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There's a lot of talk in e-learning circles these days about the arrival of the "second wave." Granted, just trying to catch a ride on the first wave proved a challenge for some would-be e-surfers. But in nearly every facet of the e-learning movement, signs are that the next wave is coming. And in spite of gloomy reports and the shaky economy, the second wave may be rolling in faster than you think.
"The marketplace is shifting in maturity," says Tom Graunke, CEO of e-learning firm KnowledgeNet knowledgenet.com. "We're beginning the second wave of e-learning. Buyers know what they want; now it's all about deploying against their business needs."
It's tempting to dismiss that as so much promotional rhetoric--cheerleading for a losing market. But if he and others are right that the e-learning world is evolving into a new phase, where are the telltales? If true, what changes can we expect, and what impact will they have?
In upstart industries such as e-learning, big ideas, experimentation, trial-and-error, excitement, creativity, and sometimes disappointment and frustration characterize the first wave of growth. It's all about trying to figure out what works and works best. As we've seen during the past two years, some ideas never succeed--regardless of how much time and money are invested. Bad ideas usually fail. Good ideas gain momentum and support, followers and advocates. From a macro perspective, the culmination of enough good ideas will ultimately reach critical mass, and the second wave is beginning to rise.
The second wave signals the arrival of greater standardization and the emergence of replicable processes. More and more people are adopting the good ideas and building on them. Norms are emerging. Winning ideas from instructional design methods to profitable business models are beginning to achieve broad support. Creativity, a key driver from the first wave, will, in the second wave, improve best practices. It's when all of those dynamics come together that the growth of a ream, an organization, or an industry accelerates. For e-learning, the signs are all around us.
Architect-ing the second wave
For compelling evidence of the arrival of e-learning's second wave, look first at the evolution of the standards movement.
"Standards will do more to accelerate the e-learning marketplace than anything else. Period," states an emphatic Terry Nulty, president of e-learning developer and publisher Element K elementk.com.
To fully understand the impact that standards (such as SCORM) will …