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Introduction

Mirasee’s The State of Online Learning 2018 Report

Mirasee, a Montreal Canada based e-learning strategist and provider of guidance to future on-line learning providers published its annual report of the state of the industry last week. I have been following Danny Iny and his crew for over a year now. I think that Mirasee is among the most knowledge of the on-line learning service providers. But as useful as this report is, I think it is possible to go deeper and provide us with a more realistic picture of what is happening in this market.

See the full report on line at Mirasee’s website. http://bit.ly/2NkGgIk

This report is great but …

I worked my way through the report. I have been following the growth of on-line and e-learning since the 1990’s, when I first started to get into the Internet in a serious and professional way as part of my corporate IT executive role.

I think that this report is great, but it misses some of the core dynamics which will drive this industry and market place.

On-line learners need an independent on-line course rating service.

The first is a lack of am “independent course ranting / rating website“, which individuals can come and get really independent reviews of e-learning courses. Each of the course platform providers – Udemy, Thinkific and so on, are not really independent. They each have business objectives they have to meet. They are really a form of electronic publisher.

This is especially true of Udemy. This became completely clear to me as part of the work that I did reviewing Udemy as part of a on-line learning strategy review that I did early in 2018. Then I became a Udemy instructor myself, only to be baffled by what seemed to be almost arbitrary changes initiated by Udemy in its arrangements with its authors.  But is more or less true of every ‘course’ hosting platform that is currently active and prominent on the Internet.

Some kind of Indeed like web site, which “brings together” the various course offerings in an area like Indeed does jobs, and then posts truly independent reviews of them, is seriously lacking in the industry. Without this kind of independent ‘Consumer Report’ like service for on-line education, the market place is likely to become a nightmare for on-line consumers trying to find value among of the thousands of e-learning offerings appearing there.

There is a business opportunity here, but I am lacking the financial pockets to explore it myself.

Corporate Values and the Shape of the On-Line Learning Market Place

As part of our own on-line learning strategy, we tried to put up “interpersonal skills” courses for project managers last summer. We put on free webinars, gave away coupons, and did the “join the beta community” to help shape the course’s approaches. It was not a success.

When we explored why, by talking to folks at the PMI institute, and to people who run substantial recruiting firms that place project managers in contract jobs, we learned the following.

    1. PMI certification is now an absolutely necessity for getting a job as either a full time or contract project managers. Recruiters will not even look at a PM resume without it, no matter how capable the person is. It costs an individual about $2000 to become PMI certified as a PMP.
    2. The entire-line training industry for project managers is driven by this reality. Once individuals have spent this initial money, they are very reluctant to spend any more PERSONALLY on PM related training. Having additional skills does absolutely nothing for them when competing for jobs.
    3. When the corporation values the additional skills, the corporate managers pay for the additional training. If these corporate managers do not value the skills, they simply do not pay for added training, whether face to face or on-line.

We thought long and hard about our experience, and talked to others who are also in the corporate on-line learning space.

Most corporate training program purchases are made by HR professionals for leadership and interpersonal skills. Technical skill training tend to be purchased by more technically oriented managers. Both groups are quite experienced in purchasing training. They started to buy CD/DVD based training programs decades ago. They learned that this type of learning does a fine job of educating professionals in the ‘know that’ component of learning.

When it comes to ‘know how to’ components, especially with theses skills involve concurrent use of full body behavior and cognitive processing abilities, on-line learning rarely leads to on-the-job performance improvement. Complex skills, with their need for

  • know that factual knowledge,
  • know how to (when it requires the current exercise of full body and cognitive components),
  • and know why / know why not to abilities

still needs face-to-face training and mentoring, often over an extended period of time.

The E-Learning Market place is now mature enough to be segmented.

In my perception the on-line learning market place breaks into 4 broad segments.

One: E-Learning Courses on ‘how to make money on the Internet”. 

These courses have a mixed history from a great success to no success. Some of the most successful courses have benefited from the “timing luck of the first in with a decent product Internet entrepreneur.” These people are often lauded as “experts” in this field. But the reality is that others who come along later and do much the same things, at much the same quality level, don’t have nearly the success that these first in folks have.

Two: E-Learning Courses on to use individual computer-based skills (e.g. programming, Photoshop etc.) that appeal to “self driven” learners.

This segment of the market was well defined long before the delivery over the Internet became the norm. Corporations started buying DVD based on-line technical training in the late 1980’s because it worked and meant that just in time training could be utilized. This market simply migrated to the Internet once the LMS’s (learning management systems) became available.

Lynda.com and others like this continue to dominate a large part of this market. They simply have too great a hold on it for individuals to effectively complete. Udemy Business for instance is trying to get into this segment but does not really seem to be successful at it.

Three: Personal interest E-Learning courses.

For me, the classic example in this segment is the person who made a lot of money putting ‘get fit using your hulu hoop’ e-learning programs on the Internet. This is a huge segment of the market. Success depends first on consumers’ course content interest, then on course content quality, but ultimately on INTERNET marketing skill of the person offering the course. In fact, Mirasee itself has several great programs which teach potential on-line course developers exactly the ‘how to” need to do exactly these 3 things.

  • assess potential consumer’s interest in a course offering,
  • involve initial interested consumers in the actual initial course developer in order to ensure that the way the material is presented ‘works’ for a variety of consumers,
  • develop an on-line marketing approach to getting the word out to other interested personal learning consumers.

Four: Professional work place relevant skill development – the kind of thing that was delivered in corporate paid professional development programs.

The “know that” factual component of these skills is currently migrating to the Internet. This will have a profound impact on not only professional development training, but also on the universities and colleges. 20 years from now all of this “know that” factual knowledge will be disseminated by Internet based programs.

Some universities and colleges are desperately trying to figure out how to get into this market place. But mostly will simply not make it. Sooner or later, there will be a huge “shake out”. After all, how many versions of the factual component of “Psychology 101” does the work really need?

On-line learning also has a very different power dynamic from that normal in a university or college environment. Consumers can easily ‘go to’ course. Student in a university or college environment can not easily do this.

There are huge “know how to and know why” components to work place skills They often contain huge “full body and cognitive skill component can only be developed through guided practice and feedback’. As a result, the future for professional work place skills will in my perception evolve into 3 layers. The first layer will be ‘know that’ learning. This will be delivered as on-line education. The second and layer will be “know how to” and “know why to / why not to”. Building on the first layer, these two will be delivered through mentoring and coaching. Medical education is moving in this direction. All professional education will be there in 20 years.

Until we have “Star Wars” like hologram suites, the interwoven full body and cognitive components of professional skill will continue to require interpersonal interaction to develop.

The Future of Mirasee’s Annual Report

Mirasee does a great report, and provides a unique service to the industy by making it freely available.. But I hope that in future, their report will take this kind of market segmentation and some of these market dynamics into account. Only then will we go beyond the surface and get deeper insight into the state of the art of on-line learning.

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