product
knowledge. The focus is on learning what is required to meet the
promise made to the customer. While there are parallels to
collegiate education, the author lacks the experience to draw
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Intellectual capital has become more valuable than
hard assets. Networks are replacing hierarchy.
Time has sped up. Cooperation edges out
competition. Innovation trumps efficiency.
Flexibility beats might. Everything’s global. The
past no longer illuminates the future. We need
fresh thinking. eLearning was supposed to be the
Some of the material ahead is controversial. It’s
probably better to skip around than to plod
straight through. I’d prefer that you take away a
few things than that you read all the words. There’s
no test at the end. That reminds me of a story.
A group of Harvard students was given a paper
on urban sociology and told, “Read this. You will
be tested. A matched group across campus was
given the same paper and told, “Read this. It’s
quite controversial and may be wrong. You will be
tested. The second group did much better on the
test. Why? Because uncer tainty engages the mind
and the senses.
When you come upon an outrageous claim or
misspelled word, I may have done it on purpose to
help you learn. To engage your mind.
An informal history of eLearning
Forget about college, classrooms, courses,
curricula, credits, and the campus. We’re going to
chat about eLearning. This is corporate.
What is learning?
We really know very little about the process of
learning, how the mind works when learning.
We’re very good at pointing and naming, so we
have parts of the brain labeled synapse, neuron and
cortex, and theories about how it all somehow
works together and enables us to lear n, but
learning remains one of the life’s great mysteries.
That aside, in more practical terms, learning is that
which enables you to participate successfully in
your life and in the environments that matter to
you. Learning involves meshing new material into
what you already know. Learning creates neural
connections and rewires your brain. Successful
connections build knowledge to help you prosper.
Learning is a series of course corrections to keep
you headed in the right direction. Try, fail,
succeed, and try again. Learn. It doesn’t stop until
you die.
On the Horizon
Volume 12 · Number 3 · 2004 · pp. 103-110
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited · ISSN 1074-8121
DOI 10.1108/10748120410555340
Deep thanks to David Grebow, a visionary in
corporate learning, for suggesting numerous
clarifications and additions to the original
The same goes for organizations. When you
stop to think about it, organizations are no more or
less than a loosely-knit collection of brains. In a
very real sense, corporations have a corporate IQ.
It goes up and down (and is just waiting for
someone to come along and measure it!).
Regardless of the number, the organization learns
the same way you learn. Hopefully, the successes
outnumber the failures, and the corporate IQ
increases every year.
How do people learn?
One of the best ways to learn is social; we learn
with and from other people. We learn by doing.
Aristotle said, “What we have to learn to do, we
learn by doing, and Einstein echoed, “The only
source of knowledge is experience. (Aristotle
added, “We cannot learn without pain.”)
Confucius said, “I hear and I forget. I see and I
remember. I do and I understand. And I’ll add
that if I hear and see and do and then practice and
teach, I understand even better.
Why do people learn?
People learn because they have an innate desire to
excel, the promise of reward, the fear of
punishment, the lure of advancement, social
pressure, peer pressure, curiosity, a quest for
understanding, the satisfaction of
accomplishment, status, pride and more. You have
your own reasons which I’m sure you can name.
Corporations fund learning because they want
employees and partners to perform faster and
better, to create value through innovation, to beat
the socks off the competition and to make more
money. The value of learning is in the eye of the
What was eLearning?
Before anyone called it eLearning, in late 1997,
learning guru Elliott Masie said, “Online learning
is the use of network technology to design, deliver,
select, administer, and extend learning. In 1998, I
wrote, “eLearning is learning on Internet Time,
the convergence of learning and networks.
eLearning is a vision of what corporate training can
become. eLearning is to traditional training as
eBusiness is to business as usual. In 1999, Cisco
told us, “eLearning is Internet-enabled learning.
Components can include content delivery in
multiple formats, management of the learning
experience, and a networked community of
learners, content developers and experts.
What is eLearning?
Today, five years after I coined the term
“eLearning, we live in an e-world. Networks
facilitate virtually all learning. Most corporate
learning today is at least in part eLearning. It has
become trite to point out that the “e” doesn’t
matter and that it’s the learning that counts.
If you ask me, I don’t think the lear ning counts
for much either. What’s important is the “doing”
that results from learning. If workers could do their
jobs well by taking smart pills, training
departments would have nothing to do except
order the pills and pass them out. Executives don’t
care about learning; they care about execution. I
may talk about “learning” with you, but when I’m
in the boardroom, I’ll substitute “improving
performance. You can tell I’ve been away from the
campus for a while.
Heavier than air
The world you experience, the things you know,
the people you love? That’s your story. It’s all in
your head. It’s your reaction to the pulses and
waves your senses pick up. I don’t mean to debunk
the mind’s internal interpreter, for without its
intermediary filters and pattern recognizers, life
would resemble the lightshow sequence in
Kubrick’s 2001, a jumble of incomprehensible
overload and static.
Writing this, I’m in Seat 42G on Air France
Flight 083 from San Francisco en route to Nice. I
look forward to long flights. My seat is a sensory
deprivation tank, a great place to be alone without
jangling telephones, social obligations, online
temptations, or even a dog pleading for a walk. I do
my most creative work while strapped into a seat in
one of these ateliers in the sky.
I am ecstatic about going to Nice. A free stay
with friends in an exotic locale. Fresh sites, culture
shock, thinking in a different language, new tastes,
intriguing odors, bargaining in the markets, and
the joy of pushing outside of the complacenc y of
home. I expect to learn a lot. I always do when I
push outside my comfort zone.
That’s how learning happens. Outside one’s
comfort zone. Exposed to new things.
Incorporating them into one’s experience. Taking
life’s lessons and adapting them to make the world
a better place, and to lead a happier life. Challenge
yourself and your brain gets heavier with new
My flight is lifting off. Pre
parez-vous pour la
collage. French comes before English on Air
France. Another oppor tunity for reflection. And
for remembering that learning is a whole-body
experience. Hormones had me thinking that I was
to prepare for the de
colletage, but that’s something
different entirely.
The woman to my left, Denise, and I converse
briefly. She’s off to Barcelona, where her husband’s
attending a business meeting. I tell her Barcelona’s
An informal history of eLearning
Jay Cross
On the Horizon
Volume 12 · Number 3 · 2004 · 103-110
beautiful, that Spanish waiters regard a heart-felt
Estupendo!” more valuable than money, and that I
cour ted my wife just south of Barcelona while
Franco was still in power. Denise’s only other trip
to Europe was last year. To Nice. And she tells me
the walks above the town where restaurants cluster
along tiny, twisting streets, were superb.
Conversation gets right to the heart of the
matter, no matter what the matter is. It’s a
wonderful way to lear n. To bad it has been
banished from teacher-student dialog, stunting
learning and making schooling dull as dishwater.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d like to share a
bit of the history of eLearning.
The pre-history of eLearning
1984. George Orwell. The Mac debuts. CBT
Systems is founded. (CBT ¼ computer-based
Bill McCabe, an extraordinary Irish
entrepreneur, had come to America to pursue his
dream. The Irish tiger had not yet awakened, and
Ireland was too conservative to support venture
capitalists, IPOs, or entrepreneurs. So McCabe,
having failed to become European manager of a
software classroom-training firm in the UK, struck
out on his own and set up shop in entrepreneur-
friendly northern California.
His vision was to train computer professionals
with computer-based training, at the time a radical
idea. Customers no more thought they should pay
for training than today’s cybercitizens expect to
pay for content on the web. IBM and UNIVAC
and Honeywell and NCR and DEC gave away
training with the software they bundled with their
hardware. It all took place in a classroom. In the
mainframe world, you paid your entr y fee and got
what you needed. There was no incentive to pay
for training. McCabe had been turned down by
every major hardware vendor and was ready to
return to Ireland when he met someone who had
complex software but no hardware and
certainly not enough people to satisfy the need for
folks to learn how to use it.
Lotus Notes in Cambridge, Massachusetts
(pre-IBM) became the first CBT Systems
customer. Most of CBT’s software was written in
Ireland, the India of its day in terms of wages.
Training without the cost of instructors and
classrooms captivated the imagination of the
cyclical computer industry. Other vendors signed
up. After a while, CBT Systems offered computer-
based training for every major vendor’s software.
Because the vendors needed skilled customers
the day a new release appeared, CBT got an inside
look at new developments before they were
released in the market, a clear competitive
advantage. The firm fielded a superlative field sales
force. When CD-ROM became the new training
technology of choice in the mid-1980s, CBT
Systems converted all of its courseware to the
medium and set up a human factory for churning
out new titles. As the 1990s closed, CBT Systems
offered the broadest array of CD training titles of
any company in the world, more than a thousand
all told, more than 95 percent focused on IT
(Information Technology).
Corporations snapped up CD-based training
because CDs were dirt cheap compared to live
instructors. And IT was suddenly appearing
everywhere, an indispensable part of doing
business and staying competitive. The knowledge
of how to “do it” was in great demand.
In the late 1990s, rumors began to circulate that
the CD-based training courses weren’t living up to
expectations. You could visit the IT shop of a
company that had licensed the entire CBT
Systems library and find no-one who had taken a
course! Dropout rates were incredibly high. Most
people simply weren’t interested in learning alone,
sitting by themselves in front of a box that was a
cheap substitute for an instructor in a class. If they
got stuck or made a mistake, there was no one to
turn to. They missed fellow learners to coax them
on. The workshops they used to attend fended off
interr uptions. That worked better than learning at
their desks (amid continual interr uptions) or at
home (which was generally resented and often
accompanied by the distractions of kids, television,
and dogs to walk).
eLearning makes the scene
Greg Priest had become President and CEO of
CBT Systems in 1998 when the first cracks in the
CD model began to appear, and CBT Systems
missed its revenue projections. Greg is an off-scale
brilliant man, a former Wilson-Sonsini attorney
who had graduated top in his class at Stanford Law
School and clerked for Supreme Court Justice
Thurgood Marshall.
Greg had a vision of what would follow
computer-based training. The Web would replace
CDs. His model for the future was a project CBT
Systems had done for UNISYS. UNISYS had
figured out that it could boost revenues $10
million a year by accelerating the certification, and
hence the billing rates, of its computer services
staff. CBT Systems helped create UNISYS
University, which not only delivered content over
the Web, but also provided a personalized learning
portal, tracking systems, online newsletters,
discussions groups, and just about every other bell
An informal history of eLearning
Jay Cross
On the Horizon
Volume 12 · Number 3 · 2004 · 103-110
and whistle one could imagine at the time. It was
eight years ahead of IBM’s Learning On Demand.
Greg figured everyone would migrate to this form
eventually, just as e-commerce was morphing into
e-business in the larger business world. More and
more people in Silicon Valley were coming to
believe that it would be a web, web, web world.
Greg hired an EVP of marketing who had
started and sold a successful software company
and later managed major marketing efforts for
Novell. Luckily for me, the fellow knew nothing
about eLearning, so he entered “eLearning” into
Alta Vista, the search engine of choice five years
ago, and my name came up nine times, followed by
that of Cisco, whose chairman, John Chambers,
had just told the audience at Comdex that
eLearning was going to be so big that it would
“make email look like a rounding error. My career
as an eLearning consultant was launched.
Internet Time Group
In the late 1970s, having graduated from business
school in the East and migrated to California, I
took on a market research project for an outfit in
San Jose named The Institute for Professional
Development. They asked me to assess the
demand for an off-campus business degree
program. After talking with Foremost-McKesson,
Fairchild Semiconductor, Memorex and others, I
repor ted back that such a program would sell like
The Institute hired me to develop the
curriculum and then to sell it. I took a self-directed
crash course in instructional design, adult
learning, and small group process. I learned about
experiential lear ning and put together a series of 30
weekly workshops, the senior year of an accredited
BSBA program. The responsibility gave me
The program was adopted by Bank of America,
Fairchild, Ford Aerospace, NASA, IBM, Atari,
Stanford, and others. We were so successful that
we were run out of California by the Western
Association of Schools and Colleges (which
disdained for-profit institutions). I refused to move
to Arizona and left soon after we morphed into the
University of Phoenix. I’d learned a lot about
pragmatic education and experiential lear ning.
Today more than 200,000 students are enrolled
with UoP; annual tuition revenues exceed $1
In San Francisco, I joined a couple of friends in
the training business. We became quite successful,
capturing 80 of the nation’s largest banks and all of
the regulators as customers, winning awards, going
global, and thinking big. Like many a training
company, in the mid-1990s, we were seduced by
the lure of CD-ROM. We began pouring our
energy into building CD-based courseware.
It’s difficult to overestimate the impact of
CD-ROM on instructional designers. CD brought
realistic video to the desktop. You could immerse
learners in a mock scenario, branching to different
situations based on their decisions. Development
was costly but after that, variable costs were almost
nil. Our firm undertook millions of dollars of
development projects.
Then the Web came along. For me, it was love at
first byte. My intuition told me this was where
things were headed. I made a nuisance of myself
trying to divert some of our company’s limited
resources to the Web. There are some things you
can change, and some you cannot change, and
after 12 years, I had the wisdom to know the
difference, and left the firm.
I was still drawn to the Web as a moth to the
flame. I talked with Netscape, Cisco, Intel, and
anyone else who would listen. I wrote about the
coming convergence of learning and the Internet. I
coined the word eLearning (although I think a
number of us did so simultaneously; it was in the
air. Weboholic that I was, I posted my thoughts
about eLearning on the Web. “Information wants
to be free, said Stewart Brand. That’s how CBT
Systems found me in the top nine slots on Alta
The early days
CBT Systems had about 250 employees in early
1999, but aside from the Board and a few senior
officers, only a handful of us knew that we were
preparing to re-orient and re-name the company.
We drew the drapes in the conference room when
we met and used code-words. I was writing white
papers, FAQs, and positioning statements. A team
was prepping PR and logos. We wrote and re-wrote
brochure copy. I converted Greg’s initial vision
paper into a customer-ready overview of
In October 1999, Greg announced to the
analyst community that CBT Systems would
henceforth be known as SmartForce, The
eLearning Company. Simultaneously, customers
and employees at our offices around the world
listened to Greg’s webcast and popped champagne
corks. New signs went up. At the Online Learning
Conference in Los Angeles, I signaled the master
of ceremonies, Gloria Gery, who read the news to
two thousand participants. We distributed carton
after carton of brochures and gave demos from
CBT Systems’ tiny 10 £ 10 booth in the exhibit
An informal history of eLearning
Jay Cross
On the Horizon
Volume 12 · Number 3 · 2004 · 103-110
hall. SmartForce was the only eLearning game in
I’m always ready to learn but there are many times
I don’t want to be trained. Training is something
someone does to me; learning is something I do for
myself. To illustrate the difference, I sketch a
typical training situation with the trainer in the
center with the trainees aligned around him. We
know who makes the rules, manages the activities,
chooses the subject matter, and administers the
tests. In the corporate eLearning scenario, the
worker sits at the middle, surrounded by an array
of tools, or learning opportunities: Web, peers,
instructor, CBT, mentor, FAQ, help desk, etc.
The shift from trainee to worker was long
overdue, and would probably have come about
with the e-phenomenon. Democracy champions
the individual and rules the world. Remember
“Brand You” and “Free Agent Nation” and the
“Army of One” and the near worship of
entrepreneurs? All these are about promoting the
individual. People matter.
Learning isn’t content. Learning isn’t
infrastructure. Learning is a process of forging
neural links. It’s new thought being wired into the
brain’s network. Hard to believe, given that the
brain is a chemical soup shot through with
electrical charges, more closely resembling a hagg is
than a sophisticated network processor. eLearning
came along at the right time to embrace the
learner-centric view.
eLearning spreads
Come November 1999, Elliott Masie was relating
“best practices” of online learning at his
TechLearn Conference at Disneyworld. Elliott is a
master at cultivating and listening to good sources,
adding a bit of common sense, and playing back
the message in a convincing, some say charismatic,
fashion. Also, he’s a truly nice guy, almost as nice
as his wife Cathy.
TechLearn 1999 felt like Woodstock. We kept our
clothes on, but everyone was entranced. We were in
on the“secret knowledge”. It was as if our drinks had
been spiked with dot-com euphoria. There was no
limit to what we could do. Training would finally
garner respect. That’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T. No longer
the flea on the wagging tail of the corporate dog.
We’re going to change the world, man. Elliott told us
everything would be delivered via portals.
Flash forward to the ASTD International
Conference in Dallas in May of the following year.
From the signs on the bustling floor of the Expo,
you’d think every vendor was in the eLearning
business. In reality, most of them had invested in
little but new signs. The most tenuous connection
to the Internet was defined as “eLear ning. Some
vendors sent email notifications to people taking
CD-based training and called it eLearning. Others
offered a simple discussion board, called it
“mentoring”, and stuck on the eLearning label.
Dot-com delusions filled the air. Times were crazy.
In retrospect, so were we ...
A year later, TechLearn 2000 brought together
some people who’d actually tried to make
eLearning work. They’d found that unlike
classroom events, where you can tell who showed
up and give them a test at the end of the week,
learning in cyberspace was a little tougher to get
your arms around. Unless you were using
something like SmartForce, which was a “hosted”
(Web-based) ser vice, tracking was tricky. People at
TechLearn wore buttons that read “Looking for an
LMS” and “Strategy Anyone?” An “LMS” is a
learning management system. LMS come in a lot
of flavors. Some are simple registration systems.
Others track, deliver, score, bill, bookmark,
personalize, and wash the kitchen sink. Fees run
from $250 to $2,000,000. Everyone felt they
needed an LMS. Many spent their entire budget
on the LMS and found themselves with nothing
left over for training programs.
LMS madness (I think of it as the last gasp of
command-and-control organizations trying to
keep tabs on the unruly Web) covered over an even
greater difficulty. In some quarters, eLearning
wasn’t doing a whole lot better than CD-ROM
training before it. “Learning at the desktop” was
nerve-wracking because the phone didn’t stop
ringing, colleagues interrupted, and to the boss,
learning looked like goofing off. Companies
suggested taking the learning home, even giving
employees computers as encouragement, but this
created more resentment than learning. Same
wine, new wineskin.
It was high time for evaluation. A fellow with no
real-world experience had written his doctoral
thesis years earlier on evaluating educational
effectiveness. His four levels went from “smile
sheets, which are worthless in assessing outcomes
to “impact on the organization, which is out of the
hands of the training organization. Nonetheless,
people were fixated with these four meaningless
TechLearn 2001 featured lots of hand-wringing
over “ROI. If you’re going to blow hundreds of
thousands of dollars, maybe millions, on learning
management systems, courseware, more robust
An informal history of eLearning
Jay Cross
On the Horizon
Volume 12 · Number 3 · 2004 · 103-110
networks, and big bills from Andersen Consulting,
your CFO will want to know what’s up. The ROI
discussions at TechLearn were inane.
The only ROI people talked about was
accounting, the set of rules originally cooked up to
count merchandise being unloaded from ships in
Renaissance Venice and still doggedly holding on,
despite the fact that accounting values human
capital at zero and counts training as an expense
instead of an investment. Conference speakers,
some of whom I know to be otherwise bright
people, counseled trainers to go to their finance
departments to get an understanding of the Rs and
the Is. After that it was a simple matter of division.
What spectacularly bad advice!
It’s not as if eLearning had become a complex
capital budgeting exercise. Has any decision maker
anywhere ever bought something on the strength
of an ROI number, especially one presented by a
staffer? ROI is a hurdle, not a race winner.
Convince a decision maker you can deliver the
outcome at a reasonable price. It’s the likely
cost/benefit, not the ROI that counts. I’ve since
written a book on the topic (Cross, 2003).
9/11 cast a pall on TechLearn 2001. Some of the
Masie staff drove from Saratoga Spr ings to
Orlando. Only half the expected crowd showed up.
My personal opinion is that 9/11 put business
decision making on hold. It gave every potential
buyer a reason to defer. America went from shock
to mourning to indecision to procrastination.
eLearning thought its strategic role important
enough to protect it in stormy times. Not true.
9/11 derailed the eLearning train.
Jack Welch, recently retired from GE and on his
book tour, took the TechLearn stage. What’s the
business case for eLearning? “Building people,
increasing the organization’s intellectual capital.
It’s the ultimate competitive advantage. What
does it take for an organization to be successful?
“On a scale of 100, having the right people is worth
about 95 points. Learning technology is
important, too, but counts for maybe 3. Few
CEOs followed Jack’s lead, adopting eLearning as
an investment in intellectual capital. Across
corporate America, “People are our most
important asset” was poppycock to write about in
the annual report, not something to act on.
Cautious corporations began to evaluate
eLearning expenditures with business metrics.
After all, the travel and salary savings of virtual
training and meetings were a one-time
phenomenon, money that was cut from
subsequent years’ budgets. A research study by
Masie and ASTD found that two-thirds of
employees offered voluntary eLearning never
bothered to register. One third didn’t register for
compulsory eLearning. Many of those who did
register dropped out early on. eLearning left a bad
taste in their mouths. It was boring. Many people
have told me, “I tried eLearning; I didn’t like it.
They’re assuming that all eLearning is the same.
This makes no more sense than if I’d said, “I read a
book once; I didn’t like it. I don’t intend to read
any others.
A lot of eLearning was and is boring , rigid,
and irrelevant. People didn’t appear to be learning
anything. This is nothing new. A lot of schooling is
boring, rigid, and irrelevant, too. The yardstick of
success in school, grades, is not correlated to later
wealth, health, success, or happiness. This is
success? Ha!
In mid-2002, “Blended Learning” began
cropping up in conversation. At first, blended
meant computer learning + classroom learning.
People who had short-sightedly defined eLearning
as computer-only learning talked of combining
eLearning with live workshops. Some people
continue to define blended learning as a sandwich
made of alternating slices of computer learning
and live learning. More sophisticated practitioners
were saying the blend might contain chunks of
computer-mediated learning, classroom, lab,
collaboration, knowledge management,
apprenticeship, case discussion whatever mix is
the best way to accomplish the job.
TechLearn 2002 grappled with recession. The
tech sector had always been a mainstay of
eLearning, usually accounting for more than half
the business. Software evolves rapidly; you learn or
become obsolete. The world faced a shortage of
programmers and systems engineers. Computers
were great for teaching computing itself; what
could be more natural? So when the tech market
cratered and techies were no longer in demand,
tech eLearning faltered right along with it.
Ethics popped up on the TechLearn stage as a
group of Chief Learning Officers talked about
whether good training could have eliminated the
shenanigans at Enron, Tyco, Arthur Andersen,
and A senior learning officer from a
large bank said everyone had taken a refresher
course on ethical behavior. The CEO of a
community software company pointed out that, at
most, ten people at Enron had lied; the remainder
were among the most innovative, pioneering,
hard-working people in the nation. Paul Hersey,
the sage who invented Situational Leadership,
garnered a standing innovation when he observed
that people learn ethics at home, not in a course.
Designers deem a dress a success if people say
the woman wearing it is beautiful, rather than
complimenting the dress. Similarly, eLearning will
be successful when it fades into the woodwork and
is no longer noticed. That’s what we’re going
through now. Monolithic library publishers are
An informal history of eLearning
Jay Cross
On the Horizon
Volume 12 · Number 3 · 2004 · 103-110
dead or dying; SmartForce is no more. Companies
are pulling eLearning in-house, weathering
gruesome economic conditions by using what
they’ve got, even if it requires a lot of patching with
duct tape, rather than buying new stuff. The
doctrinaire, formulaic approach that mandated
total control with an LMS is loosening up.
Elaborate multimedia programs have been joined
by quick-and-dirty courselets and narrated
PowerPoint presentations. Is anybody learning
what they need to learn?
As I prepared to head back to Disneyworld for
TechLearn 2003, eLearning was in the doldrums.
The economy was down, the tech sector way
down. Attendance at eLearning conferences was
off 50 percent or more. eLearning magazine
decided to issue six issues a year instead of 12. Two
weeks later, they said they would become a
quarterly. I haven’t received an issue in four or five
months. Online Learning magazine has ceased
publication. Vendor revenues have declined.
Nonetheless, corporations are creating and
implementing more eLearning than ever before.
Many success stories aren’t reported by industry
analysts because they are “Home Depot learning”
lots of in-house projects and do-it-yourself jobs.
Some organizations are finally putting the
eLearning software bought in previous years to
TechLearn 2003 was more upbeat than 2001
and 2002. IBM’s Nancy DeViney said, “Learning
has become mission critical. Learning must
support overarching business goals. Learning is
part of the overall package IBM offers.
Elliott Masie told his audience that learning tech is
changing faster than its customers and business
units are making more training decisions. “We’ve
bought a lot of Lear ning Management Systems but
haven’t done that much Management of
Learning. IBM’s DeViney again, said “We believe
work and learning will become indistinguishable
over time.
eLearning is joining an array of tools to improve
business performance. Business metrics are
replacing training metrics. The success of an
eLearning initiative is measured in customer
satisfaction, quicker time-to-market, higher sales,
and fewer errors. eLearning is proving useful for
accelerating business processes;
making mergers work;
improving the productivity of sales channels;
helping customers become smarter buyers;
enabling vendors and partners to work more
closely and quickly;
accelerating the orientation of new employees;
bringing new leader s up to speed faster;
aligning the workforce with current strategy;
launching new products and services globally;
rolling out enterprise systems such as CRM
and ERP; and
documenting regulatory compliance.
As author William Gibson has noted, “The future
is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.
Many concepts in America start in New York or
Boston, San Francisco or LA and hop to the
opposite coast. Slowly, they migrate to the center
of the country, often taking years to make the
journey. eLearning follows the pattern. On the
coasts, “e” is a consideration whenever training
issues are discussed. In the middle of the country,
many companies are skeptical of the world beyond
the firewall, and doling out generic courseware
passes for eLearning.
Executives who cling to yesterday’s haphazard
means of developing their people suffer from
corporate dyslexia: they can’t read the handwriting
on the wall. In the age of information, learning is
the ultimate survival skill. Bright, knowledgeable
people with the mental agility and tools they need
to find out what they need to know and do are the
key to corporate success. In some ways, the more
things change, the more they stay the same. It’s
how we survived the predators on the savannah,
the ice ages, the shifting economic eras and more
to get here. Learning has always been humanity’s
ultimate survival skill. Corporations and industries
have replaced yesterday’s villages and tribes.
eLearning promises better use of time,
accelerated learning, global reach, fast pace and
accountability. It’s manageable. It cuts paperwork
and administrative overhead. But before you sign
the contract, remember that at least half the time,
eLearning fails to live up to expectations.
Skeptical executives
Your budding 16-year old daughter says she’s
going to take sex education at school and you’re
relieved, but she tells you she plans to participate
in sex training and you’re unnerved. Why? Because
outside of the world of education, you learn by
doing things. Even college is just academic: “I
would have changed my major if I’d known the big
philosophy companies wouldn’t be hiring this
Small wonder that executives hear the word
“learning, think “schooling, and conclude “not
enough payback. We need models to describe
learning that don’t dredge up the bad baggage of
schooling. This emperor needs new clothes. We
need to cross the chasm between “schooling” and
“learning in the workplace”.
An informal history of eLearning
Jay Cross
On the Horizon
Volume 12 · Number 3 · 2004 · 103-110
In researching my book Implementing eLearning
(Cross and Dublin, 2002), I interviewed dozens of
companies and concluded that the best “best
practice” of them all is to treat learners like
customers. This turns the tables on the traditional,
more formal and less personal, school model.
Imagine the teacher serving the student.
Knowledge is co-created, so we must keep the
individual an equal partner, not a “recipient.
That’s the direction in which we’re headed.
In the next issue of On the Horizon, we’ll address
the future of eLear ning ... and its customers.
Cross, J. (2003),
, Internet Time Group, Berkeley, CA.
Cross, J. and Dublin, L. (2002),
Implementing eLearning
Press, Washington, DC.
Further reading
Adkins, S. (2003),
Workflow Learning
, Internet Time Group,
Berkeley, CA.
An informal history of eLearning
Jay Cross
On the Horizon
Volume 12 · Number 3 · 2004 · 103-110
... It is believed that online learning platform for HIV and AIDS M&E would be more cost-effective and a more sustainable means of capacity building. Jay Cross, (2004) was the first to have introduced what is known as e-learning or web-based education in 1998. 8 Some researchers define e-learning and online learning as using web-based technologies to deliver content to improve knowledge and skills. ...
... Jay Cross, (2004) was the first to have introduced what is known as e-learning or web-based education in 1998. 8 Some researchers define e-learning and online learning as using web-based technologies to deliver content to improve knowledge and skills. 9 According to Rosenberg (2001), e-learning involves the use of internet platforms to carryout knowledge enhancing activities. ...
... The first two; Experience with Online Learning (OLC) and Internet usage (IU) precede Perceived usefulness (PU) and the final two; Internet discussion (ID) and Importance to success (ITS) precede Perceived ease of use (PEOU). 12 The proposed conceptual framework/model including eight (8) hypotheses is shown in Figure 1, and the basis of this model has been provided based on literature. ...
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Introduction: Ghana’s multi-sectoral approach towards the management of HIV and AIDS has resulted in many community-level activities and programs aimed at stopping HIV infections and reducing the impact of HIV and AIDS. This study seeks to investigate whether Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) officers in Ghana will be willing to join in an electronic learning platform which is web-based as a means of building M&E capacity. Methods: 123 out of 130 participants were involved in the study. Continuous and categorical variables were analysed using means and proportions. Structural equation Modelling technique was used to determine the factors associated with acceptability/intention to use. Results: The results showed that Attitude toward usage had a positive significant influence on acceptability/intention to use (AITU). In addition, experience with online learning and Internet discussion also had a positive influence on perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use respectively. The overall model shows 71% of variation of M&E officers’ attitude toward usage on acceptability/intention to use online M&E platform as observed by the covariates in the model. Conclusions: Attitude toward usage was observed to be the strongest determinant of the AITU online HIV/AIDS M&E platform for monitoring and evaluation activities.
... • El trabajo de (Cross, 2004) plantea que la efectividad de un sistema de aprendizaje está directamente asociado con la perspectiva y el conocimiento que el instructor o docente puede adquirir a partir de la opinión o el sentimiento del usuario o estudiante. Bajo este enfoque se usó la evaluación cualitativa para realizar minería de opinión 4 , con el objetivo de establecer la polaridad de los comentarios que se hacen al desempeño docente pudiendo establecer diferencias por facultades, actores, cursos e identificar la posible existencia de sesgos de género. ...
Conference Paper
La UNESCO ha propuesto en su agenda 2030 que la educación en el planeta sea de calidad y esté al alcance de todo ser humano; para cumplir con tal propósito, las instituciones educativas han explorado y aprovechado diferentes herramientas soportadas en las tecnologías de la información y las comunicaciones, constituyendo una alternativa para mejorar los procesos de enseñanza-aprendizaje. El auge de la smart education (educación inteligente) ha permitido la generación de gran cantidad de datos a partir del seguimiento a las actividades que realizan los actores académicos (estudiantes, profesores, administrativos e investigadores), los cuales son aprovechados para generar información valiosa mediante el uso de técnicas de inteligencia artificial (AI, artificial intelligence), analítica de aprendizaje (learning analytics) y analítica académica (learning academic); de esta forma se busca avanzar hacia una educación incluyente y de calidad. El ámbito académico es un ambiente ideal para aprovechar el potencial que ofrece la tecnología de la analítica de datos (data analytics) enfocada hacia la identificación de relaciones no evidentes en datos generados al interior de la institución educativa (admisiones, resultados de evaluaciones, notas finales de curso, contenidos curriculares, uso de plataformas académicas, encuestas o reportes, evaluación del desempeño docente, etc.) ) con el fin de generar indicadores de calidad, realizar la trazabilidad de los resultados de aprendizaje, formular planes de acción y soportar la toma de decisiones a nivel académico o administrativo. En este trabajo se presentan los resultados alcanzados mediante el uso de herramientas estadísticas clásicas, machine learning y Deep learning junto a procesamiento de lenguaje natural y análisis de sentimientos que caracterizó el desempeño docente en la Corporación Universitaria Autónoma del Cauca en el periodo 2018-2021.
... E-learning is an internet-enabled learning, it is the delivery of learning and training through digital resources like computers, tablets or phones connected to internet. Elearning use communication technologies to teach/train students /employee through various electronic media such as audio, video, multimedia, visualization technologies etc. [1]. E-learning is otherwise known as Virtual learning or Web-based learning. ...
E-Learning is the current trend that is gaining more significance post-pandemic, E-Learning has several distinctive features which has attracted many users across the globe, and there is a huge demand for E-Learning content. E-Learning is the delivery of learning material by any electronic gadget, and the communication channel used for the delivery of learning material is the World Wide Web. Currently, the content displayed on the World Wide Web is only understood by humans but not by machines, and in order to make machines understand the content and make intelligent decisions the World Wide Web can be replaced by the Semantic Web. In the current paper, SemELearn a Semantic Web-based E-Learning system is proposed that utilizes the underlying characteristic feature of the Semantic Web.
... There are numerous favorable benefits of these learning characteristics, including the learners' ability to effortlessly acquire new knowledge, abilities, habits, attitudes, and aptitudes during the learning process (McGrath, 2011). The proof of such learning features has been seen in various learning and teaching models proposed by worldwide educationists, including the lecture model, demonstration model, d-Learning models (used by Isaac Pitman; Brodsky, 2021), e-Learning based models (used by Elliott Masie; Cross, 2004), and blended learning models (used by Bonk and Graham;Graham, 2009). ...
Full-text available
Aim/Purpose The goal of this writing was not to promote any particular assessment tool. We aimed to critically explore the numerous assessment techniques that are accessible to app stakeholders with an emphasis on their strengths, shortcomings, and trustworthiness. We underline the importance of a relatively good and research-based tool that can readily assess the existing Learning Apps (LAs). Background A thorough and comprehensive literature review of LAs and their assessment tools was the primary goal of reporting the state of the art through this SLR (Systematic Literature Review) writing.
... These cost reductions were then passed on to the students, which assisted in making education accessible to a larger population. In the 2000s, companies started implementing e-learning programmes as a form of staff education and training (Cross, 2004). Workers of all levels now could increase their industry knowledge base and broaden their skill sets. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Learning is an ongoing process. Human beings learn in a variety of formal and informal ways throughout their lives. These modes of learning have undergone tremendous changes. The learning and teaching process has entered a new era of learning called e-learning. E-Learning is the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to increase access to education while also improving and transforming both teaching and learning experiences. It is a blend of pedagogical and technological innovations in education. The two key forces driving the move from traditional learning to e-learning are concurrent quality and cost-cutting pressures. Various proprietary and open-source solutions are currently paving the way for e-learning. These tools are used to develop a variety of online e-learning systems, including SWAYAM, NPTEL, Coursera, Udemi, edX, and others. These systems provide online courses as well as encourage and improve remote education and e-learning. This paper presents an overview of e-learning concepts, methods, and systems, as well as the impact of e-learning on education.
Full-text available
In the opinion of English language lecturers, the use of supportive technology makes students more willing to learn English outside of the classroom and improves their language proficiency. Participation in e-learning depends on students' e-learning readiness and the attitude of English language lecturers and human resources, such as students and lecturers, are the most important components of e-learning programs. This study is a cross-sectional descriptive study, and the population of the study included all students and English language lecturers at Ambo University Woliso Campus. The reliability of the Watkins and Mishra attitude questionnaires in the present study was confirmed by calculating Cronbach's alpha coefficients of 0.91 and 0.90, respectively. The lecturers’ attitude toward e-learning was 90% moderate to good and 10% negative. The mean score of lecturers' attitudes showed a significant positive correlation with the mean scores of computers and Internet connection skills (r = 0.48, p = 0.001). It can be concluded that the faculty members’ attitudes and student readiness regarding e-learning were at reasonable levels. Due to positive attitudes in universities about e-learning, it is recommended that instructors be taught continuously about technology awareness and how to acquire skills over time in e-learning so that the learning program can be optimally designed. Due to the increasing prevalence of the Covid-19 epidemic and the emphasis on distance education, it is recommended that infrastructure and other requirements be considered.
E-learning has turned into an undeniably significant instructing and learning mode in instructive organizations and corporate preparation. To guarantee that quality is settled in the use of innovation to accomplish instructive objectives, it is basic to follow the quality checking strategy all through the phases of e-learning asset plan, creation, and conveyance. From a pattern of training of endeavoring to assess numerous e-learning programs, one of the most serious issues has ended up being taking care of the quantity of factors which possibly influence on the viability of the program and concluding what are reliant, free, and unessential factors in a given circumstance. The evaluation of e-learning project has cultivated a more complete construction. This study demonstrates the authoring tool which is used to create the digital learning content and evaluation criteria, and how the quality of e-Learning resources is maintained, and finally the future development of digital learning resources.
User experiences in learning management systems often correlate to the pedagogy used by the instructor. In this chapter, the user experience in common ground scholar (CGScholar) will be reviewed, aligned with the dominant pedagogy of the new learning theory developed by Cope and Kalantzis, and explained from three perspectives: the learner, the course designer, and the instructor. Relevant connections between the interface and the pedagogy the interface affords will be highlighted, such as community learning, self-pacing informed by analytics, creation of artifacts within a complete network and review system, and the development of course modules that can be reused, shared, and repurposed by instructors. Additionally, the impact of the available rubrics, analytics, mapping tool, and peer review configurations will be explained and demonstrated.
This chapter examines the use of digital assessments and the development of higher order thinking skills (HOTS). A number of theories such as surface and deep learning, constructive alignment, and Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy of learning objectives, among many others, are used to help elucidate the importance of digital assessments in teaching, learning and assessments. Artificial intelligence (AI) is seen as contributing to shaping the provision of digital assessments in higher education and also the development of HOTS. Although digital assessments are becoming ubiquitous, the practice of traditional assessments is proving to be resilient due to limited innovation on the part of the educators. Continuous professional development is perceived as the key to the use of digital assessments that help to promote critical thinking among students. Innovative practices such as the use of the e-portfolios can enhance the development of HOTS.
Implementing eLearning
  • J Cross
  • L Dublin