eLearning: The Latest Use of Broadband Networks

Carl Weinschenk

Processor reports that the eLearning sector has been reborn with the help of approaches and technology that have emerged during the past few years. IT departments better pay attention, because their lives -- their work lives, at any rate -- may change considerably because of this.


eLearning is an example of something that is increasingly common. In the past, there was a fairly clear demarcation between families of applications. Today, these families are more likely to be slightly different versions of the same basic functionality. The reason for this change is that today's applications are designed to run over broadband IP networks. Thus, they have more in common than applications in the past, which often were delivered in different ways. Unified communications (UC) and multimedia are other examples of different application families that are highly similar to eLearning.


UC uses e-mail, streaming video, VoIP, instant messaging and other applications to get text, video or voice messages to a targeted person. eLearning uses what are essentially the same tools -- perhaps with a unique twist or two and in a somewhat different configuration -- to impart knowledge or information over distance. Instead of relying on a discrete stable of tools and applications, modern applications rely on the same tools configured in slightly different ways.


In the old days, an integrated service digital network (ISDN) platform was solely used for meetings and conferences, while a mobile phone was used only to pass messages. Today, a smartphone can be used to both pass a message and let a traveling salesman participate in a video conference. In this and myriad other scenarios, the difference between classes of service (UC and eLearning, for instance) is the software, not the fundamental network or hardware. That is a tremendously important difference.


The other takeaway about eLearning is that it is here to stay. We all know that eLearning has many educational uses and is a great way to boil a bit off a corporate travel budget. What is especially interesting is the use of eLearning as a marketing tool. If early indicators about the efficacy of this approach hold up, IT departments clearly are going to have to master eLearning techniques. This, however, shouldn't be too difficult since they already are familiar with the applications.

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