The basics

July 27, 2010

Earlier this year I did a presentation on e-learning where I showed a bunch of course examples. When I asked how many people were creating e-learning solutions I saw about twenty percent of the people in the audience (of three hundred) raise their hands. That may be generous. It may have been as few as ten percent. And this was a group of L&D folks.

I don’t think that’s an anomaly.

Amber Naslund writes about the restless novice. She talks about traveling to events and hearing,

“We need to talk about what’s next…Can we move beyond the basics?”

Of course my basic is different than your basic. But I’m still shocked when only one person in a group of twenty has heard of something like RSS – something that’s been around maybe what…ten years? Of course that insults anyone reading this who doesn’t know what RSS is and I apologize if it does. Perhaps you have no need in your job or personal life. Perhaps you only check email and don’t access the web much.

Sometimes I seem to forget this…

“I think there’s beauty in the basics. In fact, you can point to many reasons why they’re absolutely essential. There’s a simple eloquence that resides in fundamentals and one of which I’ve discovered I’m quite enamored. I enjoy the basics. Teaching them, exploring them, understanding them better, explaining them more clearly. Reframing them in ways that make sense to more people. They’re always useful, always necessary if we’re ever to build upon a strong foundation.”

That quote from Amber Naslund. She suggests people are uncomfortable being called beginners. I don’t know if that’s the case in our industry where we’re used to training people “starting at the beginning.” She asks if you’re uncomfortable with being a beginner, or with teaching them to others? (you might want to weigh in)

I think I’ve forgotten the beauty in the basics. I guess I’m kind of an asshole for thinking,” jeesh…you should know this” when I’m with a group of people who are fine with saying openly, “I’m in L&D and don’t know about e-learning.” Who am I to judge? I’m sure that’s a boatload of stuff about the publishing industry that I SHOULD be aware of. That’s my other job. I don’t work toward becoming an expert in publishing world like I should.

Anyway…do we need to write more about the basics in the industry? I always feel as if I’m stating the obvious. But look at the popularity of Tom Kuhlmann’s Rapid E-Learning blog. 61,000 readers. Tom has a gift for building a foundation without putting off people with more experience. I think that answers my question. Now is anyone up for contributing to a site about basics? Or do you know of one I’ve blown off?

  • Alfred Low

    This is interesting and a topic that I constantly butt my professional head against. It is a simple (to me) as whether all the content has to fit on one screen (ala Powerpoint) or whether we can expect the user to know how to use a scrollbar.

    I guess the difference here is that the demography of L&D people is probably different from the students I develop for (primarily K12 students).

  • jclarey

    There might not be as big a difference as either of us think. I recall training new hires that didn’t know what ‘desktop’ I was referring to, didn’t know they could move windows around, etc. And then I remember someone who asked what the “I feel lucky” option was about when doing a Google search. She didn’t want to select it because she didn’t know what would happen. I guess it’s all relative.

  • Taruna Goel

    You raise an important aspect not only about the L&D vertical but many other industry verticals. We forget the basics or forget talking about them enough. And yes, the ‘basics’ may be very different depending on the entry profile. But like all subjects and bodies of knowledge – there are a few foundational concepts or basics that have been identified and acknowledged as such by the experts. Without knowing and understanding these, we can’t claim to be successfully practicing our subject.

    Well, I am up for contributing towards a site that discusses L&D basics. Infact many of my blog posts are inspired by these so-called ‘basics’. Conversations, training sessions, and client meetings constantly tell me how these basics are so unknown.

  • jclarey

    Great Taruna. I’ll be in touch.

  • Ellen

    Janet — Excellent post! Sometimes I think we forget that elearning is a specialty, sort of like pediatrics is a specialty within medicine. Someone could be an excellent brain surgeon, even though the nuances of certain childhood diseases aren’t as familiar to him or her. A site about basics is a great idea and would be happy to help (from the non-profit and association point of view in particular — where many organizations are beginning to explore the fundamentals).

    Your example of RSS suggests to me that we assume that the fundamentals don’t change — yet they can, can’t they? For example, wouldn’t we consider evaluating how social networking and social media can contribute to elearning a fundamental question these days, when we wouldn’t have even asked such a question a few years ago?

  • jclarey

    Great analogy and glad you’re up for contributing! I’ll send you some details.

    I would consider that a fundamental question (how social networking can contribute to elearning) as well as what learning through new media looks like when held up to traditional frameworks. This will be fun!!!

  • iPal Social Media

    The great thing about writing about the basics is that there are people out there, new to the industry, who look to you – the expert – as a great resource. Blogs such as yours can be great tools to learn the basics (and more) from but sometimes industry experts do forget to slow down and help out the new guy. It is easy to take the basics for granted because they are so longstanding and you know them like the back of your hand.
    Newcomers to the industry need a solid place to start where the information is “from the ground up” so to speak and they often look at experts like you to show them the ropes. A site with the basics is a great idea and will prove to be a great resource for many people out there.

  • Rob Bartlett

    I think that we should always talk about the basics. Any great Elearning (or other learning) has at its heart the basics, a compelling story that challenges the learner in thier work context.
    When we talk about learning I think it’s sometimesw helpful to split the topic into two parts-1 the actual learning itself and 2 the back office work needed to administer, track, monitor, pay for and report on.
    How deep anyone gets in part 2 depends on the level of resources available to them in their organization.
    I would love to contribute to a site about the basics.

Previous post:

Next post: