What South Africa's Learning And Development Professionals Need To Do

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South Africa has a golden opportunity to compete internationally for e-learning projects alongside the likes of India and the Philippines. That is according to Tom Kuhlmann, Chief Learning Architect at the maker of the world's most popular apps for online learning, US-based Articulate.


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Kuhlmann, who was recently in the country to address delegates at New Leaf Technologies' Learning Indaba & Articulate Roadshow in Johannesburg and Cape Town, believes South Africa's favourable exchange rate can place it among the leading Asian nations for e-learning costs and effectiveness.

This, in turn, would create more demand for skilled course designers and developers.

He says:

E-learning is a great industry for tough economies. It scales well, reduces costs of training, and implementation and delivery can be expedited.

It also seems like a good fit for some of the issues that the country needs to tackle, since many of the solutions rest in upskilling quickly.

While Kuhlmann notes that the South African market appears to be held back to some degree by the economy and access to content, expansion of the mobile data market creates a significant opportunity for e-learning to grow.

He suggests growth of the country's e-learning systems will be dependent on the following:

  • Access to content creates more opportunities: This requires the right content to be delivered at the right time and is dependent on consistent internet access. Once available, it democratises opportunities and becomes a springboard for other aspects.
  • Cost-effective development and delivery: In an ideal world, there would be less regulatory oversight which tends to delay innovation and creativity. A stronger market creates more jobs and, with that, greater consideration for learning and development.
  • Relevant regulatory compliance courses: Regulatory compliance courses tend to be less than ideal. E-learning is more than content. To be competitive, what people need to see is better quality courses that are relevant and meaningful.
  • Connection to peers: E-learning teams are often small, comprising one to three developers. Many don't have strong mentorship opportunities, so being connected with a community of practice and peers engaged in the same field is critical.

The Articulate roadshow was centred around using the company's products to build e-learning courses, and South Africa compares favourably with events held in more established markets, Kuhlmann says.

"In no way" did it appear that the South African developers were behind their counterparts internationally, nor were they less sophisticated in what they delivered.

It did appear that there was a lot more focus on the academic side than corporate. And in some conversations, I learned about the many regulatory agencies and groups that are involved in the training industry.

On the one hand I assume compliance and regulatory oversight is fertile ground for more e-learning content, which is good for course designers. On the other, having too much government and regulatory oversight potentially thwarts creativity, innovation, and disrupts the quick go-to-market benefits of e-learning.

The challenge, he says, is for the learning and development space to take what is mandatory and reframe it to meet regulatory needs as well as the real needs of learners.

As in most industries artificial intelligence will start to play a greater role in training, but Kuhlmann emphasises that it should be viewed as an accelerant to effective creation and distribution of content, rather than a threat.

AI can help process and outline training content, expedite development of custom assets, and assist in crafting more dynamic learning experiences. I see AI as a means of providing more opportunities for the L&D communities.

I assume at first there will be a glut of generic courses and over time things will settle into expert-validated courses where the organisation will demand better results from the content that's created and consumed by staff.

New Leaf Technologies' managing director, Michael Hanly, says it is pleasing that South Africa's learning professionals are on par with their international counterparts. That already puts them on course to take full advantage the opportunities Kuhlmann speaks about.

Hanly says:

We are really grateful to Tom for his insights. Sometimes we don't always see things the way others do, and from what he is saying we have every chance to compete on the global stage.

 

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