E-learning going mobile in Asia

Proliferation of mobile devices in Asia driving businesses in region to customize more flexible ways of distributing e-learning content to users, say market players.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Companies in Asia have started to "seriously" adopt e-learning in the last three years and many are focusing on customizing distance learning content for mobile devices, say e-learning service providers.

Carsten Rosenkranz, director of business development at e-learning service provider Knowledge Platform, said that due to the popularity of tablets and smartphones, many companies in Asia are beginning to plan for more flexible ways of distributing their training content to their users.

Ian Huckabee, CEO of North Carolina-based e-learning company WeejeeLearning, agreed. While the company does not have any Asia-based clients, he observed that its global clients are targeting mobile devices for the Asian and developing markets when localizing their learning and training content.

That said, Rosenkranz noted that mobile learning is not fully integrated but there are "pockets" where it is used such as providing just-in-time access to relevant information. "It is still early stages but clearly the trend is in [direction of mobile learning]." he said.

Based on the client base of Knowledge Platform, the director of business said Asian companies have started adopting e-learning in a more serious way only in the past three years. The Singapore-headquarter company's clients were mostly European and U.S. multinational companies for the past 12 years of its operations, said Rosenkranz.

He believed that Asian companies are starting to adopt e-learning because of reasons such as cost pressures, the wish to adopt a more advanced approach to learning and development and employees becoming more savvy in technology.

"A lot of the larger regional organizations, such as telco Singapore Telecommunications, banks like UOB and DBS, are now joining the e-learning bandwagon. More surprisingly, many regional small and midsize enterprises are doing the same," he said.

However Rosenkranz noted that e-learning is still in the early stages for companies in the region. He estimated that only about 20 percent of the 500-plus companies registered on the Singapore Stock Exchange are using e-learning in an "effective or advanced way".

E-learning becoming more social
While mobility is a future trend for e-learning, WeejeeLearning's Huckabee noted that e-learning is becoming more social. 

"Companies are turning to cloud-based Software-as-a-Service products that offer SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model)-compliant, socially driven environments which foster creativity and problem solving while providing the governance and security controls required by the corporation," he said.

He added that next-generation learning management systems allow learning and development departments to manage their users' learning path, monitor performance and drive discussion while leveraging commonly used social tools.

Besides that, Huckabee said many distance learning providers have turned to popular social networks such as Facebook and YouTube as innovative channels of learning. He cited non-profit educational organization Khan Academy as an example.

Knowledge Platform's Rosenkranz agreed that video and social media tools are beginning to play a bigger role in learning and development, but added that these tools are only at the beginning stage of the development.

Huckabee said that telepresence technology has entered boardrooms and higher education classrooms but it is less used for "cost-conscious" distance e-learning as it is an expensive technology and required dedicated real estate.

User: Distance learning as effective as in-class education
Clarabelle Chong, a Singapore-based arts student who is doing a distance learning course, said her experience at her current school has been "wonderful".

"It's nothing like a 'conventional' school where you can sit beside your classmates in a classroom and can ask teachers questions anytime, but I don't feel like I'm not gaining adequate information by not being in the same physical space as my instructors or classmates," she said.

Being in an arts course, Chong noted that it would be beneficial for her to be in the same physical space as her instructors as they can point out straightaway how she can improve her piece. However, she added that Web cameras allow instructors to do the same in the virtual classroom to a certain degree.

Another advantage of online classes is that classes are recorded so students who miss out on a class or do not understand a lesson can watch the recorded video "over and over and over again", she added.

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