Why Penton Is Rethinking Its eLearning Platform
Interactivity, the multi-screen experience and scalability are critical components.
Penton has made a very conscious pivot away from B2B publisher, toward a broader role as an “information services provider,” since David Kieselstein took the reins as CEO in 2012. As part of the strategy, investments in non-core businesses like data, events, and now elearning, have followed.
The company got in on digital continuing education early—it launched its first course in 2004, and more than 14,000 users have taken classes since—but Penton’s agriculture division recently relaunched its elearning platform with an eye toward engagement and mobile access.
Interactive features like videos, quizzes and graphics are now embedded into the course modules, and the UX has been overhauled with today’s multiplatform experience in mind. Journalists and expert specialists, in conjunction with various state agencies in the agriculture sector, work together to come up with the course material.
Scalability is also a chief concern, says John Ecke, vice president of digital product management for Penton Agriculture. And not just in his market vertical.
“We anticipate the market size for accredited, continuing education courses for the agriculture sector to grow as more state agencies embrace elearning as a viable alternative to their current in-classroom requirement,” he says. “We also wanted a platform that would scale across other Penton markets.”
Ecke says the technology was vetted by the company’s centralized product development team, and has been implemented (or soon will be) in a total of four Penton markets. Undertaking the process on a corporate level is allowing faster execution and is offering a larger testing ground for improvements. Preliminary results show that the programs on the new platform are tracking ahead of expectations, he adds.
But despite the relative success, Ecke is being realistic about where elearning fits into the overall revenue pie for B2B media.
“We’ll certainly see more focus on elearning across the B2B markets, but I wouldn’t categorize it as the next big thing,” he says. “Our job is to serve information to our users to help them do their jobs better in all aspects—online education absolutely meets that criteria so we’ll continue to build out our capability [there].”