Thursday, March 15, 2007

What goes unsaid

I read the elearning blogs and I feel I am learning a lot and I am.

I'm learning about people's beliefs and hopes and ideas. About what inspires them.

What I'm not learning about is what people do.

There is a strange gap in the elearning world, and it's as true of the print media as it is of the online world. Read a blog, pick up a magazine, attend seminars and while there is plenty about ideas and theories on how we need to create "experiences" and be moving to game based learning, there is absolutely no indication of when and how such approaches are to be selected - after all, if we are to be subtle and nuanced in handling our learners' needs then it is important that we recognise the strengths and weaknesses of these new ways of thinking and apply them when necessary. One way would be to offer concrete examples of how a new product launch could be given an "experience" (oh, it is, by the guys in marketing). But this never seems to happen. The stats are wheeled out, research is mentioned, but what we might do with this knowledge is never really discussed.

Sure, I know the US Army used a simulator that was actually released as a game, and there are some games that allow in-depth exploration of life at the top of the corporate ladder. And I can understand how that might come to be - both are realms awash with dollars so they can afford the time and money.

But does anyone ever venture to suggest how game based learning might be brought to bear on the worthy but dull subject of the Age Discrimination Act, or how to make an "experience" of the introduction of the new Somi Nokisson 1234x super phone? No.

Sure, I have ideas of how that might be achieved. But on a budget of a couple of grand and week or three and 20 minutes of learner time, tops?

Trust me, I'm all for ditching LMSs and trying to trust in the learner, but the practical realities are that its not going to happen. The secret shaded working lives of these voices does nothing to illuminate the cloudy future for the rest of us either.

Compare it to programming magazines and journals, or design sites that examine the techniques and secrets of pin-up pros, perhaps with appraisal of their work, or step-by-steps to getting the same effect.

Then look at the good examples of elearning 2.0 on the net. They are short presentations with (or without) audio driven from YouTube and cobbled together in a rapid dev tool and blogs. Hardly ground breaking, but for me it has been a worthwhile learning event.

What seems to be missing from the discussion of all this is people going "yeah, and we got learners to understand how to recognise fraud by doing x, y and z." I've yet to find an "experience" on line telling me how to be better as a learning designer. Every one wants to tell the world what the future is without actually showing anyone else. And as we all should know, showing would trump telling - actually getting us involved would seal the deal.

Unless it is that I'm missing the point. As a wordy liking, self-motivated learner perhaps I have already created my own "experience". Brilliant. But hardly the kind of approach that will get through to the call centre operative who just wants to answer the phones till 5.30 then get outside to his or her car and go home.

I guess that this is the sort of thinking that the people who proclaim a new world of learning want to hear - I'm in touch with a new market for their thinking and they can come and poach it. But the fact is while the voices of the future speak in vapid marketing hyperbole without any substance that will allow their clients (or their competitors and that's probably the point) to actually conceptualise what it is they are on about, short rapid learning driven courses (that hated word) are going to continue.

Oh, and I purposely haven't linked to anyone else here as I'm sure that would not be a way to win and influence.

1 comment:

Cammy Bean said...

Dan, I feel your frustration and I've been ruminating on your post all day. Echoes a lot of what I've been feeling as I've been reading some of the blogs lately.

Yes, a lot of us have been producing a lot of crappy e-learning for years. So now what?

Well, I've been on an inspired mission today. Trying to find the examples. It's gotta be out there. Find out who's sharing their solutions.

From the vendor perspective -- hey, I don't want everyone knowing my secrets (not that I have any). But it's a competitive market and noone wants to give anything away for free. But wouldn't we all be better off if we did? Wouldn't that be better for the industry as a whole?

The company where I work -- we create templates among other things. And they're nice to look at but perhaps outdated from a learning design perspective. So I'm thinking about out how to make them to make them web 2.0...cutting edge. And still be short and rapid and relatively cheap to produce. I'm trying to figure out what that might actually look like.

I'm open to sharing. I think. But I also think real sharing of this nature might be hard for a lot of people to actually do.