Sunday, March 11, 2007

What to track?

Something that I often struggle with when I'm dealing with clients is "what is it you want to record about this learning event?"

All these companies have spent large sums of money on their expensive LMSs and are spending not inconsiderable sums of money, usually with the company I work for, on creating "courses" of elearning for their staff.

Part and parcel of their specifications is typically a locked down navigation that forces the learner through a linear learning route - exactly the sort of thing that Donald Clark pours cold water on here and vexes Cammy at Learning Visions.

From this they are able to get stats on time spent elearning, who has completed what and a whole host of stats that, at the end of it tell them nothing at all about how the behaviour of the learner has changed as a result of the training. With compliance training this is basically the point - how much diversity training is delivered online for example, despite the fact that diversity training is by and large discredited (such as in this paper).

The emphasis is on what the training has said, not on what the learner will do. I see this in some of the material I'm given where learning objectives begin "By the end of this training you will have learnt..." instead of " will be able to..."

One "problem" with elearning as it is reported to me is that learners just take the assessment without doing the learning. My natural reaction is to say "So what? Let 'em." (Though naturally I bite my tongue!) If the learner does that and passes then they have saved themselves 20-60 minutes of their life (I only do short courses).

If on the other hand they fail, then that is not the fault of the elearning - it's the fault of the learner for not having prepared themselves properly. If they don't seek to rectify it and try again, this is not a reason to force all learners to sit through a sluggish course that has unnecessary usability constraints - it's a disciplinary/performance management issue. After all, if a company sends a delegate to a classroom based course and they don't show up, or come in, fail the exam and go home, it wouldn't be long to expect that person to be having a "chat" with the boss or HR...

So I would argue that the only thing that need be tracked is the assessment and let everything else go - effort would be better spent in designing learning resources that are useful and appropriate as job aids, reference works, neat little broadcasts to keep people up to date and support informal learning rather than hamstrung mandated learning that no-one enjoys.
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