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In praise of Eire-learning

by Hugh McKellar, KMW Executive Editor

No one will blame you for holding conservative—or even pessimisticassessment of the current state of the tech sector. Despite effusiveentreaties from a few too many marketeers, most people expect to see asomewhat later and perhaps smaller recovery than we all envisioned a coupleof months. But for a moment, you take your eyes away from telecoms mess andtoday’s consolidation in the content management space and take a look at thee-learning industry you’ll find a different picture. Or a least I did lastmonth in Dublin, Ireland, a curiously appropriate venue in light of Thomas Cahill’s recent book, How the Irish Saved Civilization.

Organized by acknowledge learning leader Eliott Masie and produced byAdvanstar, the conference brought into focus the also staggering potential ofe-learning on a global scale, as well as the role of blended learninginitiatives, standardization strategies, bandwidth concerns and the legal andcultural matters as e-learning goes global. While some of those issues poseconsiderable challenges to the industry, there’s no doubt they will be met.Although Masie’s research shows a currently depressed market in e-learning spending, demand is nevertheless quite high. He says there are now more than 3,900 e-learning companies, compared with only 16 in 1998. Five years ago, 4% of North American enterprises had an e-learning initiative of some sort; today that figure is 90%. Expenditures do not match that growth, however, and consolidation and simple business failures are somewhat brisk. Nevertheless, both Forrester and IDC predict the e-learning market will reach $50 billion by 2005 and $100 billion by 2010.

For the sake of argument, let's put the legal, cultural and standards issues aside, and jump right into bandwidth. Very few would argue that the current infrastructure could even begin to fill the future needs of truly robust, truly global e-learning initiatives. But if we are to believe John Patrick, a former VP of Internet Technology at IBM, who also served as the company’s chief Internet technology officer, overcoming that hurdle is a matter of time. He’s also the author of the compelling Net Attitudes, published by Perseus. He is clearly bullish on bandwith. If you haven’t read his work, you should—check out John Patrick.

To quote from his Weblog: “Fujitsu Laboratories has already commercialized a 1 Tbps optical underwater cable system that multiplexes a 10-Gbps signal into 105 channels. In other words they are enabling more than one hundred separate "windows" of light tosimultaneously and independently operate in a single strand of optical fiber. The newer technology, which Fujitsu hopes to commercialize in 2005, utilizes 240 "windows". With each "window" handling ten billion bits per second, the aggregate through the single fiber comes out 2.4 trillion bits per second—2.4 terabits per second.” Enough totransmit 633,000 copies of his book—or 500 full CDs—in one second.

So while the future may not yet be here, it’s just around the corner. Andthe synergies between KM and e-learning are so robust that, beginning withthe February 2003 issue of KMWorld, we’ll be launching E-Learning World, a regular supplement to the magazine. We’ll model it after this publication, focusing ontechnology, case studies and business issues affecting the organizationsdeploying e-learning initiates. Keep your eyes peeled and your e-mailspoised. We want your feedback; send it to editor@kmworld.com

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