PLEASE REFER TO THE PRINTED ARTICLE AND CITE IT AS FOLLOWS:
Kalbaska, N. (2018). Mapping e-learning courses in the fashion domain. In J. Li (Ed.) Fashion Futures. 20th Annual
Conference for the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes. Shanghai (China), 426-443.
Mapping E-Learning Courses in the Fashion Domain
USI-Universita' della Svizzera italiana, 6900, Switzerland
*Corresponding author’s email: email@example.com
Flexible, inclusive and accessible provision of education and training online can provide a supportive learning
environment to the students studying fashion with the help of blended, flipped classes or online courses. Also the
employees working in the fashion domain might be exposed to the on-the-job training activities through e-Learning
courses for instance on learning about corporate history, culture or new safety regulations.
This research investigates the role of new media in education in the eld of fashion, harvesting existing online courses
and categorizing them according to subdomains so to provide a clear overview of the field. More than 60 available
online training platforms related to the fashion domain are analysed. Results may be considered as a rst picture of the
e-Learning domain related to the fashion industry.
Keywords: fashion training, fashion education, e-Learning, online courses, digital training, MOOCs
The latest expansion of the internet is having an extraordinary impact on the educational processes worldwide, as
it transforms training contents, instructional design as well as educational curricula. Specifically, due to the main
characteristics of it: enhanced interactivity and connectivity, it has allowed the internet to be described as a global
educational platform. The internet enables students of different countries and employees of different industries to
receive and interact with educational materials online, as well as engage with tutors and peers in the ways that has never
been previously possible.
The benets of e-Learning have been widely discussed including reduced educational cost, consistency, timely content,
convenience and the effectiveness of a training delivery (Cantoni et al., 2007; Lorenzetti, 2005; Rosenberg, 2001).
e-Learning is believed to be one of many methods of the training and learning procedure which allows exible learner-
centred education (Lee & Lee, 2008). According to Johnsson (2005), e-Learning moves traditional instructional
paradigm to learning paradigm, which gives more control over selection of the training materials and training delivery
methods to the users – current or potential learners. The use of technologies for training provides consistency of both
learning and teaching can be faster than traditional learning, and if well exploited, can be tailored to the individual needs
of the users.
Fashion industry is a domain in which Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are having great impact on
all levels, from the changes in the business models, to the use of technology in the textile productions, to the growing
importance of digital channels for online communication of the fashion brands, up to the integration of the e-Learning
techniques in the training processes. Flexible, inclusive and accessible provision of education and training online can
provide a supportive environment both to the students studying fashion as well as to the current employees of the
industry. Fashion industry is therefore a relevant domain in which to study the role of e-Learning, its usages, possible
future developments, best practises and failures.
This research investigates the role of new media in education in the field of fashion, harvesting online courses and
论文集.indd 426 2018-3-30 19:27:58
categorizing them according to subdomains in order to provide a clear overview of the eld. More than 60 available
online training platforms related to the fashion domain are analyzed. Results may be considered as a rst picture of the
e-Learning domain related to the fashion industry.
European Union have dened e-Learning as “the use of new multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the
quality of learning by facilitating access to resources and services as well as remote exchanges and collaboration”
(Commission of the European Communities, 2001, p.1). E-Learning does involve the use of ICTs in education and
training, but might also mean the capacity to transform education and training through the use of ICTs.
The importance of training in the new information economy has been highlighted in the academic literature as well as in
the industry reports. Currently the value of intellectual capital, employees’ skills, their competencies and knowledge, is
greater than any other form of business capital, and can help to drive crucially competitive advantage of any company
or industry globally (Bell & Federman, 2013).
e-Learning is playing a crucial role as a learning and teaching tool, starting from its use in the formal education practises
by the academic institutions, up to its adoption in the provision of knowledge to current employees of the companies in
various economic sectors. Banks (Karadimas & Rigopoulos, 2006; Welk et al., 2006), insurances and pharmaceutical
corporations (Schweizer, 2004), IT companies and governmental agencies; tourism and hospitality enterprises (Cantoni
et al, 2009; Sigala, 2002; Kalbaska, 2012) are using e-Learning platforms in order to keep their current staff updated or
to give initial training to those who are just joining the company.
The employees of the Small and Medium Enterprises do use e-Learning courses in order to upgrade their knowledge
as they appreciate exible mode of training and a possibility to study from their home or ofce. Companies that have
large and spread distribution chains use online trainings to educate their sales teams on the latest product developments
without an actual need of organizing in-presence training sessions, thus saving on their training costs.
With its benecial features, such as cost-effectiveness, delivery-efciency, self-management of learning, on-demand
training, anytime and anywhere availability, e-Learning is to a greater extent acknowledged as an important supportive
structure for both formal and informal learning at the working place (Rosenberg, 2006). According to Zornada (2005,
p.14), e-Learning from the company point of view, is a “revolutionary way to empower workforce with the skills and
knowledge the company needs to keep a balanced performance within a rapidly changing international market”. As
organizations globally are trying to enhance their competitiveness by regular promotion of continuous (or lifelong)
learning and enhanced training culture, e-Learning continues to grow in popularity as its helping organizations to meet
their strategic goals and needs for a exible, well-trained and well-educated working force (Longworth, 2013). In fact,
e-Learning can be more effective in improving knowledge and skills due of its more personalized nature.
The impact of the ICTs on the fashion industry has been recognized and investigated as a one of the major changes
within the domain in the last decade. From the structural changes in the business models; to the use of technologies
in the design and production of the fashion goods; to the use of ICTs in marketing; up to the e-commerce and the
enhancement of the offline shopping experience thanks to the integration of the technological items. Poor attention
though has been paid so far to the role played by new media in education in the eld of fashion.
Online education can improve access to knowledge, as well as enable students globally to overcome geographical,
dime and distance limitations, while providing them with a possibility to study online. This is particularly important
in the fashion domain where the most prestigious universities are concentrated around big fashion capitals: New York,
London, Milan, and New York. e-Learning can actually enhance training opportunities of the students that live in other
regions and do not have direct access to these prestigious institutions. Denitely, the e-Learning cannot be seen as a
panacea in the fashion educational provision, as for instance creativity related courses, such as design or fashion styling,
are difcult to be taught only online. In this case ofine presence and possible discussions with peers and professors is
benecial. Though some generic subjects, such as fashion business, fashion history, or merchandising can be and are
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already thought online.
Fashion industry, due to its structure, benets and difculties can be well suited for the implementation of the e-Learning
projects. If we take into consideration only a few sectors of the fashion domain: retail and textile manufacturing, the
e-Learning projects might help to solve several issues involved in the provision of the training in the domain. In the
retail sector, whether a small business or a large chain, it remains the front face of the economy. Retail employees, more
so than most other elds, have to deal with customers in person, and while good people skills are essential, they are not
enough. A successful sale or a satisfactory customer service experience is built upon years of working experience, but
should be also combined with rigorous training and continuous re-education to new products, selling techniques and
market trends. As the retail sector is fast-paced, where product ranges change constantly, promotional campaigns need
refreshing, the skills turnover is very high, as well as where the staff needs to get constant training, e-Learning courses
might be a possible solution. E-Learning courses for the retail employees can enable this new knowledge to be gained
during or outside working hours with minimal disruption to their daily workload or at home on a computer, tablets or
mobile phones. From the company perspective, the introduction of such e-Learning activities, can reduce costs, as well
as time spend on designing and especially delivering in-presence training sessions. On the other side of the business
- modern products manufacturing, the patterns of skills required to be employed have also changed. In the emerging
competitive setting, there is a greater emphasis and possible need on flexible specialized high-level training. For
instance, as lately the production of fabrics, textiles, garments or shoes is done in emerging economies, where skills and
training opportunities are limited, the e-Learning projects can be successfully integrated.
Several attempts have been made to understand and represent the use of e-Learning in the fashion studies research
community, though all available research projects present individual success or failure cases of the e-Learning
implementation in the domain. Furthermore, available research do present only e-Learning courses in the fashion
domain belonging to the academic environment, thus other environments, such as corporate e-Learning are still largely
excluded from the research arena.
Reeves-De Admond, Mower & Nishida (2015) have done a study on the evaluation of the student, faculty, and industry
perceptions on a possible MOOC - Massive Open Online Courses development in clothing and textiles education. Gault
in 2016 have presented an evaluation case of an e-Learning course that can be used as a supportive course in fashion,
textile, and art studies at one of the UK Universities.
Gaimster has presented several ways of innovative approaches to the delivery of the fashion and textile curriculum,
including e-Learning and the creative use of virtual learning environments (Gaimster, 2008; Gaimster & Gray,
2004). Cheng, et al. (2015) has discussed a project on a potential use in the academic environment of a digital tutor, a
computer-aided interactive instructional technique, for learning fashion design. A group of researchers from Turkey have
presented their experience on implementing an e-Learning tool in the vocational training, specically in textile training
(Erişen, et al., 2012) and footwear training (Sahin, et al., 2012).
Neglecting fragmented academic research on the subject, due to the potential benets, e-Learning has drawn signicant
attention from educational institutions, educational software developers, and business organizations. A holistic analysis
of the current developments in the domain is though missing, thus our research is going in this direction providing the
rst trial of mapping existing e-Learning offers in the fashion industry.
The purpose of this research is to investigate the role of new media in education in the field of fashion, harvesting
online courses and categorizing them according to subdomains in order to provide a clear overview of the eld. The
classication of the e-Learning in fashion domain is done using the formal criteria of knowledge map classication
(Eppler, 2008), so to understand their main characteristics, identify possible intended users and proposed learning
Thus the main research objectives are threefold:
1. Identify the presence of e-Learning courses in the fashion domain
2. Classify e-Learning courses in fashion according to their similarities
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3. Recognise main characteristics of every identied group.
In order to reach identied objectives as well as to consider various existing types of e-Learning programmes in the
fashion industry, a multiple case study research approach was used. The multiple case study research method was
considered to be suitable for the study as it involves an in-depth evaluation of novel educational solutions.
An opportunistic model was used during the data collection. Websites of the e-Learning courses were retrieved from the
rst three result pages of the most popular web search engines. From this search 65 unique results were analysed. The
search engine was accessed in a week period in July 2017 from Switzerland.
In order to create a map of existing e-Learning courses, a set of specic keywords was identied based on the keyword
selection method for characterising text document maps (Lagus & Kasaki, 1999). The keywords selection procedure
was adapted form a similar research done in the tourism and hospitality domain (Cantoni, Kalbaska, Inversini, 2009).
The adjustments to possible differences in the fashion domain as well as the developments which had happened in the
e-Learning domain in the last ten years were taken into consideration. For instance, the appearance of the so called
MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses was noted.
The keywords set corresponds to the general users’ image of online training courses in the fashion industry. Keywords
were divided into three sub-categories with the main aim of generating a map of all existing e-Learning courses in the
1.Keywords showing that the topic of the course is devoted to the fashion industry: Fashion, Apparel, Textile production,
Clothing, Fashion Design, Fashion Manufacturing, Fashion Distribution, Fashion Marketing, Fashion retail, Fashion
advertising and Fashion Promotion.
2.Keywords representing the setting in which the learning/teaching experience is taking place: Course, Training,
Program, School, College, Institute, University, Corporate Education.
3.Keywords indicating that training happens fully or partially online: e-Learning, Online, Distance, Blended learning,
The keywords from each subcategory were combined and used to perform the search activities. The first three
result pages accounting for 30 results (with the normal search engine setting of 10 results per page) were taken into
consideration and regarded as appropriate for the study, as they are considered relevant for the end-users.
In total 207 items were collected. After all duplicates and non-relevant results were removed 65 unique results were
gathered. For non-relevant results, we intend the following ones: the e-Learning courses on Adobe In Design, Photoshop
were retrieved, but as they were not specically tailored for the employees working in the fashion industry, they were
note taken into consideration in this analysis. Only e-Learning courses where in the description explicitly “fashion
industry” was mentioned were used in this study. In this research, the most restrictive meaning of e-Learning has been
taken into consideration, where the training delivery happens in the form of formal courses/ training modules provided
online, excluding for instance video, audio tutorials and podcasts, as they don’t involve neither any formal evaluation
practice, nor do the provision of a certicate of completion.
English versions of the online training courses were taken into consideration for the analysis, while the presence of the
e-Learning offers in other languages was only noted for possible future research investigations.
A research matrix was then created to be used as an instrument for the analysis of present e-Learning courses and
programmes. Inter-coder reliability between two coders has been calculated using ReCal2 (Freelon, 2010), obtaining a
Krippendorff’s alpha value -0.026 (percentage of agreement of 90%), resulting in a high level of inter-coder agreement
(Lombard, Snyder-Duch & Campanella Bracken 2010).
Several existing criteria for the classication of the e-Learning courses in the fashion domain were tried. For instance
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the topic of the course, intended audiences, technologies or multimedia used. None of them though were able to provide
a convincing map, being well dened and mutually exclusive. The only possible criterion was the course provider.
Five different categories of the providers of the e-Learning courses in fashion were identified though the analysis:
academic institutions, fashion corporations, governments, media channels, and independent providers. Among 65
analysed e-Learning courses in the fashion domain, the majority belong to the e-Learning courses offered by the
academic institutions (41 course), followed by the independent courses with 29 entities, the training activities whose
provider is a third party other than an academic institution, corporation, government or a media provider. The third
identied category of the e-Learning providers in the fashion domain is media with six e-Learning courses, followed by
the online training activities offered by the governmental institutions (3), and two corporate e-Learning course. All ve
categories and their unique characteristics will be discussed below.
Academic fashion related e-Learning courses are those offered by traditional academic institutions, being colleges,
professional schools, institutes, or even universities. Under this category, e-Learning courses, certicate programs or
MOOCs that are offered by the academic institutions will be presented. From 65 analysed e-Learning courses, 41 belong
to this category, showing an important offer in the domain, but also a good position of the offered e-Learning courses
in the results coming from the Search Engine. There are several ways in which academic institutions working in the
fashion domain are exploiting e-Learning offers.
At the University of Bologna in Italy, e-Learning is being used as a support platform for current students. At the School
of Arts, Humanities, and Cultural Heritage, there is an e-Learning platform which feature the following fashion related
course: “Fashion culture and management”. The access to the course is thus available only to the current students of the
E-Learning is also used as a separate platform where other students, not currently enrolled in the ofine programs of
a University, can receive a certicate for one specic course or even a diploma. Open Campus initiative by Parsons is
currently offering a certicate program online on “Fashion Industry essentials”, trying to attract potential students to
their ofine programs. While SCAD - the University for Creative Careers has been running for over a decade several
Bachelor and Master programs fully offered online. In the fashion related domain, they do run a Master program offered
fully online in “Luxury and fashion management”. Another example that can be mentioned is an Online Bachelor of
Science degree in “Business Management” offered by FIDM – Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, based
in California (USA). A European example of such an offer is a Master Program in “Fashion & Luxury Management”
offered by L’institut Superieur des Arts Appliques - School of Design in France.
MOOCs, are the courses offered by the traditional academic institutions, but use external e-Learning platforms for
the training delivery, for instance Coursera or Udemy, while leveraging on a massive databases of the users MOOCs
platforms do possess. Such courses feature the most famous professors of the school or a university; they are open to the
global public, and as a main mission tend to promote ofine courses offered by the academic institutions. The following
successful MOOCs can be named in the fashion domain “Management of Fashion and Luxury Companies” by the
Bocconi University in Italy using Coursera MOOC Platform or “Who made my cloths?” by the University of Excester
and Fashion Revolution from the United Kingdom.
Another interesting category of the e-Learning courses are the ones offered by fashion media companies. For instance
Business of Fashion, a fashion media outlet, stepped into the e-Learning business recently while launching a series of
online training courses on their website. The courses such as “An Introduction to Sustainable Fashion” “The Fashion
History for Today” “The Art and Science of Buying and Merchandising” are featuring worldwide known fashion experts
through video tutorials, discussion of case studies, and online tests, that help to evaluate what was thought in the online
class. The ofcial certicate of the Business of Fashion is given to the learner upon successful completion. One needs to
register and pay for the participation in such a training activity. Business of Fashion is also featuring on the website free
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video tutorials open to the public, but intended for the fashion professionals called “Fashion Foundations”, where basic
information to start and run a fashion business is covered. The following content is present on the platform “How do
you nance your fashion business” or “How do your create awareness”. One does not need to register to get the access
to this training, but also does not receive any certicate of completion or achievement.
Another interesting example of the media engagement with the e-Learning activities is an “Inuencer marketing and
Digital PR” online training course offered by Fashion Beauty Monitor, one of the leading professional fashion media
United Nations Industrial Development Organization, with headquarter in Austria, has as a basic mandate to promote
sustainable industrial development as an important driver of economic growth. As a part of their mandate, they do run
a series of e-Learning courses offered to the industry professionals. Some of those e-Learning courses are actually
related to the fashion industry. For instance, Leather and Leather Products Industry Panel is the UNIDO global forum
for technical assistance programs dealing with the leather-based industry sector is running three e-Learning programs
for the industry professionals: “Footwear Pattern Engineering”; “Sustainable leather manufacture”; and “Introduction to
the treatment of tannery efuents”. Such video- based training courses, are intended for the fashion employees working
with leather, that can access the training anytime and from anywhere. With a difference from other categories of the
e-Learning courses in the fashion domain, governmental courses are free of charge and require only the registration to
the e-Learning platform.
E-Learning solution within the corporate training is a cost- effective solution, as it provides easy access to the
information and knowledge to the employees working globally, as well as can improve performance and productivity of
the employees. Corporate e-Learning courses might be used within the induction training of the new employees, but can
also be used within compliance training, sales training or specic training programs to promote key campaigns launched
by a company.
Such courses are password protected, and not well indexed on the Search Engine, as primarily intended for the
employees of the companies, thus promoted through internal communication channels. In fact, no activity is likely to
be undertaken by a company to get a better search engine ranking for its employees’ training activities. In many cases
pages devoted to the employees’ training are excluded by search engine “crawlers”. As a result, search engines are not
allowed to include them in their indexes and users outside of the company are not able to participate in the course.
We were able to track in the rst pages of the search engine results with previously identied keywords two examples
of corporate e-Learning courses in the fashion domain. The rst one was the e-Learning course offered by a fashion
Spanish multinational retail giant Inditex. Behind its umbrella brand, there are such brands as Zara, Pull and Bear,
Oysho, and others. Inditex recently has launched a new training solution for the employees working in the company.
This e-Learning platform involves social sharing and commenting elements, they were able to make training fast,
engaging and practical. Such video-based training solution accessed from multiple devices can promote online
collaboration between both employees in the same store and those employees in other stored related to the brand.
Fashion brands of a luxury segment can also use e-Learning platforms to train their employees. Such courses can cover
the following topics: the history of the brand, product training, sales techniques, soft skills. We were able to track the
e-Learning platform by Gucci, which is running an e-Learning course for the employees of the company.
To further map this category, both in terms of e-Learning penetration in the industry and in terms of investigating and
understanding the public that use this service, a survey seems to be more suitable as it would allow deeper insights of
Independent e-Learning courses are all those whose provider is not a university, a corporation, a government or a media
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company. The main topic of the offered training activity still stays within fashion related subjects. In our analysis indeed
this is the second largest group after the courses offered by the academic institutions.
In this group, we can find the e-Learning courses offered by non-governmental institutions, private e-Learning
providers, or individual professionals eager to share their knowledge with others. The following topics are covered in
such a training offer: from “Fashion Stylist” or “How to become a Fashion journalist” course by the Italian e-Learning
Fashion School, to the “Fashion Business English” course offered by an individual instructor on one of the MOOC
platform in the USA, to “Pattern Making & Garment Construction” available on an Indian MOOC Platform.
This research has assessed for the first time the presence of e-Learning courses in the fashion domain, classifying
them in ve different groups according to the providers of the e-Learning activity: academic institution, corporation,
government, media, and independent. Each group has also been qualitatively further described according to its relevant
audiences and training topics. The research used blended qualitative-quantitative methodology to tackle the research
goals presented above, collecting cases to design an overall map of the explored domain. Results of this study are
of interest for both academic and professional communities involved in the fashion industry and e-Learning. For the
academic community, the study offers a rst map of online courses in the fashion domain, showing at the same time
the relevance of the researched field and promising future research directions. For the professional community of
fashion industry professionals, the results provide a clear picture of an important market, whose development can yield
to a higher professionalization of the industry and, as a consequence, to a better service being offered to all involved
To follow up on this research, the following areas could be further articulated. In this article, only formal e-Learning
courses have been taken into consideration. With the increasing use of so called Web2.0 in the e-Learning domain,
informal education and knowledge sharing are becoming more and more important, so blogs, video tutorials, wikis and
social networks are starting to play an important role in life-long learning, up-skilling and knowledge gathering. Future
research efforts should also include informal types of learning tools and strategies.
Due to the fact the only the rst three pages of the results on the Search Engine were analysed, this brought to a limited
number of courses that were found. Further analysis including searches in other languages, might increase potential
number of the analysed cases.
Future research might also deal with a double dimension analysis in all the proposed e-Learning areas: each area can
be investigated vertically, understanding learners, type of content, learning strategies, the quality of the offered training
content, and so on. The investigation could also be horizontal, while taking into consideration all the providers and
technologies used by them in order to train specic learners.
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