I had a conversation by email with someone I really care about that probably came off a bit bitchy, a bit holier-than-thou…it you can have just “a bit” of either of those traits. And, I’m probably about to come off the same way here. That’s not an apology. I yam what I yam. And, no doubt I’ll piss off some people for my opinion of rapid e-learning tools.
My email conversation came at a time when I saw the tweet (below) from Clark Quinn on Twitter so I felt some sort of validation of my opinion (don’t you love serendipity?). Clark said:
The person that I wrote the email to was questioning his ability to really create sound e-learning (using a rapid development tool); how to ‘lay it out.’ I told him there are a lot of people who share his struggle. A lot.
My response went something like this:
We wouldn’t expect a layman to design a bridge given an IKEA set of instructions.
She’d need to know the strength of materials, type of materials, math, physics, etc. She’d need to be an engineer.
Same holds true for our field. Those who know how to design instruction soundly are the ‘engineers.’
Without ID skills, you end up being guided by the rapid e-learning tool. They are the IKEA of ID. Cheap and fast but not likely to show up at the antiques show 150 years from now (or to go down in your most memorable training book IMHO). You trade speed and low cost for flexibility and richness. With rapid e-learning tools, you don’t necessarily need to know the ID equivalent of engineering (learning theories, human psychology, instructional science) to create the course. That’s why people love them. That’s why people love IKEA. Fast and inexpensive.
Think of most rapid e-learning courses. They are, by design, built around limiting theories. You mostly end up using them to create knowledge-building content (novice-level) or to create courses to track something (compliance, etc.). Or they are used to create something that is the equivalent of a text document. But novice-level/ knowledge-building and mandatory-type courses are a fraction of what people need to do their jobs.
This is why training in how to (really) design instruction is so important (for e-learning, classroom instruction, and informal learning). Although someone can show you how to make the most of a rapid e-learning tool, you won’t become the ‘engineer’ without advanced training (and not necessarily formal).
I think our field is littered with people like you and I that came from a different background and were thrown into an L & D position expecting to just apply our own past experience with schooling and teaching into e-learning. So that’s what we do. I can see that safely from a distance now. I did little more than create novice-level knowledge-building courses, compliance courses, and ‘text documents’ spread out in a linear fashion with some questions thrown in before I was “trained” in ID.
Rapid e-learning tools serve their purpose, I hope without sacrificing development. To illustrate what I’m trying to say, I’m outlining a case study. See where the rapid e-learning tool fits into the bigger picture. See what the role of L & D is. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s sound.
Here are the highlights from the actual case study:
The organization’s L & D group created what they called a “Web 2.0 Community” which was built on SharePoint architecture. (Imagine a graphic with “Web 2.0 Community” in the middle and blogs, wikis, discussion board, social bookmarking, and user-generated content surrounding it.)
The blogs were everyone’s – novice, expert, course vendors, and Learning & Development. People used audio, video, images, text and followed updates using RSS.
The discussion board was a place where people shared knowledge and experiences. L & D facilitated discussions including getting unanswered questions directed to internal and external experts. Many of these discussion flowed from monthly webinars.
L & D provided tools & instructional design support for users wishing to create their own ‘content.’ (The rapid development tool used was Articulate. They referred to this as user-generated content.)
The wiki was built the same way Wikipedia is. (Not surprisingly, they used their company name + ‘pedia’). Social bookmarking was on its own server. This moved ‘favorites’ from individual PCs so all could share their best resources.
L & D measured the effectiveness of the Web 2.0 community by looking at participation, quality of discussions, usage statistics, anecdotes of the community, and interviews with users. L & D identified three primary benefits: common language, productivity, and time & cost savings.
Did they need to know how to use rapid e-learning development tools? Yes.
One of the ways we identify rapid e-learning development tools in our Authoring Tool KnowledgeBase is by identifying who the tool is best suited for. If the primary use is this…
Subject matter experts with no page design, authoring, or programming experience
…then it’s a rapid e-learning development tool. If you’re in L&D spending all your time creating content using tools designed for SMEs then you probably won’t learn how to create much more than novice-level/knowledge building courses. In the case study above, no one in L&D was creating content. Everyone was creating.
Last thing- if you’re not spending a couple hours of week studying ID in situ then you are only going to build IKEAesque stuff. Just sayin’.