Final Report on PEGGasus,
the Online Learning Marketplace

As of Dec. 20 last year, the online learning market place known as PEGGasus is no more. Very low usage of the service and related low revenue proved it unsustainable and led to its closure.

The concept of having many professional development providers with many professional opportunities on one Internet site or marketplace was born at the start of the millennium. Initial feedback suggested that a service like this would be beneficial for members and providers alike.

Members would be able to find PD opportunities that fit their needs more easily, and providers would have better access to a large pool of professionals constantly upgrading their skills and knowledge. Financing was secured and the site development and detailed marketing plan began February 2003.

Launched November 2003, it was anticipated PEGGasus would be sustainable beyond the funding end date of February 2005.

The project was a partnership between APEGGA (as the lead), the University of Alberta, Institute for Professional Development (as the concept generator and researcher), the National Research Council (as an Internet technology provider) and TerraPrime (as the site developer).

Costs were $205,000 with major funding from Human Resources & Skills Development Canada ($160,000). Other funding came from industry ($24,000) through donations by Syncrude Canada Ltd., Husky Energy, Bantrel Inc. and UMA Engineering Ltd. Fees from advertisers and users totaled $1,000 and APEGGA's contribution was $20,000.

At its peak, PEGGasus had over 2,500 professional development opportunities from over 90 providers, including universities, colleges, private firms, technical societies and professional associations offering seminars, conferences, courses and lunches.

Although promoted widely through The PEGG, mass e-mails and flyers in the annual invoice, only 3,158 members logged onto the member profile section and only 985 (including providers) logged on in 2004. On average, about 30 members visited the site per day, with peaks during the mass e-mailing in March and in August/September when many think about fall and winter PD.

Despite the initial high level of interest in a web-based learning market place, only 50 members actually registered for events through PEGGasus.

Online and other surveys, personal and telephone interviews, focus group interviews, and direct observation yielded many constructive ideas. However, many members found access time-consuming and anecdotal information suggests that members are already connected with their preferred providers.

The need to search periodically or to create a living search engine with specific criteria was a paradigm shift in how members manage their professional development that most did not embrace. There was no evidence that members in remote areas used the site more than those in urban centres. And members weren't attracted to the advantages of online courses that were offered by two providers who had over half the opportunities on PEGGasus.

Reactions among providers ranged from enthusiastic to uninterested. Smaller private providers viewed PEGGasus as an effective access to a large market, but larger institutions with already high profiles did not consider the service advantageous. Technical societies were reluctant to come onboard as they felt they already reached their market, and being volunteer-driven, they lack the time to populate yet another website. Providers' preference to control registrations eliminated costly banking services, but also limited our access to information about who had actually registered (for which there was a fee from the provider payable to PEGGasus) and led to further follow-up costs. The concept of automatically harvesting and updating PD opportunities from the Internet proved to be impractical, and the subsequent need to manually load and update data also increased costs.

Although the loss of PEGGasus is a disappointment, it should be remembered that this was a pilot program. It was designed to see if there was enough use and interest to make it viable, without continued financial support. Members and other potential users have delivered their verdict.

APEGGA will continue to evaluate how it can effectively facilitate the delivery of professional development to its members. Anyone interested in discussing it further should contact me, Nancy Toth, MA, Manager of Professional Development at APEGGA.

Author Credits

Manager, Professional Development