Part 1 – The Shift to Sharing
If there is one concept that sums up the way we use the internet today it, would be “sharing”. We share interesting articles and blog posts that we find. We use services like Foursquare to share our location and activity. We post our presentations on Slideshare, our videos on YouTube, our photos on Flickr. We share reviews on everything from book purchases to holidays. Some of this we do from our desktops, but ever more commonly we’re instantly sharing content from the same mobile device on which it was just created, irrespective of location.
Our online world is expanding at a rate that’s hard to grasp. There was more data transmitted across the internet in 2010 than in all the previous years combined. According to Intel, the number of internet connected devices is expected to grow from an already staggering 4 billion today, to 15 billion in 2015 and 50 billion in 2020.
Nearly everywhere we go on the internet, content publishers are actively encouraging us to spread the word. They add buttons that make it a one click activity for us to share their content with our own social graph; utilising our relationships with other individuals to promote their product.
There is also the human element to consider. I don’t subscribe to ideas that divide the population into digital natives and digital immigrants, but we have to recognise that the people currently reaching adulthood are younger than the web. They don’t remember a time when sharing content was harder than tapping a button.
So we can be pretty sure that the amount of content will grow, and the sharing will continue.
What Does That Mean to L&D?
So what does that mean to those of us in the world of learning, development and training? Potentially, quite a lot. Much of the L&D industry is based on the sale of intellectual property (IP), whether that’s content or advice. No wonder then, that so many people in our industry work so hard to extract as much value as possible by controlling their IP.
Not everybody is effected in the same way, but if you’ve built a business model based on the sale of training materials, this shift to a culture of sharing is a real challenge. Let me give you an example.
I recently spent time with a group of people from some of the biggest software vendors on the planet, and they were responsible for the sale and delivery of training to the users of their products. Anyone that’s worked in a large organisation will be familiar with their model; they supply their software at very low cost, sometimes at no cost at all, and the bulk of their revenue comes from selling a range of related services (which of course includes training).
The trouble is that their clients are creating and sharing their own learning content. They’re not producing courses, they’re mostly creating practical “how to” material in all sorts of formats from short videos, to blog posts to pdf documents, and they’re not just using it internally, it’s being shared on the internet too. You only have to do a quick search on YouTube or any other video hosting site to find examples of this.
You may not be effected to the same extent, but if you’re in the learning or training business, you will have some form of IP that you need to manage; consultants sell their expertise, training providers and elearning vendors sell course content, product vendors sell supporting materials. Even internal L&D departments are likely to produce content in which they own the IP.
In part two we will consider intellectual property, copyright and alternative licensing models.