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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Relearning e-Learning: Three Principles for Success

In some instances, e-learning can provide a better, more interactive, and more cost-effective delivery device. In particular, e-learning tools are a viable substitute for print media. Advantages include easier customization, greatly expanded indexing and word-search functionality, and supplemental multimedia features, such as video and audio clips, hypertext links, and real-time test scoring.

Opportunities by Sector
The greatest opportunities for e-learning lie with the corporate and professional segments. Corporations spent more than $30 billion on training in 2000, ranging from job-specific skills to more general ones like writing. Many of these are perfect for e-learning because they’re bite-sized and supplemental. What’s more, online education can significantly reduce corporate travel expenses for training.

“Corporations spent more than $30 billion on training in 2000, ranging from job-specific skills to more general ones like writing. Many of these are perfect for e-learning.”
E-learning products for the K-12 classroom will be designed not to replace teachers and textbooks, but to make them more effective. In the short-term, digital classroom materials will be used primarily for presentation purposes, with teachers accessing content clips or simulations to enhance lectures and illustrate key concepts. Longer term, individual students or small groups of students will use learning software more.

Electronic assessment and diagnostic tools are promising products to identify weaknesses of individual students and to help create custom assignments and tutorials. In addition, there is an opportunity to position e-learning tools to test a teacher’s competence. To succeed in this market, however, e-learning companies will have to gain accreditation with the department of education of individual states to ensure that offered courses can be used to fulfill training requirements.

As in K-12, e-learning in higher education will play a support role in full-time higher education programs, primarily providing supplemental materials, such as electronic syllabi, course materials, and tests.

The University of Phoenix Online has set the standard for part-time adult continuing education in cyberspace. The for-profit, publicly traded institution offers accredited degree programs for adults in such fields as business and technology. The University of Phoenix Online has been successful largely due to its narrow focus and its ability to gain scale through a nationwide roll-out; courses are developed centrally and then offered to students anywhere on the Internet, maintaining quality control while cutting costs.

“The milk industry revived stagnating sales with convenient single-serve containers for people on the go. Similarly, e-learning companies can offer single-serve products focused on one subject.”
But Internet-enabled e-learning may not be offered as successfully to lifetime learners, who take courses simply for fun and enrichment. (Such extension courses, historically delivered to post-college adults in a classroom setting after work or on weekends, have been popular since the 1940s.) The huge range of topics covered by such courses makes scale difficult to achieve. Plus, adult education courses typically play a social role in students’ lives that can’t be duplicated using e-learning.

E-Learning’s Destiny
As it evolves, e-learning is destined to find its largest audience outside traditional educational institutions. It’s best customers will be corporations, working adults, and people preparing for certification and examination.

But it’s clear e-learning will never replace classroom-based teaching. Instead, it will help existing institutions teach students in new ways, using a wider variety of tools and a more customized approach. The Internet could become the catalyst that allows traditional educational methods to extend their impact far beyond what they could ever do in a conventional classroom setting.

Reggie Van Lee, [email protected]
Reggie Van Lee is a Booz Allen Hamilton vice president and the managing partner of the firm’s New York office. He has extensive experience developing and implementing major growth strategies and change programs for media and high-tech companies.

Sumita Bhattacharya, [email protected]
Sumita Bhattacharya is a principal with Booz Allen Hamilton in New York. She works with education clients to develop and implement e-learning business strategies.

Tina Nelson, [email protected]
Tina Nelson is a senior associate with Booz Allen Hamilton in New York. She works with education clients to develop and implement e-learning business strategies.
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  1. “Business Schools: Fighting the Enemy Within,” by Paul O. Gaddis, s+b, 4Q 2000. Click here.
  2. “E-Education Is the New New Thing,” by Michael Barker, s+b, 1Q 2000. Click here.
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