Leading British e-learning Guru Steve Molyneux Links with Rhema Group

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Revered as one of the nation’s leading experts in the use of ICT (information and communication technology) in education and training, Professor Steve Molyneux is acknowledged to be one of the fathers of e-learning in the UK and is currently Director of the Learning Lab. He has now linked with Rhema to act as global strategist for use of technologies in training & development.

Professor Molyneux will now work very closely with the long-established and highly respected management development and training experts Rhema Group, as Senior e-learning Advisor and Strategist. He will ally his enormous knowledge and experience in this field to Rhema’s development of e-learning as an increasingly important element of blended learning and development solutions.

Rhema is celebrating this significant connection. Says MD Jeremy Francis: “Learning and development is rapidly becoming more technology-enabled. We anticipate continued steep growth in e-learning and virtual learning communities within organisations, particularly for delivery of management development programmes in a multinational corporate structure.

“Steve is the renowned guru on all aspects of e-learning and development and understands the growing market for this. He has already worked successfully with us on high level and strategic assignments. His remit with Rhema will be global, contributing to the strength and future potential of our team.”

Professor Molyneux is a leading figure in his sphere. His academic career has included holding the Microsoft Chair of Advanced Learning Technologies and the IBM Chair of Information and Communication Technologies – both at the University of Wolverhampton (with which he still works closely). He plays an important role in shaping the future of e-learning on a national and global scale.

“Experienced and innovative learning and development suppliers like Rhema can help companies and employees manage the change to a virtual learning environment facilitated by digital technology,” he says. “Companies can’t just throw technology at training. They need help in creating strategies for dealing with change, as well as putting training content together in an entirely new way for the new generation of “digital native” employees, while also helping those who do not feel so at ease with these new technologies.”

Professor Molyneux’ personal consultancy roles include Special Advisor to the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff within the MoD on training and education. He was a member the Learning and Skills Council’s UK Distributed Electronic Learning Group; the Digital Content Group of the DTI; the DFES Post-16 e-learning task force and was a founder member of the Broadband Stakeholder Group Executive with responsibility for the Education and Training sector. He has also advised Government on broadband strategies for the UK and Northern Ireland and the Scottish Parliament on meeting the needs of the Scottish digital economy.

He is consultant to a number of UK and international public and private sector organisations on the strategic use of ICT and broadband infrastructure.

About a million students currently benefit from the virtual learning environment– which he developed in 1995.

Throughout the 90s his work and vision and his work propelled development in many aspects of e-learning and web-based facilitation knowledge management and information sharing. He founded The Learning Lab in 1999, a recognised centre of excellence dedicated to the promotion and use of IT in education, training and employment.

Since 2000, when he won the bid to provide the DFES’ ICT Research Centre (a collaboration between The Learning Lab and the University of Wolverhampton,) his intense schedule of innovation and development in his ever-broadening field has continued at an impressive pace. Just one highlight project was a tripartite video conference on human rights between children in the UK, USA and Iraq.

His public sector clients have included local and national Government in the UK, the Royal Navy, the Victoria and Albert Museum; and in the private sector - Deutsche Telekom, AEG and Siemens in Germany and Microsoft, Creative Labs and HSBC in the UK.

A brief Q&A with Professor Steve Molyneux

Q: How do you think that e-learning and virtual learning environments will influence the current generation of employees?

A: Neo-millennium employees have grown up surrounded by digital technology and therefore have a completely different view on, and expectation of, how that technology can be used in their business and social environments. So there is a growing divide between these “digital natives” and employees who trained and developed for and in the old business environment. These “digital immigrants” are not as adept at using the technology.

Organisations like Rhema can help companies manage the change which digital immigrants must go through, while also providing the right kind of learning and development for the digital natives – who have experienced the new learning environment from primary school and expect it to be available in the workplace, and who bring to their employment pre-existing skills for using ICT.

When thinking about training, the current generation of managers should look at changes in other areas. For example, why has there been a drop in advertising on TV? It served a traditionally passive, captive audience, but the audience is changing and wants to get its information while it is active and on the move – so advertising on the internet and via mobile phones is replacing television ads.

Q And what about future generations of employees? Can we assume that that these changes will mean not just different learning but better learning?

A: That depends on how the training and development content is created and delivered. Technology does not make better learning, it only empowers better learners. Better learning depends on good quality content which is fit for purpose and for the medium. The generation which learned through print is too often responsible for structuring content for e-learning; if all that is done is to transfer the print manual into an electronic textbook format, the effect can be negative.

Inevitably, change will be fully achieved only as the digital native students become the first generation of digital native trainers

Q What is the effect on business in general?

A: The effect is great cultural change. Where training is concerned this means that it must be implemented correctly. Companies must have a strategy for dealing with the impact of change on the business, and on the individual. Think of how e-commerce and the “just-in-time” operating regime have already had an enormous impact on retail and the people who work in it.

Companies need assistance with managing change in education and training. They can’t just throw technology at it. The issue is not only e-learning, but m-learning, for employees who are used to having a wireless mobile device in every pocket, and using these to get information – which can be small learning objects – as and when they need it and want it: the “just in time” principle again. So suppliers of training need to look at up-and-coming standards such as SCORM (shareable courseware object reference model)

Q: What can thoughtful, innovative learning and development providers like Rhema do to help organisations and their employees with all this?

A: They can build the strategy for the new training - not only to deliver the training but also to change the learning and development culture, from organisation-centred to individual-centred, where learners take responsibility for their own training and, most importantly, are trusted to do so.

E-learning/m-learning still tends to be seen as a threat by many managers, something which allows employees to “stop working” at various times during the day. The pressures of business too often override the pressure to train well. These same fears and pressures that led to people initially being prevented from using the internet and e-mail while at work are being challenged in the new, technology-based learning which is increasingly being seen as an enhancement to employees’ effectiveness and development.

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Terri Anderson
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