e‐Learning Fieldbook

Roger Collins (Australian Graduate School of Management)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



Collins, R. (2004), "e‐Learning Fieldbook", The Learning Organization, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 290-292. https://doi.org/10.1108/09696470410533049



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Sometimes the value of one book can be measured by comparing it to another book. I begin this review with a brief digression that will set the context for better understanding the merits of Nick Van Dam's book, e‐Learning Fieldbook. One of the most influential books that I have read in the past decade is A Terrible Beauty by Peter Watson (2000). He documents and explores the people, events and ideas that shaped the twentieth century. Watson cleverly synthesizes ideas and contributions from philosophers, scientists, writers, artists, leaders, historians and idea generators from all walks of life in his book. This is a “must read” book for members of the organizational learning and knowledge communities. It is a book that can keep us anchored in our context and can enable us to be alert to parochialism in our own worldview, and in our disciplinary and functional perspectives. Two of the themes that emerge from this book are the increasing centrality of innovation and learning to the well being of our societies, communities and institutions. Progress in so many spheres of our lives is dependent on the efficacy of innovation and learning. Which brings us to the importance of Nick Van Dam's book: The e‐Learning Fieldbook. For this, e‐learning is both a manifestation and source of innovation, but it is also an increasingly important means of learning.

In his book Van Dam, chief learning officer of Deloitte Consulting, provides a state of the art description and analysis of the application of computers and the Internet to individual and collective learning in the business context. His main objective is to draw the reader's attention to the second wave of development in e‐learning in ways that enable the reader to apply to their own organization the breakthrough ideas and tools that characterize this important stage in our understanding of this rapidly expanding field of knowledge. Part one of the book outlines the lessons learned from the first wave of e‐learning and the current trends. It provides both conceptual frameworks and practical insights and applications. Chapter coverage includes issues such as:

  • Does e‐learning have a credibility problem?

  • Does e‐learning make business sense?

  • What gains the commitment of people that matter?

  • How do you design blended learning programs?

  • What makes e‐learning technology work?

  • How do you measure e‐learning initiatives and results?

  • What does it take to work successfully with vendors?

  • What motivates people to engage in e‐learning?

  • How do you launch e‐learning to a global workforce?

Part two of this book introduces 25 case studies from various organisations that have introduced e‐learning into their operations. Each case study outlines how e‐learning has been aligned with the business strategy, how it was designed and deployed, its business impact and lessons learned.

The key insights offered by the author include the conclusions that e‐learning:

  • Should be regarded as a change initiative that has considerable potential to impact both business results and efficiencies.

  • Is a developmental journey that results in many new ways of learning.

  • Initiatives require that organizations devote time and resources to developing robust learning support services.

  • Programs come with a new language, a different set of expectations, and a new group of vendors.

  • Target audiences are moving to customers/consumers and sales channel partners.

  • Measurement and marketing plans are crucial for presenting a business case that gains the support of top management.

  • Roles are emerging to ensure the success of needs identification, design, delivery and evaluation in recognition that e‐learning demands new skills and ways of thinking.

  • Can put people in charge of their own learning and growth. It enables just‐in‐time self‐directed learning that will increasingly enable learning to be integrated with the pressing and complex demands that confront knowledge workers.

What then are the most critical attributes that might entice you to seek out this book? The book delivers on its objectives, its structure is closely aligned to these objectives, the author has great clarity of expression, and the book's visual layout and informative diagrams and summaries all contribute to the case for purchasing this book. This case is strengthened by the book's practicality: the case studies follow a common and useful structure that documents the business impact of the e‐learning initiatives, the lessons learned, and summaries. Furthermore, the case studies offer road‐tested methodologies and designs that add to the robustness of the text. The text is supplemented by a Web site www.elearningfieldbook.com that offers examples of e‐learning programs featured in this book, many of the visuals used in the book, useful resources such as checklists, job aids, white‐papers and samples, plus links to additional information.

Van Dam takes the perspective of being a realist about e‐learning and business: he is a strong advocate of face‐to‐face and other forms of learning and readily acknowledges and reminds us of the limitations of e‐learning. Finally, the book is oriented to the future: the author's dedication of the book to children, “our future knowledge workers who will use the Internet to grow, learn, collaborate, and pursue great dreams”, and his direction of all royalties to e‐Learning for Kids (a non‐profit foundation for children that provides schools in need with Internet‐based learning solutions) are both indicative of an author deeply committed to e‐learning as a means to worthy ends rather than an end in itself.


Watson, P. (2000), A Terrible Beauty, Phoenix Press, London.

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