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E-Learning in Singapore - Trends & Developments

Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister for Communications & Information Technology - Speech Singapore IT Federation E-Learning Chapter Launch, Regent Hotel

Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister for Communications & Information Technology - Speech
Singapore IT Federation E-Learning Chapter Launch, Regent Hotel

Singapore, 29 May 2001

Good evening,
Mr Willie Cheng, Chairman SITF
Mr Hee Joh Liang, Protem Exco Chairman, SITF eLearning Chapter
Ladies and Gentlemen

The E-Learning Industry - at a glance

1 From its humble beginnings just a few years ago, e-learning has grown into a rapidly emerging market world-wide. This growth has spawned many definitions of e-learning, but practitioners generally agree that e-learning refers to learning with the aid of a computer, and increasingly, with the aid of the Internet as well.

2 As the business case for e-learning was unclear in the past, venture capitalists were cautious in investing in the development of products and services. On hindsight, this has been a blessing in disguise, as it has given e-learning developers in both the corporate and educational arenas the time to understand the role of e-learning in the workplace and school environment. The result is an impressive array of high-utility offerings in both courseware and services.

3 Optimistic growth projections for the e-learning industry speak for themselves. In the Asia Pacific region, the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that the size of the e-learning industry will double every year for the next 2-4 years, to be worth some US$462 million by 2004, almost 14 times its 1999 value of US$34 million. Of this market, e-learning for IT training alone is expected to account for US$235 million.

The Role of E-Learning in the New Economy

4 With the advent of the new economy, there is a global race for countries and businesses to equip their citizens and employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to compete effectively. Knowledge is a dynamic commodity, and we must keep pace with it. The learning process does not stop after we leave school, but must continue throughout our lives. As Louis Ross, Chief Technology Officer of Ford Motor Company remarked, "Knowledge is like milk. It has a shelf life stamped right on the carton". E-Learning, spurred by the proliferation of the Internet, has brought quality lifelong learning within everyone's grasp.

5 While e-learning courseware varies widely across disciplines, industries, and literacy levels, there are some general characteristics of e-learning which are well worth mentioning. E-learning transcends geography; it can be customised to its users' needs; and it brings together a community of learners, instructors and content developers in a network based on the sharing of knowledge.

6 As current leading-edge technologies associated with e-learning mature, they will become more affordable to use and hence, more popular. For instance, today's sophisticated courseware and live collaborative tools enable multimedia simulation and workgroup collaboration to be carried out. This will make e-learning more experiential.

E-Learning in Singapore

7 In Singapore, our people are our most valuable asset. The constant acquisition of knowledge and upgrading of skills is important if we want to maintain our competitive advantage. This accounts for the keen interest in training courses and further education among our workforce.

8 Our experience and understanding of e-learning has grown significantly over the past two years. Initially, as Internet usage was uncommon, content was often transmitted through CD-ROMs, rather than delivered in real-time. Also much of the focus then was on developing content for schools. Since then, there has been considerable growth in the e-learning industry. Tonight, I am pleased to share with you some promising e-learning initiatives that have been developed in Singapore.

E-Learning in Education

9 On the education front, all our Institutes of Higher Learning have a web presence through virtual campuses. In the pipeline are projects to offer courses online to students overseas, in keeping with the practices of major educational institutions in the United States and Europe. Some institutes are developing online courses to cater to specific industry sectors such as Finance and Banking, and Hospitality and Tourism. For instance, the Institute of Systems Science (ISS) has launched the e-learning version of its Certified IT Project Management course.

10 Intra-campus initiatives are another key aspect of e-learning in educational institutions. A good example is the Institute of Technical Education's (ITE) e-Tutor system. As of now, the e-Tutor links 13 ITE campuses nation-wide, bringing together 1,600 full-time students and 40,000 part-time students. The system also allows ITE's 1,200 academic staff to access and share courseware. It will enable them to customise e-learning modules which better meet the needs of their students. This initiative, which is still in development, is the first e-learning standards-based infrastructural project in Singapore. Once completed, the e-Tutor will link up ITE campuses with various ITE-approved training centres island-wide.

11 The National University of Singapore has built on the success of its Integrated Virtual Learning Environment, enhancing it over the years to become a powerful set of Web-based tools and resources for faculty members to supplement their classroom teaching. This courseware management system is now used by more than 10 universities worldwide as part of their virtual campus platform.

E-Learning in the Organisation

12 Like our educational institutes, companies are also beginning to harness the potential of e-learning to train their staff. Singapore Airlines, for example, has adopted e-learning to maintain their competitiveness in the global aviation industry. According to SIA, e-learning will contribute to shorter product and service development cycles. E-Learning enables them to provide just-in-time, customised training to staff based locally and abroad. The delivery of technical certification programmes has also been enhanced through e-learning. This will lead to consistent quality levels worldwide, throughout SIA's wide range of commercial operations.

13 Another company, SingTel, is exploring the use of e-learning to equip their staff with Internet Protocol (IP) skills. This will support their transition from fixed to IP networks. SingTel's objective is to train about 1,500 staff over a period of nine months. With a large number of staff based in different locations, e-learning will be instrumental in helping SingTel achieve its training objective. For optimum results, their courses will combine e-learning and hands-on practical training.

14 There is a misconception that e-learning is only for IT-skilled workers. The recent launch of CityCab's web-based Service Excellence Training Programme dispels that misconception. Under this programme, taxi drivers are taught how to communicate more effectively with commuters. Currently, they need to attend two days or 14 hours of classroom training. With the web-based version, they will spend only seven to nine hours in training. Taxi drivers, who typically work in shifts, will also have the convenience and flexibility to learn according to their schedule. CityCab's goal is to train all 4,500 relief drivers online over the next five years.

E-Learning Focus Group - how it will benefit the industry and the country

15 With e-learning adoption taking off in such a big way in Singapore, we are well-poised to become an e-learning hub in the region. The growing number of international e-learning content and technology providers from countries such as the United States which have established a presence in Singapore, indicates that we are off to a good start. To be a hub, Singapore must first be recognised as a centre of excellence in e-learning. A world-class e-learning national infrastructure as well as compelling content will lay the foundation. Also critical is active industry involvement to upgrade the infrastructure and lead in developing e-learning products and services that can be adapted for the regional and even global markets.

16 It is therefore timely that an e-learning industry focus group is being formed to accelerate the development of the user community and industry. This focus group will promote discussion on e-learning and support the development of the industry. This will ensure that we keep abreast of trends in the international e-learning environment.

17 I am delighted that the Singapore IT Federation (SITF) is taking the lead to establish an eLearning Chapter, or eLC. This is exemplary of the leadership role which industry can take to contribute towards the continued development of certain key sectors. I understand that Joh Liang, the protem exco Chairman of the Chapter, will elaborate on its objectives and activities, and I look forward to listening to them. In particular, I understand that the Chapter has initiated a proposal to establish an eLearning Competency Centre to accelerate the development of the eLearning user community and industry. These are indeed laudable objectives. I am happy to note that the Centre will most likely be established under the National Institute of Education. I have asked IDA (Infocomm Development Authority) to give this Centre its full support.


18 In conclusion, I am pleased to be here tonight to celebrate with you the formation of the SITF eLearning Chapter. I wish the Chapter every success in all its endeavours, and look forward to its contribution in making Singapore a vibrant e-learning hub. Thank you and have an enjoyable evening.