eLearningPoint 2019: an online Conference to make the point about eLearning
eLearningPoint 2019 is the first online conference on the state of art of e-learning in Italy. With the help of friends and colleagues working in the eLearning sector, we organized a unique online event, to talk together about the opportunities and critical issues of our sector.”
A special event for all eLearning Specialists
eLearningPoint was an initiative resulting from numerous discussions with friends, colleagues, professionals, academics and entrepreneurs belonging to different areas of the e-learning world, thanks to which I gained the profound believe that today there is a real need to build a dedicated event to the eLearning Specialist profession in Italy, extended to all the organizations that – directly or indirectly – are involved in the processes of designing and producing contents for online learning.
I notice almost daily the frustrations and desires of the content producers for eLearning, whose main ambition is to fully express their potential, too often heavily limited by the budget, by the regulations of the sector, by a cultural inadequacy that blends with the historical digital gap that has done so much damage (and continues to do) in our Country towards the increasingly numerous digital professions.
While the e-learning market abroad develops more easily and makes great strides, not without problems and difficulties, in Italy there is still resistance not only in the implementation of solutions dedicated to online learning by companies and institutions, but also in the promotion of quality productions against a pleiad of standardized online courses, at a bargain price and still based on the old paradigm of “content & support”, typical of the first generation e-learning.
Of course, there are excellences that must be protected and supported, but it is no longer acceptable to “console” ourselves by thinking that there are those who can do more and better in our Country than the average in the sector: we must rather be inspired by these excellences, while remaining aware that the small entrepreneur and the freelance do not currently have the financial instruments and the know-how of the big players and can easily run aground in the mare magnum of standardized “downward” offers or suffocate in front of high quality complex orders for under-sizing compared to projects to realize.
Understanding the Italian market to help it evolve
This gap, which inevitably exists between a pleiad of micro-enterprises and professionals distributed throughout Italy and a hard core of a few big players, significantly slows down the development of the sector, because on the one hand the large producers make use of freelancers and little enterprises in subcontract (often preventing them from making themselves known to the final customer) and the latter must be subject to the demands of a market that is still not fully competitive and not generally oriented towards excellence (except in rare cases).
The consequence is an average production of poor quality, pre-packaged and adequate to minimum budgets, sufficient to acquire legal accreditation for compulsory training (in the various sectors: occupational safety, continuing education in medicine, privacy, HACCP, training for the professions), which – to a distracted user or a little expert in the sector – it can appear as an ordinary phenomenon, to the detriment of all the professionals involved.
I believe that aiming for excellence does not only mean building innovative solutions to meet the most concrete and immediate needs of the market: for me it means above all opening up the market to all the available opportunities, eliminating all those barriers – cultural and legal – that currently prevent it to mature and to move towards higher quality objectives, which should instead be the norm, the standard of the entire sector.
As regards legal action, making the regulations that still today in fact mortify the opportunity represented by the learning technologies in compulsory training, it is good that the entire sector reflects on what actions to take to favor the maturation of the market through cultural action , popular and professional that every day, on the field, can perform thousands of operators. If, on the one hand, the legislation can in fact “force” the sector to adapt to a higher standard, the problem that substantially limits it is still of a cultural nature and simple norms cannot revolutionize years of wrong mindset.
The need for a different cultural approach (to Instructional Design and eLearning)
I believe that the cultural approach represents the main road, the strategic lever through which to carry out this transformation, accompanied by regulatory interventions (hopefully) suitable to enhance this process.
So how do you implement this “cultural revolution”? One thing is certain: those responsible for this transformation can only be the same operators in the sector, namely freelancers, small entrepreneurs, managers, academics.
It is important to continuously compare and coordinate and share information on online training issues, together with the progressive awareness of general principles that should inform and guide each professionalism within our industry, so that every potential customer can notice, day after day, that the context has changed and for the better, that new opportunities are now available and that it has definitively given up on certain compromises that inevitably lead to poor eLearning.
All this not only for the protection of the entire sector, but above all of the same end customer, who would have been content with the usual low-budget online learning, and that will progressively feel the need to demand more, to be really competitive with the other players in its sector, thanks to the overall advancement of the demand and supply system that focuses on the quality of the training action, the ROI (return on investiment) of e-learning.
In practice, the dissemination action will have reached a considerable level, when Italian training stakeholders will begin to conceive eLearning as an investment and no longer as a cost!
The importance of implementing new strategies to change this
With regards to the concrete strategies to be implemented, the road is open and I think we need to confront ourselves precisely on this, to build a common path for market development: the eLearningPoint 2019 conference was an answer in this sense, that is an opportunity to “make the point” of the state of the art of eLearning in Italy, acquiring as many points of view on the market from various experts and then focusing, once you understand the main critical points and the opportunities present, on the possible solutions to meet again once here, hopefully in a year, to see if our good intentions will be transformed into something tangible in the country.
The most pressing questions for the sector
eLearningPoint2019 therefore – synthetically – poses the following basic questions, to which the various speakers are invited to respond – for their part – according to their own experience in the respective reference sector:
- What are the most common experiences for online training in the various sectors? (school, university, compulsory training in companies, continuous training for professionals);
- What are the critical issues that are occurring in the sector?
- What are the trends, innovations and opportunities that are currently the most interesting in the world of eLearning that Italy should look at?
- What is the current status of the eLearning Specialist profession in Italy and in the international context?
- What is the current level of knowledge for Italian companies of online training funding opportunities on national and European funds?
- How can professional skills linked to the world of Italian eLearning be enhanced by actions aimed at organizational and individual well-being, personal branding, the use of social networks within a content marketing strategy?
- How can the business of the sector be protected and secured, using appropriate legal instruments?
- Is it possible to view case studies related to concrete applications of excellence for online education in Italy? What opportunities can be seized in the current authoring tools landscape?
Structure of the debate
The conference will have four total thematic sessions:
- The general framework on educational technologies: opportunities and criticalities;
- The thousand faces of eLearning in Italy;
- The professionalism of the eLearning Specialist: a holistic vision;
- Case Studies: concrete applications for a quality eLearning.
I had the pleasure of hosting two international experts who offered us speeches on topics of current interest for the entire professional community of eLearning Specialists, namely:
- the need to establish fundamental principles that can guide the daily activities of professionals who produce e-learning, in which every stakeholder involved in the processes of designing and producing content, a sort of “professional status”, can participate; In this sense, Clark Quinn, an internationally renowned expert, one of the “Instigators” and founders of the Serious eLearning Manifesto, developed together with Julie Dirksen, Will Thalheimer and Michael Allen (www.elearningmanifesto.org) presented for the first time in Italy this “statute” of fundamental principles to which all online training operators should adhere, thanks to which the entire sector should be encouraged to become aware of the real problems of instructional design, orienting its choices towards quality and effectiveness objectives of the formative action;
- the great opportunity represented by Microlearning, also thanks to the recent development of technologies for online training, which stands as an effective teaching tool in multiple contexts and makes use of the flexibility of mobile devices. This undoubtedly innovative approach, which combines the need for “tailoring” online training, which really fits the needs of company personnel, requires respect for principles, logic and rigorous design and development methods, to avoid results that disregard expectations. On this important topic, Karl Kapp, the undisputed international expert, recently published the book “Microlearning: Short & Sweet” and presented his speech at the conference, focusing on the advantages of this mode of use of the content and on specific instructional aspects, which must be taken into account, because microlearning is really effective and not just a passing fad. Alongside Karl, Robyn Defelice, co-author of the book, also intervened, helping to clarify the challenges that microlearning must face today for its implementation within organizations.
The importance of networking
I thank all the speakers involved, for the availability, the generosity and the attention they showed throughout the preparatory phase and during the carrying out of the work of this event, with the hope that in the future, in the next editions, this event can really become a moment of collective reflection for the entire Italian online education sector, together with the opportunity to strengthen the ties that the Italian eLearning industry offers with other international realities – academic and professional – as well as towards the objectives of primary importance in the sector of the most widespread authoring tools and LMS platforms in the world, such as iSpring Solutions, which was also the official sponsor of the Conference.
The sponsor: iSpringSolutions Inc. (www.ispring.com)
Finally, I thank the leaders of iSpring Solutions, in the person of Xenia Kislova, for this opportunity and for the willingness shown in contributing to the success of this initiative.
eLearningPoint 2019 Proceedings
The Proceedings of the eLearningPoint Conference 2019 will be available soon. For info, contact me: npiave [at] formediaconsulting.it