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What ’s Going to Happen “Around the Courseware”?

The capability and flexibility of the systems that surround the e-learning courses will continue to improve, making e-learning even easier to manage.

More and more e-learning systems will be interconnected, which should improve the accessibility and availability of e-learning courses.

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What do I mean by “around the courseware”? I mean the systems that deliver the e-learning courses and the systems that help you manage the administrative complexity of delivering hundreds of courses to hundreds of students. Today, these are referred to as learning management systems (LMSs); we looked briefly at their characteristics in Developing and Delivering E-Learning.

The first thing is that LMSs will continue to improve. You’ll continue to get better and better capabilities for managing the enrollments, course delivery, reports, upgrades, and maintenance. The emerging e-learning standards will solidify, and today’s LMS will evolve into a very rich e-learning platform.

The next thing is that e-learning will probably become even more interconnected. Here’s what I mean by that statement. Today, the basic model for e-learning is that you go to a specific Web site and take a course from what’s available in that Web site’s e- learning catalog. This is very much like going to a public library and taking out a book from what is available on the library shelves. But if we can predict anything with certainty, it is that the Internet will, over time, become an ever more closely connected web.

So the model that could emerge is what I’ll call “the interlibrary loan model.” I can go to my local public library and take out a book from its shelves. But I can also ask my librarian to get me a book from another library in my geographic region. So, in the future, you might see a similar thing in e-learning. You might go to one e-learning site and take e-learning courseware that is not actually available from that site but from a different site. Behind the scenes, the first site will get the course from the second site and deliver it to the requesting user. You can think of this as the “take a course from anywhere” model.

Of course, a number of business and technology problems will need to be ironed out before the “take a course from anywhere” model can be realized:

  • Standards. Interconnection generally can’t happen with- out following technology standards.
  • Student authorization agreements. If you are authorized to take courses at one site, how will another site know about you? And will you get credit for taking the course back at your home system?
  • Payment. If it costs money to take a course, how does the money flow when someone from another site takes a course?

None of these problems are insurmountable, but the timeframe for getting to this situation will depend on market pressures with timings that are impossible to predict.