Unlike the Industrial revolution that occurred over hundreds
of years, the Internet revolution will be over in two to three
decades. Those countries and companies that do not respond quickly
to the challenges and opportunities the Internet creates will
simply get left behind. In this fast-changing, knowledge-based
environment there will be two equalisers in life, the Internet
and Education. Together they will change business, political
and social avenues, levelling the playing field between people,
companies and countries. E-learning, Internet-enabled learning,
will provide businesses and educational institutions with the
mechanism, skills and information they need to turn change into
an advantage in the Internet Economy. This paper sets out to
illustrate Cisco's vision for E-learning, the benefits it can
deliver as a business application, its impact on life-long learning
opportunities, and the competitive advantage it bestows on organisations
and individuals that implement it.
The Internet is changing the way in which we work, live, play
and learn. We now regularly communicate via e-mail and chat rooms
both at home and in the business place. We gather real-time news
and business intelligence from the web, anywhere in the world.
We purchase goods and services through online stores, and make
increasingly sophisticated consumer choices based on more widely
available information. As a result of its ubiquity, the Internet
has erased traditional barriers of time and distance, leading
to the evolution of new business, social and educational models.
One of the challenges that this raises, is how businesses
and academic institutions can keep up with the pace and diversity
of change, and the demand for new skills that has been brought
about by the technology changes of the last 15 years? In the
information-rich Internet Economy, in which agility and speed
are critical, one of the key determinants of relevance and economic
success will be the ability to deploy learning, as well as gather
and tap knowledge within an organisation.
In this environment, time-to-knowledge will increasingly replace
time-to-market as the fundamental business driver and key competitive
advantage. Making education, lifelong learning, and skill-set
retooling critical for an organisation's long-term, economic
The Internet simultaneously offers a solution to this challenge
for employers and educators, and for employees and students.
E-learning, web-based delivery of educational content, provides
educational institutions and businesses with the means to deliver
"anytime, anywhere, accountable" access to learning,
as well as promoting the creation of new learning models that
are more relevant for the Internet age. It also empowers the
individual, enabling life-long learning opportunities, regardless
of age, gender, location or culture.
2. The Lessons Learned - the Networking Academy Program
"The network academies are seen by us today in the developing
environment as the basic building block that brings the Internet
and Information technology into the hands of those countries
that are finding themselves more and more marginalised, and joining
them with the global community."
(Gabriel Accascina, Regional Coordinator, United Nations Development
In 1993, Cisco embarked on an initiative to design practical,
cost-effective networks for schools. It quickly became apparent
that designing and installing the networks was not enough. Schools
also needed some way to maintain the networks after they were
up and running. As a response, Cisco developed training for teachers
and staff for self-maintenance of school computer networks. It
was soon discovered, however, that the school staff lacked the
time required to learn the material, and networking skills evaporated
as teachers moved on to new schools.
Consequently, the focus shifted to the next population of
learners in the school - the students themselves. The resultant
success of the student seminars led to requests from participating
schools across the United States for Cisco to develop a curriculum
that could be integrated as elective courses taught in a semester
format. The formalised curriculum and support activities evolved
into the Cisco Networking Academy Program.
Currently, more than 4,600 educational institutions, in 75
countries around the world are delivering e-learning to over
80,000 students through the Cisco Networking Academy Program.
In addition to providing up-to-the-minute educational content,
the application of Cisco's E-learning engine for the networking
program delivers multiple efficiencies for students and instructors
alike. The Cisco Networking Academy Management System - CNAMS
provides an online forum for the community of Academy instructors
that covers program announcements, downloads of curriculum and
software, discussion forums, as well as online technical support.
E-learning also facilitates "proximity learning" through
which online resources are combined with face-to-face interaction
with instructors. This is in contrast to distance learning which
lacks interpersonal interaction.
Whilst scalability, speed, ease of access and cost-efficiency
are all important benefits of E-learning, the key benefits that
Internet-enabled learning delivers are accountability and interaction.
Via web-based tools, students can gain access to all aspects
of course content and support material, allowing them to proceed
through the course at their own pace, from any location - all
of which makes students accountable for their own progress.
Likewise, web-based assessment allows education administrators
to track student test scores, online instructor training, and
other variables that indicate performance. This in turn enables
effective allocation of learning resource where necessary. The
assessment system provides accountability in the educational
process and provides feedback for continual improvement in the
curriculum and teaching methods.
As well as compelling educational institutions to develop
new instructional techniques to remain successful and relevant,
the Internet is forcing business enterprises to evolve into knowledge-centric
organisations. At Cisco, we believe that the way in which businesses
manage this transformation will be one of the key determinants
of their commercial survival.
3. New World Organisations: From "Brick and Mortar"
to "Click and Mortar"
The Internet is bringing about one of the most far-reaching
and significant changes to the way in which business is conducted.
However, when businesses report on their assets, they rarely
mention their human capital first, whereas in reality, it is
the workforce asset that can produce the biggest positive impact
during an economic transition of this magnitude.
It is now widely recognised that the Internet has enabled
businesses to grow beyond the traditional 'bricks and mortar'
model. As a new business model has evolved, the relevant knowledge,
skills and competencies demanded of the workforce have been re-specified.
At the same time, emphasis on an organisation's intellectual
capital as a key competitive advantage has been heightened. However,
businesses around the world are increasingly challenged by an
aging population which is unable to accommodate the dynamic growth
that is needed. This stagnant labour force growth, in which nearly
70% of the present workforce will still be employed in the year
2020, presents a significant workforce re-skilling requirement.
On average, an individual will have six to seven different
jobs in a lifetime. With an ever-increasing business metabolism,
even those workers that remain in the same job will require continually
updated skills. It is therefore evident that not only will individuals
have to embrace a life-long learning model, but that companies
will have to put a learning foundation in place that can enhance
its intellectual capital as business requirements evolve. At
Cisco, we are fully committed to E-learning, and have already
experienced many of the benefits that e-learning delivers. We
are certain that that for us, as for all New World organisations,
e-learning will play a pivotal role in our commercial future.
Some years ago, in the absence of a unified strategy, individual
business units throughout Cisco took training and education into
their own hands-resulting in redundant efforts and unnecessary
expense. This resulted in a restructuring of our training programme,
during which time two fundamental objectives were identified.
Firstly, to design programmes that optimise learning and eliminate
needless repetition, and secondly, to identify personal and organisational
Cisco met its training challenge with a comprehensive e-learning
solution: the Cisco Learning Network (CLN)-an Internet-based,
delivery framework designed to develop and deploy training and
education as quickly and effectively as possible. In addition,
CLN incorporated accountability by ensuring that the employee
and instructor could track results.
Content is captured using slides, audio/video, and other multi-media
tools and is grouped into small components (objects) which are
then stored in a centralised learning database. Learners select
a curriculum or an individual module and take an exam to assess
their needs. Based on the results of any assessment, objects
can be selected from the database to address deficiencies. Following
the instruction, another assessment can be administered to gauge
effectiveness of the teaching, with the results of the post-learning
assessment stored in a personal training history file in the
human resources database
With accountability and accessibility built in, the learning
network has resulted in programs that have increased performance
and productivity, reduced costs and eliminated traditional barriers,
reduced learner time to competence and developed a workforce
better equipped to participate and succeed.
In addition, the network has significantly reduced development
and delivery time by capturing content into reusable information
objects, which can be reformatted quickly and easily. A single
training event can be repeated as often as required, allowing
training to be directed to students anywhere at a fraction of
the cost of traditional programmes. Employees benefit from having
greater flexibility and training choices to learn at their own
pace, and design their own curriculum through prescriptive learning
and targeted skills acquisition.
We have already realised 40-60% cost savings over instructor-led
training, and have migrated 80% of sales and technical training
online. However, as well as reducing costs, e-learning has a
positive impact throughout an organisation. We have found, for
example, that in Sales, higher value and faster sales have been
achieved; in Human Resources, our employee retention rates have
been the highest in the industry, whilst in Manufacturing, time-to-market
has been reduced and quality improved.
This has all been achieved across a globally distributed workforce,
in an industry in which hundreds of technically complex products
are introduced to a market at an increasingly rapid pace. However,
we also consider our partners, suppliers and their customers
to be part of the extended workforce. It is important to have
knowledgeable consumers, and suppliers and partners as well-informed
as our direct sales force. For this reason, we have created specific
e-learning portals that provide consistent levels of quality
and access for these groups. The effect of this cumulative e-learning
has been to accelerate the metabolism of all the organisations
within the business ecosystem in which we operate.
E-learning is giving commercial organisations, educational
institutions and individuals the ability to turn change brought
about by the Internet Revolution into an advantage. E-learning
can impact the bottom line of any organisation with greater force
and pace than classroom training could ever hope to do.
Global scope and consistency, immediate updates and changes,
round-the-clock, individual access, prescriptive and targeted
learning, all add up to increased productivity, quicker knowledge
transfer and lower cost of delivery. Combined with management
reporting and accountability e-learning will enable companies
to transform and manage their Intellectual Capital instead of
their Human Resource. Instead of "how many people do we
have", organisations will focus on "what do our people
know? what can they do?"
The shift in focus, towards becoming a learning-based business
is an essential step in the evolution of the 21st Century organisation.
For if we are unable to train faster and respond to the need
for new skill sets that the digital age demands, we, as individuals,
as companies and as countries will be unable to compete and survive
in the Internet Economy.