How the Economy Will Affect Learning 2.0 in 2008 (and probably 2009)

Have you looked at the Stock Market lately? You don’t have to be in the United States to appreciate the situation. We’re in for a bumpy ride. It may not be the end-of-days scenario that noted economists, politicos and pundits predict, but it’s obvious to me here in Chicago that the market is going to be turbulent, which is undoubtedly going to affect what people, organizations and governments spend money on — and that’s going to affect corporate, academic and government budgets… and as far as it impacts corporate budgets, it’s definitely going to impact me and my work. Here’s how I see it rolling.

How solid are those plans for upgrading your LMS? Chances are you won’t unless there are technical reasons that make it an imperative. It might have been difficult last year to make the business case to upgrade a piece of enterprise software last year when the market was still good, but this year with the coffers tightening, dropping another couple hundred thousand (or a couple of million depending on your scale) is just not likely. Big ticket items like LMSs and LCMSs are probably going to be on=hold for acquisition unless you can show without a doubt how what you buy will a) save the organization a ton of cash in other ways, thus reducing costs overall; and/or b) improve productivity in measurable ways, thus reducing your operating costs overall.

In fact, let’s make that the common theme for this post. See, when budgets are just the “normal” kind of tight for learning, education and training, you have the opportunity for doing small Research and Development projects (not like there’s lots of official time for those, but you can fly some pet projects under the radar until you’re ready to show them off). When there’s a promise that next month will be another record breaking milestone, you can get that expansion or that new acquisition through a little easier. But when times get tight, you need to really be concerned about the bottom line — but you also need to focus on infrastructure. You want to be able to do more with less — but you also don’t want the people or the services you rely on to get destroyed in the process of running lean.

Your budget was probably set in stone (concrete, maybe?) before the start of this year. Use it to train your people in a variety of needed skills so that an Instructional Designer or a Content Developer can do a lot more than they could before. Use it to upgrade the authoring tools you use. Use it develop those reusable templates you’re going to need next year.

If your organization hasn’t gone mobile yet, you’re likely not going to in the next two years. Keep reading what other organizations are doing with mobile, because discussing and designing the future is very important — but not as important as being able to squeeze the most value you can right now.

If I was to weigh in on how we’d spend what money we have this year, I’d advise the following:

Definitely

  • Transition our main authoring tool to something collaborative.
  • Upgrade our simulation capturing tool to make sure it’s as robust and stable as it can be.
  • Invent or Acquire a means to manage media assets, learning objectives, competencies and how content maps to and with these things.
  • Pick up some media software (Flash, maybe something for digital video)
  • Code for custom E-Learning content (for those custom jobs or content upgrades from years ago that all of the sudden just stop working)
  • Train the tech savvy on Flash, HTML and JavaScript; train the Instructional Design-savvy on Graphic Design principles. Train everyone on curriculum development, project management and personal productivity skills, because when organizations make due with less, that usually means people who do — do more.

Maybe

  • Upgrade hardware to mobile equipment to go to where the internal client is
  • Push out collaborative authoring tools to Subject Matter Experts.

I’d welcome any questions or input on this topic, because I think we’re going to see a shift similar to what the commercial sector saw in 2002 and 2003 when the dot-com bubble burst. For government, this will be the first time in a very long time experiencing this. For you folks in the acaedmic sector, this is old hat to you đŸ™‚

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