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Market heats up as IBM and others form e-learning divisions

A former chief technology officer of IBM has left Big Blue to head up a multimedia content and distance learning division with NovoLogic, Inc., a Georgia-based provider of B-to-B Internet products and services for AS/400 and Domino. Jeff Gray, former CTO of IBM's Learning Services Division will head up the new division as vice president of e-content and e-learning services.

Just last week, IBM made a similar announcement saying that it planned to unveil its own business unit dedicated to distance learning over the Web, a move supporting the company's strategy to make distance learning one of its key areas of focus. IBM and Lotus sound the online school bell

The announcements support the emerging demand for education and training programs via the Internet.

Gray, who was involved in the development and deployment stages of e-transformation application efforts while at IBM, talked to about e-training and the impact it will have on IT education and training efforts on businesses worldwide.

SEARCH400.COM:As a former IBM CTO, your departure to head up an independent Web-based learning venture and IBM's announcement that it would form it's own division, shout the fact that training on the Web is the up-and-coming business. Why is this market so hot?

GRAY:Training and education within the United States is a $740 billion business. Out of that, corporate distant learning was $3.7 billion. That's education and training that's just computer-based. That number is growing at a 65% rate per year and expected to reach $7.1 billion by 2002. According to a study by the Gartner Group, the delivery of training will shift from 25% technology-based and 75% instructor-led in 1998 to a 50-50 split by 2002.

SEARCH400.COM:Yes, but why is it growing at such a rate?

GRAY:As businesses realize the high cost of computer training, more and more of them are turning their attention to alternatives. Education and training on the Web, with effective content and technology, can be extremely cost-effective.

SEARCH400.COM:How cost-effective?

GRAY:Return on investment is the easiest sell in the world. Usually it's over 3 to 4 to 1. The expense to create it is heavy, but all of a sudden, companies don't need to have their people travel. That alone saves businesses thousands.

SEARCH400.COM:What's the target market for multimedia training?

GRAY:Its applications are endless so the market is fairly broad. But clearly, a large market will be the Fortune 500 companies and their IT training departments.

SEARCH400.COM:What are the different types of multimedia training administrators can expect to find?

GRAY: Distance learning is really a four-tiered market. One of the first tiers is the presentation of content in text form. Users go to the site to obtain reference material, factual stuff. It can also be integrated with video and text.

The next tier is more interactive. Users will be able to get their questions answered, they can fill out forms, it will simulate a typical classroom environment. For example, in the past we've trained workers from Domino Pizza. Using this level of e-training, we were able to show them how to do everything from how to make pizza to how to sweep the floors. Most colleges are doing this now.

In the third tier, you'll see collaborative meeting tools-Microsoft and Lotus have them-that allow for live chats, white boarding and video conferencing. Here, the classes will be broadcast live.

A fourth tier is for users who've already learned the content. Once you've got the basics out of the way, you can move up to something that's more of a lab environment. This tier really gets into the meat of the subject and interactivity with colleagues.

SEARCH400.COM:Are all these tiers being implemented in e-training today?

GRAY:In some form, but these tiers are really what I see as a natural progression of e-training. But, in every layer of every tier there's technology that needs to take form before they'll actually take off.

SEARCH400.COM:Several vendors offering multimedia training but, the actual number of users taking advantage of the training is not very impressive. Why are you so confident multimedia training is the wave of the future?

GRAY:As I said earlier, it goes back to the technology. A lot of people are in the market of making content, but they can't make it across the Web. The content can't be delivered efficiently. They don't have the IT knowledge or resources to match a solution to a particular ecosystem. People aren't finishing the class because they don't want to wait.

SEARCH400.COM:Why would an IT manager opt to have people trained in multimedia format? Why not in-house?

GRAY:For one, the expense. Experts say that Web-based training can cut costs as much as 50%. Plus, technology-based training has been known to achieve an equal or higher quality level of learning while reducing training delivery time by 40% to 60% versus instructor-led courses.

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