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Webinar: Introducing the eLearning Ecosystem - A Walkthrough with Bill West

I’ve presented many times over the past couple years about the excitement and opportunity of the modern eLearning era. You can catch my most recent presentation, with Dr. Michael Allen of Allen Interactions and Mike Hruska of Problem Solutions in the webinar recording at the end of this post. The advances in the technology and techniques available now have enabled us to move well beyond mere “web-based training” to create truly revolutionary learning “experiences.”

The Birth of eLearning

When computer-based training (CBT) first came to light, our computer screens only displayed one color and we relied solely on mainframes to communicate across a company’s enterprise. “Social networking” occurred at the water cooler. Dr. Michael Allen introduced Authorware in the 1980s and helped us leverage the personal computer and graphical user interface. The evolution of the Internet through the late 1990s finally provided ubiquitous distribution of courseware without great cost. Around the 2000s, the triumvirate of LMS platforms, authoring tools, and SCORM enabled the interconnectivity required to launch eLearning as an official industry. After that, while the technical world exploded, eLearning sort of stalled…

Learning Today

Over this extraordinarily fast decade many new technologies were introduced to our lifestyle, from smart phones to online social networking. These innovations went from rare to pervasive in a heartbeat. We’ve also acknowledged that the endless slide shows of the past three decades are painfully ineffective, so alternative techniques from gaming to adaptive learning have become more fundamental. Finally, the emergence of millions of Millennials and the gig economy has converged to demand that new solutions be produced—and fast!

Visualizing the eLearning Ecosystem

I started to get my hands around all the possibilities last year and wanted to visualize the expanding ecosystem we live in. What I’d seen published to date just wasn’t getting the full view. I reached out to many of my colleagues in the industry: fellow providers, thought leaders, CLOs, and academics to piece together an illustration of today’s learning ecosystem.  It’s not perfect and every month I tweak it, but it’s become very popular.

In today’s learning ecosystem, we didn’t limit ourselves to merely “eLearning” and technology-based solutions. We complemented the ecosystem with interpersonal experiences and upfront strategic requirements to set context and recognize that the optimal solutions today are blended. We divided the ecosystem into even sectors and 40 modalities that reflect the full scope of possibilities.

  • Personal: from classrooms to mentorships
  • Social: communities of practice and social learning
  • On-Demand: from job aids to performance support
  • Online: from web-based to gamification
  • Mobile: from apps to virtual reality
  • Technology: the vast array including LMS, LRS, AI, and sensory devices
  • Strategy: because it should drive all of the ecosystem

elb ecosystem small bill west graphic

Sign up for a free account to download the full high-resolution graphic of the ecosystem today.

I’m constantly thinking about the ecosystem: what’s in it, how the pieces fit together, and pushing our teams to build solutions that leverage the right components. It’s complex, difficult for many organizations to fully exploit, and too easy to fall back into past ways of thinking, but it opens the door to more engaging, effective, and sustainable solutions. This illustration helps encapsulate the relationship and dependencies of our options and the opportunities that today’s technology and techniques have provided us to produce eLearning, where the “e” stands for “exciting!

Feel free to contact me if you want to share insight and continue to probe the possibilities. You can find more information on the ecosystem using the links below and be sure to check out the webinar!

Designing with the Learning Ecosystem Canvas:

Problem Tool from Problem Solutions:

My Book: Rockstar Vendors: Seven Attributes of Trusted Partners

Michael Allen’s Book: Building Interactive, Fun, and Effective Learning Programs for Any Company


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