Where do connected, practicing elearning professionals who wants to keep an eye on market forces go to get smarter about choosing which solutions to build without hitting the adoption curve too soon? We SAY we're doing market research....but I wonder.
Research is one of those things that just about everyone does at some level or another. It can be as simple as reading a short article on a topic about which you know nothing, or as complicated as a longitudinal scientific experiment involving hundreds of human subjects.
There are a lot of mixed feeling about research in the elearning practitioner community. When asked, execs admit that they simply don't have the time to pay attention to research, as they are too busy doing billable work. Not too surprising really, as elearning people tend to be doers. Producers. Designers. Developers. We think in terms of creating solutions, not in terms of crafting the arguments for proving or disproving a hypothesis.
But still, it’s not safe to go plunging into new business directions without having a good handle on the environment, the opportunities, the pitfalls. So maybe it’s a matter of shifting gears. Such as figuring out how to using research strategically. or moving away from empirical studies toward metrics that measure more of what we are actually doing.
Surprisingly, when Sage Road conducted focus group meetings with elearning professionals to hear what they want from their research, we also heard that business research can be hard to make relevant. When a Forrester Research or a Gartner Research or an IDC produces a research report on elearning related topics (being mindful that they don't really talk about elearning all that much these days, at least not by that name) it is typically written on vertically segmented topics for companies with research and strategy departments who are slicing and dicing vertical markets to figure out how to sell stuff to people like us.
eLearning research vendors like Brandon Hall Research and Bersin & Associates do a nice, more targeted job with their market descriptions about the things that matter in elearning. Nevertheless, I find that these reports are often written for prospective elearning customers rather than for elearning service providers themselves. For market leading practitioners, some of these reports can seem positively recursive. But of course, there's a lot more "newbies" interested in elearning these days than every before so I completely understand the positioning.
The eLearning Guild is a great resource for eLearning professionals, since it provides a safe haven for practitioners to find others who are dealing with many of the same issues, to find useful advice, tons of resources and safety in numbers. But still - it's more descriptive research about the practice, not about the market(s) in which we are all trying to do our work.
So let me ask again...where DO connected, practicing elearning professionals who wants to keep an eye on market forces go to get smarter about choosing which solutions to build without hitting the adoption curve too soon? Or do we still tend to cross our fingers, go all in on the innovation we believe in and hope that something sticks?