E-study makes waves

Jim McGovern, manager, distributed learning systems at Melbourne's RMIT, says that like many universities worldwide, RMIT has embraced e-learning and provides a major learning management system to support most of its e-learning needs. "We are long-term users of Blackboard, but we also provide a portal of our own, the RMIT Learning Hub, and a number of third-party and in-house developed tools," McGovern says.

"With thousands of courses online, more than 40,000 active student users and around four million hits a year, Blackboard is our most highly used learning support system and is a major enterprise system here at RMIT, and is critical to our core teaching and learning mission."

McGovern says most of the main learning management systems more or less support the same set of features: basic course administration and grade book, learning materials and resource distribution, announcements, communication and collaboration, quizzing, and assignment management.

Richard Clarke, managing director Australia of Accenture Learning, says the recent growth in e-learning platforms has accelerated uptake of outsourced, end-to-end learning services. "Increasingly, e-learning is being viewed as one part of a wider knowledge solution - and not a core product alone," Clarke says. "The reason for this is organizations are aligning learning programs with core business strategies and priorities, to ensure that learning is maximized and integrated, leading to greater opportunities for the organization to achieve business goals and results."

Rebel Sport and Australian Kitchen Industries (AKI) are realizing results from their e-learning systems. Following the success of Rebel Uni in 2001/2002, Rebel Sport decided to devote more resources to its e-learning strategy. Over the past 12 months, the company has deployed an employee induction course, 16 product-education modules and a management training course.

It has increased sales 13 percent across 11 product categories. There has been a 50 percent reduction in training costs and 100 percent of staff members are using Rebel Uni. Rebel Sport was the winner of the 2002 HR awards for best e-learning strategy and the number two company in Australia for percentage increase in profits.

AKI, which was looking to double sales within three years, has already increased sales in the past year by 21 percent. The company employs more than 450 people and generates some $60 million in sales. The challenge was that the e-learning platform had to address almost every functional area of the organization. The solution is underpinned by an e-learning portal and intranet.

Over the past 12 months, WebEx Australia has seen a significant shift in customer needs, with more than 30 percent of new customers demanding specialist tools in e-learning, online events and remote technical support. "Customers who started out wanting Web meetings - adding slides to a teleconference - are now demanding broader and deeper solutions that meet the specific needs of application areas," says director Kevin Mackin.

"The effect user growth of our e-learning platforms has had on the business has been felt throughout our company," says Todaycorp CEO Joe Ward. "Our client services function is growing quickly as we deliver more results and business insights to our clients."

Ward says the biggest change he's seen to the overall business in the past year or so has been the need to expand resources and services to deliver value to sectors it doesn't compete in yet.

"The ongoing challenge for TodayCorp is getting the right staff in place at all levels of the organization. From marketing and sales through to learning and recruitment services, we've had to employ people with an intimate understanding of specific verticals and the job functions," says Ward. "Validating requirements - even understanding them in the first place - means we need people who have a very wide skill-set and base to start off with."

Global training and development business ASK Learning has experienced a more than 100 percent growth in demand for its learning management system - Empower - along with an increase in demand for high-quality custom content to match. General manager of e-learning, Pradeep Saxena has noticed the impact on two fronts.

"One, we find more and more organizations increasing their e-learning capabilities and implementations, which are aligned more towards their users rather than completing their systems suite. As a result the demand for more mature offerings has increased over four to five years back," he says. "Second, we find that as organizations outgrow the off-the-shelf implementations, there is a substantial increase in the demand for bespoke installations."

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