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The e-Learning Scene in Singapore

Yong Ying-I, Chief Executive Officer, IDA Singapore - Opening Address One Learning 2001 Asia Conference & Exposition, Suntec Singapore

Yong Ying-I, Chief Executive Officer, IDA Singapore - Opening Address
One Learning 2001 Asia Conference & Exposition, Suntec Singapore

Singapore, 15 May 2001

1 I am happy to be here this morning to speak at the Online Learning Conference and Expo Event. I was told that Singapore is the first Asian country hosting this event outside the United States. I am glad that Singapore has this opportunity to play host to our friends from around the world. I would like to take today's opportunity to share some of our experiences in e-learning in Singapore.

2 Our understanding of e-learning has grown significantly in the last 2 years. In the first phase, there was widespread experimentation dominated by specialist online learning companies trying to find their market niche. The emphasis was largely on building the enabling tools and on experimenting with the multimedia features made possible by technology. There was heavy focus on educational content for young children. Because computerisation was more widespread than broadband infrastructure, content was not necessarily sent over the Internet in real-time but put on CD-ROMs.

3 We are now seeing e-learning move into the second phase, with widespread investments by companies for corporate training and by the major educational institutions going into e-learning in a big way. Companies have recognised that through the convenience of e-learning, their employees can upgrade their skills anytime and at anyplace while still maintaining productivity levels at the workplace. It is also efficient in terms of putting out training material in manageable chunks, which suits professionals who need "just-in-time" learning to stay relevant in the fast changing economy, but cannot afford to take days and weeks off work to attend traditional courses. New recruits who join companies at different times would typically in the past have to wait for orientation programmes to be organised, whereas self-service online instructional material can now bring them up to speed much more quickly. I have heard many MNCs say that the nature of e-learning also enables a course which would take 3 days in the classroom to be conducted in 8 hours online. This represents huge savings in both corporate training infrastructure as well as time spent by employees. Hence, corporates are willing to put in large investments to push e-learning adoption.

4 As for the educational institutions, they are beginning to grapple with how e-learning will change their industry. Recently, MIT - the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - announced that it would offer for free, nearly all of its year 2000 courses online over the next 10 years. From INSEAD to Harvard, from Stanford to Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, they are all exploring how e-learning can complement classroom instruction. As teaching specialists, they know that a lot more understanding needs to go into teaching pedagogy and instructional design. No one will sit at a terminal for 4 hours just reading text-based material. They also know that online learning is not a replacement for classroom instruction or face-to-face learning. Rather, it can enhance the overall learning experience if integrated seamlessly. It also allows experimentation with new forms of learning, like collaborative group-work by students distributed around the globe.

5 One of the most sought-after content partners is the Cardean University, wholly-owned by, which has successfully cut deals with leading universities like Carnegie Mellon, London School of Economics, and Columbia. This collaboration facilitates the aggregation of content from the partner universities onto Cardean's online business content. Such partnerships allow vendors to brand their e-learning content with reputable names in education, thus enhancing vendors' credibility.

6 Moving forward, the e-learning industry is expected to continue to grow strongly. In the Asia Pacific region alone, the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that the industry will double every year in the next 2-4 years to be worth some US$462 m. And IT e-learning training alone is expected to account for US$235m. This is partly because the computer is becoming ubiquitous and widespread access to the Internet now makes downloading content to a mass market possible. Also, the availability of courseware building and live collaborative tools, which enable multimedia simulation and workgroup collaboration, have made e-learning more realistic and sophisticated than classroom learning.

7 Singapore hopes to be a player in the online learning scene, as we are strong in both education and in IT and communications services. We already have a good grouping of companies in Singapore, including ICUS, TTSAsia, Inchone, EnterAsia and GetIT Multimedia. Major e-learning content and technology providers from the US who have also established their presence in Singapore include familiar names like Interwise, SmartForce, NETg, Saba and Global Knowledge Network. We also have a net-savvy population which makes Singapore a good test-bed for new initiatives. Let me describe to you a few examples.

8 Our e-learning experience in Singapore is probably the most advanced in our schools. The Ministry of Education in Singapore is committed to promoting IT-based learning. The target is to have 30% of curriculum time to be IT-based by end 2002 and some schools have already achieved this. Interactive multimedia content is integrated into classroom instruction so that learning is enriched. Students not only do their research on the Internet, but have started to develop their own websites to share their content with other students elsewhere. Some schools have wireless LANs so that students can conveniently carry their laptops into the garden for science experiments and nature studies, or complete their work in the school canteen before emailing their assignments to their teachers! Our Institutes of Higher Learning have their own e-Learning portals. Some are even considering marketing web-based formal certification courses overseas.

9 The Singapore Government is also pushing out e-Learning for our own employees. The Ministry of Defence was the first to experiment with computer-based learning many years ago. It has now introduced a programme called "Spot-On" which stands for "self-paced, on time, on need". Spot-On has reduced the in-camp training time of our national servicemen by offering part of this training online. The Civil Service College recently introduced two e-Learning initiatives called the Open Academy and AGILE which caters to the broad base of civil servants. AGILE - we love acronyms in Singapore -- stands for Advanced Government Interactive Learning Environment. These programmes enable government officers to access course material from the comfort of their offices, and tackle specific programmes at their own pace and when they can find chunks of spare time.

10 In June last year, the World Bank decided to set up one of its Global Distance Learning Centres in Singapore, to facilitate e-Learning for third-world countries around the world. This is now up and running. Singapore is delighted to support the World Bank's initiative. Last December, Singapore also partnered the International Telecommunications Union to set up a Virtual Training Centre for telecommunications professionals in the Asia Pacific region. For the international e-learning service providers which are attending this conference, I hope that these examples will encourage you to hub your content, technology and services in Singapore.

11 E-Learning is strategic to Singapore because we have recognised that lifelong learning is important if our economy and our people are to keep up with the rapid pace of change. E-Learning is likely to make skills upgrading more practical for adults and economically viable for companies to provide to workers. IDA will continue to work with other government agencies, the learning institutions and the industry to put in place a e-learning infrastructure, promote adoption, build capabilities to innovate, as well as develop programmes. I am happy that the industry has actively supported the formation of the National e-Learning Technical Standards Committee to promote the development of e-Learning standards for local application.

12 I believe that this Online Learning event is an excellent platform for the exchange of e-learning experiences from all around the world. I am encouraged that you have chosen to host your first Asian conference and expo in Singapore. I wish you a fruitful conference.

13 Thank you.