The E-learning Ecosystem in organizations

In the previous E-Learning Curve Blog entry on this topic ‘adapting to knowledge workers learning needs in organizations,’ I made a case for the benefits of e-learning as a means to providing workers with the appropriate and relevant learning interventions as they progress from neophyte to mastery of their particular skills, experience and expertise.

By adapting the well-known learning curve, I developed a conceptual model that maps Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives to learner requirements as they progress along the curve (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Learning Curve model aligning Bloom’s Taxonomy and components of the E-learning Ecosystem

In today’s blog post, I’ll look at preconditions for introducing learning modalities to this model.

Now read on.

There are two components involved in investigating this aspect of e-learning as a means to enhance knowledge worker performance:

  1. E-learning tools and technologies
  2. Applying effective learning modalities to learning requirements

E-learning tools and technologies

In their influential white paper Powering the leap to maturity: The eLearning ecosystem, Dillon & Hallet define the concept of the “E-learning EcoSystem.” The authors assert that a “blended approach” where instructor-led resources are deployed at the earliest stages of a learner’s development, and increasingly, e-learning solutions are implemented as the learner develops.

With Web-based training, as with its manual counterpart in the classroom, the zone of applicability is actually quite limited. The only time it makes sense to pull workers off their jobs for training is limited precisely to those times when no other alternative will suffice. Off the- job forms of training make good business sense only when workers are at the bottom of the learning curve and are not yet equipped to perform at any acceptable level of competence.


Through “pervasive connectivity” (p.19), characterized by the growth of deployment of corporate portals and intranets, as well as learning support technologies such as content management systems and knowledgebases, and is the foundation for their e-learning ecosystem. In my view, the choice of terminology that the authors use is interesting; by employing the term ecosystem

a system whose members benefit from each other’s participation via symbiotic relationships… It is a term that originated from biology, and refers to self-sustaining systems,


they imply that the nature (no pun intended) of organizations parallels complex natural systems. Similarly, a functioning learning ecosphere holistically supports a diverse range of learning modalities which enable the learner to thrive in the corporate environment.

As workers move up the e-learning curve, they quickly leave the relative isolation of pure asynchronous courseware. Initially, they enter the more richly supported environment of the online university, backed by an enterprise-level learning management system.


Progressing along the curve, the authors note the introduction of just-in-time forms of learning content delivery.

As we move even further up the e-learning curve we encounter yet another interesting revelation. Most of the learning technologies at this end of the curve are not generally recognized as “learning” technologies at all. Rather, such items as collaboration tools and intelligent search are more typically thought of as knowledge management technologies. Deploying and utilizing these types of tools are what differentiates an employee from a “performer.”

(pp. 20-21)

Having characterised the e-learning ecosystem, Dillon & Hallet define the components of it:

  • Web-base training
  • Online university
  • Learning Objects
  • Electronic Performance Support Systems
  • Collaboration
  • Intelligent Search

As they suggest, these components “put the ‘system’ in ecosystem” – a statement that I would suggest is doubly true: by describing the technologies (and to a lesser extent on technology and learning solutions vendors) in their white paper, they neglect to lend appropriate weight to how these systems are implemented.


FÓGRA: Malinka Ivanova of the Technical University in Sofia has an interesting perspective on this topic. Click here to find out more.


Definition of “Ecosystem.” [Internet] Available from: Accessed 30 May 2008.

Dillon, P. & Hallett, C. (2001, October). Powering the leap to maturity: The eLearning ecosystem. Cisco Systems white paper.

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