Saturday, 2 October 2004

Birthday Business and Elearning Industry

Stretching an analogy too far is not always a good idea. But, I think there is still a few meters to extend before the analogy breaks.

Notable players in "Birthday business" includes MacDonald, mainly for the under 10; game parlours, bowling centres, rock climbing centres or novelty fun venues for 10+; night clubs, bars and restaurants for the 20+; and restaurants for the 50+. Not every business which participates realises that it is in an experience industry, MacDonald is an obvious exception! What is valued by the consumers is the "experience" of the event. However, if you are a very good birthday cake bakery, you can still be very successful in capturing some of the value of this value-chain.

I see many parallels of "birthday business" with the e-learning industry.

The birthday cake: If you are a good content provider, you can still capture a good part of the value-chain. The open movement is basically a back lash on the over greediness of some of the current publishers. Granted, the difference between digital goods and physical goods, the marginal cost of production of content is near-zero. I suppose this alone does not justify killing the whole learning content publishing industry. After all, there is a significant initial investment in creating interesting and responsible content.

The board range of consumers: Elearning can apply to K-12, Higher Education, post-education in-job pre-job training, life-long learning. Each group will have different expectation from the industry. I would hate to see an one-size-fit-all approach in this industry.

Are you in E-learning business? Again, I don't think all the e-learning business participants realise that they are part of the value-chain in this business. A significant driver of today's keen interest of e-learning is the ubiquity of the technology - computing and communication. While the technology vendors have their eyes on other business sector, I think a lot of families install their board-band connection for the sake of the children's education in the family! (Some restaurants do realise that birthday party dinners like to have a birthday cake and like to sing the happy birthday song. I have seen some restaurants actually have all their waiters and waitresses around the table and sing the happy birthday song loud for the atmosphere! That's a clever move.)

Size of the industry: Now, this is a significant difference between these two industries. Birthday party is once in a year event. Learning and education is an ongoing, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly event. Sure, there are times where we demand more "learning", but "learning" should be a commodity.

If we can blend commodity and experience, provide mass individualized learning for both just-in-case experience and just-in-time content, skill and knowledge any time anywhere filling the skill gap at high ROI, supported by both instructor-led and instructor-less online, face to face and blended learning activities in a standard-compliant SCORM environment, elearning industry is surely the killer application in this information era.

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