E-Learning: The Online Panacea

The internet has
generated a great shift in economic value since the Industrial Revolution.
Geography is now history. Around the world from Phuket Island in Thailand to
Tehran in Iran and Athens in Greece, there is one common trend–the drive to
the internet. The internet has brought with it a 24-hour global workday.

The number of internet users in
China today is 4 million and is expected to more than double in the next twelve
months. In India, the drive is on to bring internet to every village. India’s
biggest challenge–its large population–is being transformed into its most
significant asset. Just as the discovery of oil transformed countries like
Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the internet is set to
transform the world–only the impact will be far more extensive economically,
and the reach will be truly global.

Business models

Businesses
worldwide are moving from a push-based
(build-to-stock) manufacturing
model to a pull-based (build-to-order) model. The pull-based model requires a
lot of IT and web support. The demand-driven pull model entails additional
support for increased product variability, reduced lead times, improved quality,
lower unit costs, operational excellence and comprehensive performance measures
for control purposes. Companies trying to deliver the right product in the right
quantity and at the precise time, are highly dependent on the application of IT
and web technology in all aspects of their businesses.

Customizing enterprise portals

The lifeblood of
any organization today depends on its information flow. Yesterday’s intranets
need to be positioned as tomorrow’s enterprise corporate portals. The need for
dynamic organization and continuous updates of information has never been
greater. It is this access to information that provides the opportunity for mass
customization. Businesses continue to invest heavily in internet technology.
However many hit stumbling blocks when trying to successfully integrate IT and
web skills with their applications throughout the business processes, systems
and communications.

Billion pages and more

Having
qualified internet professionals with
e-skills is the key factor for
internet technology deployment. The application of internet technology for
business requires technologists and business professionals who understand each
other’s fields. Future-minded businesses are applying ebusiness solutions in
areas such as corporate communications, marketing and advertising,
manufacturing, production, sales automation, human resources, purchasing,
R&D, finance and accounting. These new applications for internet technology
require professionals with internet skills. They need the proficiency in
authoring and scripting languages, content creation, digital media, an ability
to use development tools and implementing database connectivity solutions.

Currently, there exist about a
billion web pages. This number is expected to rise to eight billion in the next
three years. What is required today and increasingly in the future, are
e-skilled professionals.

Emerging internet technology
jobs

There are many
emerging jobs related to the internet technology:

  • A
    site designer designs, implements and maintains websites using authoring and
    scripting languages, content creation and management tools, and digital
    media.

  • An
    application developer builds client and server-side web applications using
    rapid application development tools and component technologies to implement
    two-tier database connectivity solutions.

  • An
    enterprise developer builds n-tier database and legacy connectivity
    solutions for web applications, using Java, Java application programming
    interfaces (APIs), Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) solutions, middleware
    tools and distributed object models.

  • A
    server administrator manages and tunes ecommerce infrastructure including
    web servers, FTP, news and mail servers for mid-size to large businesses.
    Server administrators configure, manage and deploy ebusiness solutions
    servers.

  • An
    internetworking professional defines network architecture, identifies
    infrastructure components and analyzes network performance. This
    professional also designs and manages TCP/IP networks.

  • A
    security professional implements security policy, identifies security
    threats and develops countermeasures using firewalls and attack-recognition
    technologies. He is an expert on transaction and payment security solutions.

  • An
    ecommerce professional is an expert in standards, technologies and practices
    in electronic commerce. He understands and manages the relationships among
    credit-card holders, issuers, merchants, acquirers, payment gateways and
    third parties. He understands and uses secure electronic transactions (SET),
    cryptography standards, certificate authorities and electronic services such
    as CyberCash.

Skilled internet professionals
are needed to connect the broad reach of the internet with the vast resources of
IT systems. Employers’ need for professionals in this space is unprecedented–there
is an urgent need to web enable almost all business processes and operations
with the objective of improving customer service, reducing cycle time and
getting the most results from limited enterprise resources.

Technology is no longer a
back-end operation that supports business objectives. It is the enabler, and the
creator of new business opportunities and of industry shifts. We are witnessing
a transformation cycle wherein data is transformed into information, which in
turn is transformed into knowledge. Action springs from this knowledge. Skilled
professionals are required to enable this transformation. So how does one
acquire these skills and how does an employer validate that the individuals
hired to deploy the technology are qualified?

Online learning is the answer

As the internet
infrastructure struggles to meet the demands for user applications, the next
killer application is online education. The trends in the training and learning
industry are as follows:

Vendor-Neutral:
The demand for certified, vendor neutral IT professionals is on the rise.
Employers are increasingly asking for certified professionals who have obtained
+ such+ certifications.

CIW:
The Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW) program is globally being recognized as a
key credential for individuals who desire to be skilled internet professionals.

Product Specific Certification:
Product specific certifications such as those available from Cisco, Microsoft,
Oracle, Novell and IBM will continue to grow. These professionals are expected
to be in high demand in the foreseeable future.

Java:
The demand for Java certification is likely to grow at a faster pace in 2000 and
beyond.

Assessments:
Demand for assessments will rise substantially in 2000. Employers have to do
internal assessments on a continuous basis as part of their career management.
Individuals are looking to use assessments and practice tests to determine their
weaknesses and prepare for industry leading certifications.

IT Learning Portals:
The training industry as a whole is still substantially fragmented. The
consolidation will take place through an integration of computer-based
technology, web-based technology, assessment products and services driven off IT
learning portals. What will separate winners from losers would be the quality of
service, range of assessment and practice tests related to IT skill and
certification areas. These include offerings similar to those of ExamsOnline.com
and MeasureUp. It would also include a range of easy-to-find, order and use
computer-based and web-based technology materials.

Looking ahead

Because the
internet is made up of so many platforms and products, a wide perspective is
necessary to build a solid understanding of the intricacies of
the
internet and to apply that knowledge to leverage the internet’s capabilities.
This wider base of internet working knowledge provides a foundation for
understanding  important internet techniques.

We are about to enter a period of unprecedented
opportunities–the challenge for individuals is to add substantial e-skills to
their core competency, while the challenge for employers is how best to leverage
and deploy internet technologies across the enterprise and better integrate
customers, suppliers, investors and employees.

Uday O. Ali Pabrai

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