Saturday, January 19, 2008

What we want and what we get - the difference

I'm not sure whether you will be able to see this article from MSN, but if you can't, I'll summarise:

The author, some MSN intern, looks at a Which? study (Which? is a consumer magazine in the UK) that reveals that the majority of people would like simpler gadgets. Our author, let's call him Patrick, thinks on this and spots a very reasonable reason for the dischord between what people are after and what they get - 'feature lust'.

Okay, so Patrick doesn't put it in those terms, but he may as well have done. He draws the point that while we may want a TV that we can slump in front of, switch on and watch, we also want to plug seven different gadgets into it, fiddle with the colour settings, tweak the sound...

In short, we think we know what we want - a simple TV - but we go and buy bells and whistles.

Much like elearning.

The shopping list is usually pretty simple upfront: cheap way to train X,000 staff in Y weeks, budget £Z. And often enough this could be achieved with a little thought and sacrifice. Except that what gets added to the mix is the need for vip videos, branded graphics, pizazz, wow factor, "engaging interactions" - the list goes on. And the list rarely includes anything that will impact the learner in a positive way.

More often than not, of course, the person buying the TV will go into the store knowing what they're after but will be "persuaded" by a sales person to buy the SuperBlack screen and the 7D Immersive Audio. And likewise the elearning sales person is as much to blame for some "training" decisions that are not in the best interests of the learner.

I think that this point also crosses with Donald Clark's article on the UK eLearning press - these magazines, that land on the desk of pretty much anyone who as ever so much as hinted at the idea they might buy or sell any amount of elearning, sell a vendor-friendly view of elearning, typically hinging on the next great technology that one or more of their advertisers is looking to make a return on.

Which is a shame, for there is a lot to be said for keeping things simple.
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