Thursday, March 1, 2012

Salvation from elearning's 7 deadly sins

This arrived in my inbox today from HRIQ

What are the 7 deadly sins of eLearning? Eric Matas, editor of eLearning Weekly Magazine believes they are:
1.     The course started as a PowerPoint presentation.
2.     The course is very long.
3.     The text of the course is wordy and redundant.
4.     The presentation was converted to Flash by a rapid authoring tool.
5.     The course must be accessed by logging in to an LMS.
6.     The course itself is 100 percent of the learning.
7.     The course must be taken during a mandated time frame.
Do you agree? Read the recent and exclusive article here where Eric writes about the bane of eLearning courses and gives seven reasons why mLearning (mobile learning) is better. Read the article here
My smart boss had sent this article out about a month ago to the members of her training team here at SumTotal, so this was not a new article for me. The author makes lots of salient points about how the mobile platform helps to avoid many of the sins outlines above.

As I read it I felt a blog post coming on. As I see it each of these are potential deadly sins that could lead to some really bad learning, but then I'd rather focus on what to do than what not to do. And some of these are often beyond the control of the Learning Pro, so if faced with these how do we deal with them.

So here is my take on each of those sins.

The Sin: The course started as a PowerPoint presentation
Comment: It's nice to be able to start each learning development project with a clean sheet and an infinite budget. At least I'm assuming it would be nice. I've never had that myself. When I ran a group of content creators in 2010 who were rebuilding lots of content we were building for multiple delivery channels. We needed to create classes that could be delivered in a live physical classroom, in a live Virtual classroom and (sometimes) using self paced learning.  As everything started for ILT we used the worlds most used presentation software (yup PowerPoint) to create the content.
The Salvation: Design the learning well and the delivery technology isn't an issue. Use the PPT to guide a facilitator in what to say, just as you would mix the images and bullets on the screen with the narration in an elearning course.

The Sin: The course is very long
Comment: Sometimes there is a lot of content to cover in a course. If you happen to be teaching something complex then it's going to take time to help the learners get all the content and develop the knowledge/skills they need. .
The Salvation: Modules. Break up the content into smaller chunks. It can still be part of the same course but by breaking it up you ensure that the learners get to build on each block as they go. And this goes for ILT just as much as elearning or mlearning. When I learned about learning years ago one of the principles I absorbed was variety. If you have been doing the same thing for 15-20 minutes then change what you are doing. In the Millennial world that is probably closer to 5 minutes or maybe less!

The Sin: The text of the course is wordy and redundant.
Comment: I'm going to agree with him here. Slides full of words are pretty pointless, I prefer to see images that convey a suitable message (though not just clip-art for art's sake) and bullet points. Use the Narration or the participant guide to flesh these out.
The Salvation: I find a good rule of thumb to be. A bullet on the screen, A sentence on the Participant Guide and paragraph in the notes or narration.

The Sin: The presentation was converted to flash by a rapid authoring tool.
Comment: Yay! Lets get away from these things that make our lives easier. Lets write our own flash, or use other clever apps to create HTML5. Who cares if it takes 10 times as long and by the time we finish the content is out of date. In fact lets get away from these learning technologies all together and get the learner to sit down with the subject matter expert one on one and learn at the feat of the Master.
The Salvation: Rapid Authoring Tools are great for what they are. A way of taking content created for one medium and publishing it for another. But don't just push it though the publisher. You will make changes to suit the new medium. I'm pretty familiar with the Articulate tool set and I like it. I've been getting very familiar with the ToolBook development tool that my erstwhile employers have developed and sell. It's a great tool for doing all sorts of really cool stuff, including creating some great elearning and mlearning. But it's not a rapid authoring tool. It's got action script editing that lets me write code to make my content do lots of cools stuff. But the downside is that I have to write code to make my content do cool stuff. If I'm not as worried about having as many cool stuff options I can get a pretty good selection out of the one that have been coded for me in Articulate.

The Sin: The course must be accessed by logging into an LMS.
Comment: Why would you possibly want to track who took that course, how much of it they went through and if they completed the knowledge assessment that was carefully built to test both knowledge and application. And of course the only way to access an LMS is from a desktop PC
The Salvation: Many of the LMS's out there are no longer limited to desktop only options. The Enterprise LMS that SumTotal sells has a mobile app that ties in with it. You can download a course at some point when you have connectivity and take it any time. I've got the App on my iPhone

The Sin: The course is 100% of the learning.
Comment: Now OK I have to believe that somewhere out there there are people who still believe that if someone needs to learn something then all you need to do is send them on a course, but are managers really that dumb. I've not met a manager for years that thought that a course would be the ONLY part of learning something. Managers are more savy than that and know that once their employee gets back from 'class' there will be steps to proficiency.
The Salvation: Build a curriculum. Have multiple learning activities, some of them being the course, others being...well whatever you want them to be or more usefully whatever the learners need to develop the skills you are trying to help them with.

The Sin: The course must be taken during a mandated time frame.
Comment: I don't know about the author, but I work in a company that has a whole bunch of things that happen within a mandated time frame. I like the money from my salary to be in my bank account twice each month on the 15th and the last day. I prefer doing my work during the daytime hours and not being expected to take calls from customers at 3:00am. Outside of work I have a whole bunch of other things that are on someone else's timetable. It would be great to be able to drink that milk I put in the fridge any time I decide I want some, but if I wait beyond a mandated time frame I could be in for a nasty shock.
The Salvation: If the eLearning is built to follow the guidelines above then it won't be a chore. It will be an engaging part of work life. I'll work that into my life like I work getting to the gym into my life.

See not so deadly after all are they?
Your comments are welcome.

Happy Learning

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