From discussions I’ve had with people in learning and development over the past year, it seems to me to have been quite a rarity for l&d to have taken the initiative when it comes to the use of web conferencing in their organisations. I know that virtual classrooms are well established in the US and that some 10% of formal training is carried out this way, but very few l&d people that I’ve encountered in Europe were aware of the possibilities until either (1) they were invited to a webinar and were brave enough to participate, or (2) their organisations started to use web conferencing to run virtual meetings.
The decision to use web conferencing is most likely to have been made by the IT department, quite possibly as part of a broader strategy for online collaboration. The drivers will almost certainly have been the potential for efficencies in terms of time and cost. It’s quite possible that, when they made the purchasing decision, the IT people had no idea that the software would have implications for l&d or, if they did, they neglected to tell anyone. It is unlikely that they considered the additional functionality that would be needed to support l&d activities, not least integration with learning management systems and tools such as breakout rooms and object-oriented whiteboards.
It’s becoming increasingly important for senior l&d people to form a close relationship with IT, because more and more of the decisions about the infrastucture that supports learning also have to take into account the application for more general communications within the organisation. Obvious examples are wikis, blogs, podcasting and social networks, none of which are likely to be regarded primarily as l&d technologies, but all definitely of interest when the l&d strategy is viewed holistically.