Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Peder Jacobsen Looks at the Crystal ball

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Sept 24, 2002

This Magazine Column published as Peder Jacobsen looks at the Crystal ball in Learning Place online Aug 01, 2002. Education Queensland [Link] [Info] [List all Publications]
What does the future (that is, the next eighteen months) hold for learning management systems (LMSs) and learning content management systems (LCMSs)? "It's past lunch time," said Logicbay's Peder Jacobsen, "but it's not dinner time." The companies, he predicts, will begin to eat each other once again.

Pederson was speaking at Online Learning 2002 in Anaheim and divided his predictions into several major categories:

  1. Learning Management Systems: LMS products and ERP products are both about managing people; the former are directed toward learning while the latter are directed toward human resource management. As LMSs expanded, they began to talk about human capital management. But on the ERP side, companies like PeopleSoft, Siebel and MySAP began to look at learning.

    The major theme for LMS companies, therefore, is one fraught with danger as these "gorillas in the mist" begin to move more aggressively in their field. The only hope for LMS companies is to establish relationships with LCMS companies (relationships, because LMS companies are unable to fund LCMS development).

  2. Learning Content Management Systems: LCMS products and CMS products are both about managing content. This has led to some companies attempting e-learning content management with stand-alone content management systems such as Plateau or Documenter. But most companies, said Jacobsen, want an LCMS because they want features like testing and interaction.

    The big question for LCMS vendors is whether they need the "learning" part of the equation. As content becomes more granular, it becomes more generic. And so the difference between the LCMS and the CMS begins to evaporate. LCMS vendors, he said, have to focus on personalization to stay competitive against CMSs.

    What we will not see, argues Pedersen, is a single, massive engine that handles everything from human resource management to learning management to content management. Companies are looking for a smorgasbord, not a stew, he said. They want a combination of "best of breed" solutions. This trend points toward more alignments between companies as they try to co-brand themselves. It is also accelerated by standards development as products from different companies work increasingly well together.

  3. Technology: Technology, argues Pedersen, will move backward from "e" to "old" as more and more companies demand things like print and blended learning. This trend will accelerate as companies move beyond the wired centers to offer learning in remote regions and around the world.

    LMS companies without an LCMS component or alliance will be hurt. LCMS companies without an LMS component will do just fine as they can export content into various LMSs. CMS companies will try to do learning content and will fail.

    Competencies, said Pedersen, will still be talked about... and still not done.

  4. Clients: The client base will be global, said Pederson, and as U.S. companies learn that there is life beyond their borders they will respond drawn by "an y currency that can be converted into a dollar."

    Clients will demand an integrated solution, but not the sort of piecemeal content procurement they face today. And while an integrated system is a given, integrated processes will be a concern: companies will want to make one telephone call when problems occur (and will not care whether they have called the correct vendor).

    As we are beginning to see already, there will be increased tension between vendors who want to sell stand-along learning objects and clients who want to deliver customized e-learning. "They (clients) are going to have to learn," said Pedersen.

    Finally, people will look for informal learning solutions. Asking the audience how many people learning something recently from an online course, Pedersen saw only a handful of hands. But when he asked how many people had learned something useful from the web, almost the entire room responded.

  5. Specifications and Standards: "We need to ask good questions," said Pedersen. What are the good questions? Those that center around the verbs. Look at it this way:
    • We have mastered adjectives with metadata that describes learning objects, and
    • We have made good progress with nouns with data models, but
    • We need to address verbs through the integration of business models

    The people behind SCORM, he said, understand this. they have a 20 year plan in motion, a plan that involves deeper interactions. We should look to future versions of SCORM for things like sequencing, adaptive services and intelligent tutors, user agents and integration with the semantic web.

Comment: According to Pedersen, ninety percent of all learning is informal. Structured courses such as those that are offered through LMSs compose only ten percent of the total.

It seems off, then, that while he knows this, the bulk of his talk was devoted to the ten percent of learning that is formalized.

It seems to me that the important developments that occur in the e-learning sphere will be based arfound informal e-learning, and that many of these developments will drive the LMS and LCMS market in unexpected directions. When personal e-learning becomes a reality, everything else will become moot.

While LMS and LCMS systems move toward increasing complexity and increasing functionality, people will demand less complex applications in their day to day lives. They will demand quick and effective learning, not structured and formal classes (that is not to say there is no room for the latter; it is merely to say that ninety percent overwhelms ten percent every time).

Pedersen talked about how there will be a great demand for tracking and assessing informal learning. This is true, from the educational and corporate side of the house. But from the point of view of the client, the demand in this area will be for reporting and receiving credit. Clients will also demand (while managers will resist) increased privacy and control over their personal information.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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