IBM, Monster.com kick start corporate e-learning

Enterprises exploring e-learning options will have more to choose from this week as several vendors including IBM Corp., Monster.com, and Click2learn Inc. tout new platforms and services for online training and employee development.

Enterprises are getting comfortable with the platforms and technologies for e-learning and are starting to recognize the benefits of Web-based learning, according to analyst Britton Manasco, principal strategist at The Knowledge Capital Group Inc. in Austin, Texas.

"Organizations keep innovating and changing, and they have to keep training and developing their people," he said. "It is pretty absurd how cost-ineffective the traditional ways of training are. E-learning is an area where you can show some demonstrable cost-effective alternatives for delivering training and learning."

With an eye toward potential cost savings and improved productivity, enterprises in large numbers may start jumping on the e-learning bandwagon.

Market research company IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts, expects the market for corporate e-learning content, tools, and services in the United States to grow from US$4.2 billion in 2001 to $18 billion by 2005.

IBM's Mindspan Solutions group on Monday released Lotus LearningSpace 5.0, an e-learning technology platform that includes both self-paced and collaborative learning capabilities.

The nearly two-year-old Mindspan Solutions group combines e-learning software from IBM's Lotus Development subsidiary with learning services consultants to help enterprises implement e-learning initiatives.

LearningSpace 5.0 will be available in two versions: The Core Module, designed for the delivery and tracking of self-paced learning sessions, and the Collaboration Module, which adds real-time virtual classrooms with presence awareness and instant messaging functionality, said Martha Mealy, product manager for IBM Mindspan solutions group, in Sommers, N.Y.

"One of the major factors for the success of e-learning is the ability now for organizations to record return on investment [benefits]," she said.

Version 5.0 of LearningSpace features improved collaborative tools, the capability to record and play back live learning sessions, and increased integration with Lotus Domino environments.

IBM and Lotus boosted features such as instant chat and e-mail messaging in an effort to strengthen the human aspect of learning, Mealy said.

"It is through the interaction with others you are able to practice and then demonstrate learning. Making the collaborative features easy to initiate and use was our goal with this version," she said.

Making its entrance into the online learning space, career resource Web site Monster.com on Tuesday will introduce MonsterLearning, designed to offer Web-based tools and information for corporations and individuals.

MonsterLearning's first product will be a search engine that provides information about online and offline learning courses, conferences, and instructional materials, said officials at Monster.com, based in Maynard, Massachusetts.

Another e-learning vendor, Bellevue, Wash.-based Click2learn, plans to launch its new Aspen platform in early September. Aspen is designed to handle the process of creating, delivering, and managing e-learning content and initiatives. The platform will include a content development system and the ability to analyze course content at any stage of the learning process, according to Kevin Oakes, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Click2learn.

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