(Jay Cross is CEO of Internet Time Group and founder of the Workflow Institute. A thought leader in learning technology, performance improvement, and organizational culture, Jay coined the terms "eLearning" and "workflow learning." He is CEO of the 1800-member Emergent Learning Forum. He is the author of Implementing eLearning, writes the "Effectiveness" column for Chief Learning Officer magazine, and is currently writing a book on Informal Learning. You can find him at http://internettime.com)
Hello Jay. The Learned Man! has put together a few questions that I am sure a lot of us have on our minds, for you:
1) The Learned Man: Jay, you coined the term e-Learning. I read in a recent interview that you now think that too many people read into that term as being 'computer-only'. What’s the new term that might serve to dispel the misleading associations?
Jay: Performance. At least, that’s the word I use if I’m talking to a business executive. Otherwise, learning is better than e-learning. And if it’s really training, i.e. something you’re going to do to people rather than something they’re going to do for themselves, call it training.
2) The Learned Man: Tell us a little about the new book you are writing, Informal Learning. When can we expect to see it on bookshelves?
Jay: Informal learning is how we learned most of what we know. No one takes attendance, for there are no classes. No one assigns grades, for success in life is its measure of effectiveness. No one graduates, because learning never ends. Since people learn their jobs informally, it's foolish for a company to leave informal learning to chance. The book will tell dozens of stories of how companies have profitably leveraged informal learning.
There’s more information about the book at http://tinyurl.com/3t5ec. If anyone has some good examples, please send them to me.
The book won’t be out until the end of next year but some of the things I’m finding are too cool to keep hidden until then. Pieces of the story will appear on my blogs, in my articles, woven into presentations, and in the advice I provide to clients.
3) The Learned Man: Have you ever interacted or worked with any Indian e-Learning companies? What has the experience been like?
Jay: Everyone has interacted with Indian eLearning companies, whether they know it or not. If you could look on the bottom of a course to determine its point of origin, often it would say “Made in India.” I’m working with Indian companies when I order clothing by phone or call my credit card company. Since I don’t develop courseware, I haven’t had direct experience working with Indian developers.
4) The Learned Man: The market in India is booming with new start-ups popping up everyday because companies think there is a lot of money to be made in offshore custom content development. There are only a handful of companies who are trying to see the larger picture and gun for entire programs being outsourced with eLearning and content being only a part of that. Do you see that happening next in the outsourcing to India context? Do you see Tier 2 vendors such as NIIT and Tata Interactive coming up to a point where they could take over the entire training function similar to Accenture and IBM? What are your views on the chasm that these companies will have to cross?
Jay: It depends on the timeframe. John Hagel and John Seely Brown’s new book, The Only Sustainable Edge, predicts that overall (not just in learning), India and China will innovate to serve their own growing middle classes, with the result that superior but less expensive Asian products will flow back into the United States. This doesn’t happen overnight, but Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat sees this starting in the next few years.
5) The Learned Man: What do you think of The Learned Man! Initiative. Do you think blogs like this one have a role to play in forming networks, rounding up, creating, sharing and disseminating knowledge? How important do you think is that and how do you see the present blogs evolving?
Jay: I don’t know enough about your plans to give an opinion on The Learned Man! Initiative, although I like what I’ve seen so far. Generally, I can’t say enough about blogs as a means of learning, sharing knowledge, creating connections, arousing action, and helping people out. Blogs will ride on the back of other software innovations, not lead them.
6) The Learned Man: What are your views on corporate blogs? How important do you think is it for companies to talk to their markets and customers via blogs? Is this the end of traditional PR newswires?
Jay: This depends on the company, but in most cases, I am totally in favor of corporate blogs or at least a bulletin board. If I’m on a corporate site and can’t find some way to interact, I consider the company haughty and uncaring. Also, it’s only the good companies that benefit from transparency. If you’d have been able to look inside World.com or Enron, you probably wouldn’t have liked what you found there. PR newswires will continue because they are trivially cheap to produce.
7) The Learned Man: What are the 3 conferences that you think are most important to the e-Learning and training world?
Jay: That’s an impossible question to answer unless you tell me who’s going to the conference. Local conferences can be enlightening to novices but bore me to tears. My current favorites include Online Educa in Berlin because you get academia and corporations together in one room and an international audience to boot. I’m looking forward to Elliott Masie’s Learn 2005 because of its innovations – and promotion of informal learning. I just returned from Gnomedex; the topic was syndication and podcasting but anyone who considers themselves an eLearning professional better learn about those things.
8) The Learned Man: Have you ever been to or are you planning a visit to India anytime? I know that there are lots of people here who would be eager to meet with you and benefit from a lecture or talk.
Jay: I would love to visit India. My dream is to stay at that beautiful palace/hotel in the middle of a lake at in Udaipur. I’m willing to swap a couple of days of consulting or presentations for two business class air tickets from San Francisco for my wife and me – and the cost of two nights on the lake in Udaipur.
Your readers might be interested to know that the town where I live, Berkeley, California, has a thriving Indian community. We have sari shops, a large spice market, and two dozen Indian restaurants and chaat houses. Namaste.