Workplace Elearning Reaches Maturity

In their 2001 paper Powering the leap to maturity: The eLearning ecosystem, Pat Dillon and Chas Hallet rightly focus on the growing maturity of e-learning as a educational modality: it has been used in learning and development for long enough that most of its initial problems have been overcome. Now read on…

E-Learning Maturity

In the context of e-learning, Dillon and Hallet define ‘maturity’ as

an enterprise-level application that exploits the capabilities of network computing and system integration to enable value-generating efficiencies and innovations across large and complex organizations.


In my view, the last decade has seen many advances in establishment of

  • A stable communications and ICT infrastructure and computer hardware
  • Great advances in e-learning authoring and delivery software
  • The emergence of e-learning-specific instructional design methodologies
  • Perhaps most significantly, a cultural shift to organizations who are accepting – albeit reluctantly in some cases – the value of e-learning as a means of workplace learning and development.

Dillon and Hallet continue:

The e-learning industry is …poised to cross the evolutionary threshold to maturity.

Klein and  Eseryel (2005) call this mature e-learning ecosystem a “framework”:

…an integrated mosaic of systems, tools, and processes facilitating individual and team learning, performance, and development.


As discussed previously, they assert the efficacy of educational “mental models” or (what I consider a more accurate description) a Social Constructivist approach to workplace learning; specifically using scaffolding to build employee competencies.

To function effectively, the workplace learning environment should enable knowledge workers to “stitch together” (p.10) information from multiple sources. This phrase is a poor attempt to describe the process of aggregating knowledge and information from diverse sources, but I do understand why the authors are using the lie-to-children to describe the process. More accurately, Klein and Eseryel also call it “knowledge assembly”

…in which people make sense of what is happening by assembling information into a coherent whole. Training must establish the base mental models on which a person can then learn subsequent knowledge through elaboration. Knowledge management techniques, such as reverse engineering and low fidelity simulations, can be designed to facilitate the development of mental models of complex devices. Documentation must provide structured information that enables the person to develop deeper models as they need to learn more details, and team development and coordination methods should be designed to support the building of shared mental models.


One of the most effective ways to immerse workers the tasks of knowledge- and skill-building is through the use of simulations or scenarios.

In the e-learning context, anyone who has used tools like Adobe Captivate and Techsmith Camtasia (among others) will testify as to the effectiveness of simulations and scenarios as teaching environments. More informally, we have all had a conversation with a more knowledgeable colleague where we’ve discussed solutions to a challenge we’ve encountered in work: usually such “learning at the watercooler” moments start with the earnest supplicant saying something like “What would I do if I wanted to… [insert query here]”

How best, then, to elicit such tacit knowledge and expertise in the formal and non-formal corporate context?

I will continue to investigate this next time…



Dillon, P. & Hallett, C. (2001). Powering the leap to maturity: The eLearning ecosystem. Cisco Systems white paper.

Klein, J. Eseryel, D. (2005). The Corporate Learning Environment. [Internet] Available from: http://www.igi-pub.com/downloads/excerpts/159140505XCh1.pdf [Accessed 18 February 2010]

Pratchett, T., Stewart, I., & Cohen, J.S. (1999). The Science of Discworld (2nd Ed.). Ebury Press.


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  2. Hi Michael:
    I am anxious to read about your investigation into how organizations can best take advantage of formal and non-formal knowledge exchanges, as this is a topic we champion – namely that learning isn’t static but continues throughout our daily experiences and exchanges. I look forward to reading more from you on this topic.


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