Expectations

October 15, 2008

I received the following question via the Google Talk widget on my blog:

“I saw the ad for the Multi-Generational report you did. I like the alternative viewpoint that maybe the multi-generational thing isn’t a big deal as it is being discussed at all the industry trade shows. I am not yet buying into the idea that we need to create Facebook, SecondLife, learner-driven content (e.g., wiki, texting) type learning simply because the younger generation learns that way.”

That last part – basically the idea that we need to use “2.0” tools and technologies because young people learn that way is something I hope no one buys into. People across generations expect rich, collaborative learning which may or may not be enabled by Web 2.0 tools.  Don’t you? I don’t want to listen to this & then respond. Train, learn. It’s content-centric.

I want learning that is social. Don’t you? I want some structure – maybe contextualized concepts – that allow me to construct my own meaning through interactions with others. There is still structure. Guide, learn. It’s learner-centric.  I’m doing that now. I try to construct my own meaning based on the question. Your responses will further guide me.

I think this is the struggle. How to make e-learning less content-centric and more learner-centric. Short answer: quit trying to control everything. Quit trying to elicit a specific response. Be a guide. For everyone. Being a Web 2.0-enabled guide depends on your environment. However, they are conducive to social learning. And people expect that. Don’t you?

If you buy this learner-centric environment enabled by the Web 2.0 tools that are so shiny now, where does that traditional e-learning course you’re working on fit in?

  • Maria Hlas

    I do agree on one point – I think the Gen-Y/millenial thing is blown out of proportion a bit. Although I do think there are things we need to understand about them and the fact that they consider themselves to be different.

    But I think a good analogy is to a good classroom facilitator. I have an agenda and things we need to cover, but at the beginning of class I acknowledge that this is THEIR class and we will go wherever the conversation takes us, as long as it is meaningful and more or less on topic. I cannot predict from one session to the next how the class will unfold because it depends on the participants – that’s the magic of it. And these participants are from all age groups.

    So why not try to add some of that to e-learning?! We are all so busy now that any appearance of wasting people’s time annoys them -and people dread sitting through one more boring, linear e-learning course that may or may not apply to them (and worse may be mandated to complete). Who wants to take credit for creating that? I agree with you that ALL learners are craving something more, something more interactive that engages them to think and challenges them to apply the skills somehow. If it takes the younger generation coming into the workforce to force the issue, it will still be a benefit to everyone.

  • Maria Hlas

    I do agree on one point – I think the Gen-Y/millenial thing is blown out of proportion a bit. Although I do think there are things we need to understand about them and the fact that they consider themselves to be different.

    But I think a good analogy is to a good classroom facilitator. I have an agenda and things we need to cover, but at the beginning of class I acknowledge that this is THEIR class and we will go wherever the conversation takes us, as long as it is meaningful and more or less on topic. I cannot predict from one session to the next how the class will unfold because it depends on the participants – that’s the magic of it. And these participants are from all age groups.

    So why not try to add some of that to e-learning?! We are all so busy now that any appearance of wasting people’s time annoys them -and people dread sitting through one more boring, linear e-learning course that may or may not apply to them (and worse may be mandated to complete). Who wants to take credit for creating that? I agree with you that ALL learners are craving something more, something more interactive that engages them to think and challenges them to apply the skills somehow. If it takes the younger generation coming into the workforce to force the issue, it will still be a benefit to everyone.

  • Brian

    Remember SRA Power Builders (one card learning activities)?
    I well remember a heated debate in an attempt to point out that modular learning objects are nothing new. I took a terrible pounding in the debate because a micro computer was not involved in my example. My personal constructivist idea about the definition of the term “Modular Learning Object” doesn’t fit the ‘new tradition’, of which tends to focus on the hardware, and not the people. I guess a major reason for this is that the work done on these concepts way back in the 1920s are not online (yet?), therefore it never existed?

    “What about synchronous feedback?”, someone asked.
    To which I replied, “The learner turned a paper wheel, pulled a paper slide-out, lifted pop up doors, and so forth…these activities were very rich in synchronous learning activities.”

    My peers still did not seem convinced that the whole learning module concept is nothing new.

    I may take a pounding yet again, but this learner-centric idea is not so new either. Yes, we have new technologies in which to incorporate concepts which actually predate modern psychology, but the fact is, those who build curriculum look at far more than ‘technology’. The things curriculum builders examine are not always the best for learning, but they’ll always be with us, for better or for worse.

    It will always be about people and communities; hence, if your ‘traditional eLearning course’ is a good one, it will be used somewhere. See, the key here is that individual courses and technologies do not build a curriculum. Curriculum builders go out and find what the stakeholders finally agree upon (after sometimes very ugly battles). Course builders meet with these stakeholders and hammer it all out.

    I go to Second Life conferences frequently, where lectors are very ‘traditional’ in approach….with presentations about all the great learner-centric possibilities of the learning environment. There is much vision about possible learning activities….but currently, it’s pretty much like sitting in a class room and listening to someone preach for 50 minutes. Here we see the only ‘highly evident’ benefit to the technology is the fact it can bring 40 or so people together remotely. No real change in instruction tactics mind you.

    Despite this…..the conferences fill up with interested people! A good deal of these ‘visions’ for potential new learning content come from people who don’t have the skills or the time to build these visions. They are great at drawing up the blue-prints and projecting worth and validity for these visions….but are seeking help in actually ‘building’ them. That is where the next generation comes into play.

    I don’t think there is anything to fear. A good deal of the things being proposed will not be piloted at all, or will fail. In contrast, some of it will work very well, and will get assimilated into the daily lexicon of curriculum and course building tools. Yes, all generations will contribute a great deal, and it will always be very social in nature.

    I so agree that younger generations will adapt to ‘tradition’ much more quickly and easily than older generations will return the favor. This is exactly why it tends to take a while for new technologies to catch on.

  • Brian

    Remember SRA Power Builders (one card learning activities)?
    I well remember a heated debate in an attempt to point out that modular learning objects are nothing new. I took a terrible pounding in the debate because a micro computer was not involved in my example. My personal constructivist idea about the definition of the term “Modular Learning Object” doesn’t fit the ‘new tradition’, of which tends to focus on the hardware, and not the people. I guess a major reason for this is that the work done on these concepts way back in the 1920s are not online (yet?), therefore it never existed?

    “What about synchronous feedback?”, someone asked.
    To which I replied, “The learner turned a paper wheel, pulled a paper slide-out, lifted pop up doors, and so forth…these activities were very rich in synchronous learning activities.”

    My peers still did not seem convinced that the whole learning module concept is nothing new.

    I may take a pounding yet again, but this learner-centric idea is not so new either. Yes, we have new technologies in which to incorporate concepts which actually predate modern psychology, but the fact is, those who build curriculum look at far more than ‘technology’. The things curriculum builders examine are not always the best for learning, but they’ll always be with us, for better or for worse.

    It will always be about people and communities; hence, if your ‘traditional eLearning course’ is a good one, it will be used somewhere. See, the key here is that individual courses and technologies do not build a curriculum. Curriculum builders go out and find what the stakeholders finally agree upon (after sometimes very ugly battles). Course builders meet with these stakeholders and hammer it all out.

    I go to Second Life conferences frequently, where lectors are very ‘traditional’ in approach….with presentations about all the great learner-centric possibilities of the learning environment. There is much vision about possible learning activities….but currently, it’s pretty much like sitting in a class room and listening to someone preach for 50 minutes. Here we see the only ‘highly evident’ benefit to the technology is the fact it can bring 40 or so people together remotely. No real change in instruction tactics mind you.

    Despite this…..the conferences fill up with interested people! A good deal of these ‘visions’ for potential new learning content come from people who don’t have the skills or the time to build these visions. They are great at drawing up the blue-prints and projecting worth and validity for these visions….but are seeking help in actually ‘building’ them. That is where the next generation comes into play.

    I don’t think there is anything to fear. A good deal of the things being proposed will not be piloted at all, or will fail. In contrast, some of it will work very well, and will get assimilated into the daily lexicon of curriculum and course building tools. Yes, all generations will contribute a great deal, and it will always be very social in nature.

    I so agree that younger generations will adapt to ‘tradition’ much more quickly and easily than older generations will return the favor. This is exactly why it tends to take a while for new technologies to catch on.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Maria! I’ve missed you in my comments.

    I like what you’re saying here. Perhaps the problem is that some people have not yet been exposed to guided instruction online so they don’t really know what it looks like.

    Good facilitation in a classroom is probably something we’ve all (hopefully) had the pleasure to experience.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Hi Brian-
    Excellent, excellent points. I think you exhibit a healthy approach to this. I often think we are too focused on the now to really analyze past work that can be applied today. Heck, you can take some flack for writing in a blog post about something from 2005 (almost have to apologize). One can argue too that nothing is new – nothing is original. It all builds on something prior.
    Lisa Johnson was a keynote speaker at our recent conference. She spoke of pairing generations -an excellent way to dovetail the ideas and the actual realization of those ideas.
    Thanks for your comments here…great!

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Hi Brian-
    Excellent, excellent points. I think you exhibit a healthy approach to this. I often think we are too focused on the now to really analyze past work that can be applied today. Heck, you can take some flack for writing in a blog post about something from 2005 (almost have to apologize). One can argue too that nothing is new – nothing is original. It all builds on something prior.
    Lisa Johnson was a keynote speaker at our recent conference. She spoke of pairing generations -an excellent way to dovetail the ideas and the actual realization of those ideas.
    Thanks for your comments here…great!

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Maria! I've missed you in my comments.

    I like what you're saying here. Perhaps the problem is that some people have not yet been exposed to guided instruction online so they don't really know what it looks like.

    Good facilitation in a classroom is probably something we've all (hopefully) had the pleasure to experience.

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