Online lessons

E-learning has been a hot topic for some time, with providers of online training espousing its low cost, flexibility and ability to teach those unable to attend classrooms.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  November 12, 2003

E-learning has been a hot topic for some time, with providers of online training espousing its low cost, flexibility and ability to teach those unable to attend classrooms.

For some time, the theory remained just that and few enterprises or organisations adopted the model.

However, as a growing number of businesses realise that much of the theory surrounding e-learning works out in practice, usage has soared.According to IDC, the global corporate e-learning market generated a relatively paltry US$2.3 billion in 2000.

However, a growth rate of more than 50% will see that figure exceed US$18 billion in 2005. Concurrent to this explosion is a shift in the type of lessons users wish to learn online.

Back in 2002, the preference of 72% of users was for IT content, but by the end of next year this figure will have dropped to 46% and non-IT content will dominate with 54% of demand. Such a shift reflects the wider scale adoption of e-learning by those outside the confines of information technology.

The desire for all inclusive e-learning, where all members of society can log on and learn basic computing practices, achieve IT certification and develop other soft skills, such as management techniques, has now spread to the Middle East.

Although training over the internet has been slower to develop in the region due to the time required to Arabise content, e-learning has received a big boost of the past few months due to two government inspired programmes.

The first has seen HumanSoft Learning Solutions design and implemented a complete e-learning portal for Dubai e-Government.

Built in under a month, the portal has made 3000 business and IT courses available to corporate and home internet users across the UAE.

Concurrent to this is the formation of an online learning partnership between Etisalat Internet & Multimedia (EIM) and Element K, which will provide content for the monopoly ISP’s LearnOnline training portal.

The buzz surrounding e-learning presents the local channel with a number of opportunities.

In terms of obvious business opportunities, any organisation wishing to implement online training will need to find a reseller of such solutions and a systems integrator to set it up, especially if they want it to link into human resources applications.

As few partners currently appear to be pushing e-learning to the local market, there could be an opening for those that can quickly establish a reputation for delivering online learning solutions.

Aside from the opportunity to strike more deals, the growth of e-learning provides the channel with a chance to develop its skills quicker than ever before.

If a new technology is unveiled, partners do not have to wait for it to physically arrive in the Middle East before they work with it because they can tap into online training materials and get up to speed before the kit arrives.

The ability to access more content quicker should also mean the channel can expand its areas of knowledge.

When it took considerable classroom time to learn a topic, those that were not directly related to the core business were, understandably, jettisoned.

Now, however, they can be incorporated into the free time/downtime of employees.

This broadening of the channel skill base is especially important as the local market matures and increasingly moves from product implementation to the delivery of solutions.

Furthermore, vendors that are either starting to target the region, or those that are already present but looking to expand their channel into new markets or different verticals, are going to select the best educated and most highly certified partners they can.

If they don’t choose such resellers and continue to opt for ‘those they know’ or a ‘friend of a friend’ then they are going to make little impact on the Middle East’s soaring IT market.

So, those in the channel that have yet to embrace e-learning really should consider putting the training manuals back on the shelf and grab a mouse instead.

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