Tag Archives: E-Learning

Out with the New: The return to the “old media”

7 Sep

I was really fascinated to read Clive Shepherd’s blog post on “Why video trumps e-learning” as it touched upon what I’ve been doing recently, returning to the “old media” of comic strips.

In the blog post, Clive makes a very convincing argument on how video is “more engaging, more versatile and less impersonal” than e-learning, pointing out that “we’ll see an even greater use of video in the workplace.” Clive adds that while “there are some niches where e-learning is irreplaceable,” he won’t be unhappy “to see other media come alongside.”

As Clive concludes, the increasing use of video is “just another turn of the circle” in the history of corporate training (video as a medium for training came to prominence in the 1980s/1990s, however, it must be noted that these days it is significantly easier to create training videos). For me, driving this increased use of video is the desire of learners to have quick and easy access to information. This desire is shaping my instructional design decisions.

For example, I was recently tasked with turning some complex call flow diagrams of a communication system into training material. After talking with the staff using the communication system, I found out that they hardly use our intranet to find out information (as one staff member said “the intranet involves too many clicks”). So instead of creating an e-learning module that would never be viewed, I started to think about creating training material that would be quick to find and easy to review.

Oddly, my thoughts on the design of the original e-learning module soon evolved into something more old media, comic strips. I had been inspired by Cathy Moore’s elearning branching example, and was thinking about using a similar model. However, instead of using e-learning, I decided to reject the new media and go old school – a printed comic strip.

The feedback largely has been positive. Staff can quickly grab the printed comic strip and find out the information that they need to know. For me, the process has made me rethink creating training material in the twenty-first century. Perhaps it’s time to return to the old media.

The Latest Rapid E-learning Tools – Too Much of a Good Thing?

7 Jun

Recently I was really fascinated by this tweet from Andy Jones:

For a number of years, I’ve been creating training materials with rapid development tools (mostly Captivate). The “creation” process has been fairly organic, in that over time I have developed a sense of what works well and what simply doesn’t.

During the same time, rapid development tools have vastly improved, especially from a developer’s perspective. What seemed like a distant possibility years ago, seems fairly simple to do and achieve these days.

But Andy’s tweet raises an important point, are rapid development tools guiding developers down the wrong path? A path to standard design templates and stock photos of office staff – e.g. bland and boring e-learning.

My recent experience suggests that the answer could be yes.

This week I have been reviewing a couple of e-learning modules created in Captivate. One module took the standard project template approach and was stitched together by the aggregator tool. Unfortunately the result was an uneven table of contents that made it virtually impossible for the learner (me) to navigate through the course.

The second module had a more hierarchical structure that I could easily navigate through. However, parts of the content, clearly created in PowerPoint and imported into Captivate, seemed like a mishmash. This resulted in the module not only having an uneven look and feel, but gave me a disjointed learning experience.

So, as rapid e-learning tools have improved vastly over the years, why haven’t learning experiences?

Are the tools the problem? Or is it the developers?

Perhaps it’s both. Rapid e-learning tools have been developed so anyone can use them. That’s great, I’m for user-friendly software. But the result, is often the creation of an end-product that is learner unfriendly.

So what is the answer?

Maybe we (L&D departments) should stop buying into the “game-changing” marketing of rapid e-learning tools. While the tools are easier to use (and do amazing things), not everyone can create amazing learning experiences from scratch (despite the array of design templates and stock photos available).

The End of E-Learning?

4 May

My week has been bookended by two thought-provoking blog posts about the future of learning and e-learning in particular, one from Nick Shackleton-Jones and the other by Clive Shepherd. Both made me really think about the future of learning in my organization.

I’ll start with Clive Shepherd’s post “This house believes the only way is e-learning.” In this post, Clive argues that e-learning should be the key focus for learning given the problems currently facing workplace learning. These problems include:

• A scarcity of budget for training
• A scarcity of teacher/trainer time
• A scarcity of time for learner to spend training
• Massive disruption in the employment market as a result of the economic downturn, structural changes caused by technological change and globalisation
• A requirement and a desire to reduce CO2 emissions

Along with these problems, learners have new expectations about learning:

• A demand for learning content and experiences that are highly relevant to current work issues
• A demand for immediate access to learning content and experiences
• A demand for more flexibility in how, when and where these experiences are made available
• Along with a recognition that it is no longer necessary to know everything, but instead to have access on-demand to resources

Clive believes that “traditional training” cannot help us overcome these problems. Instead, he argues that e-learning is “the only way to overcome these obstacles.”

In contrast to Clive Shepherd, Nick Shackleton-Jones doesn’t believe that e-learning is “the only way.” In fact, in “E-Learning is dead. Long live online learing” Nick argues that we are currently witnessing the end of e-learning. Comparing e-learning to the fate of the fax machine, Nick argues the demise of both have similar roots, in that they have been “overtaken by a flurry of smaller, more agile technologies.”

According to Nick, the rise of these “smaller, more agile technologies” (infographics, videos etc … ) has led to a shift away from courses to resources. This in turn has changed how instructional designers approach ADDIE. Rather than the e-learning course, the future focus, in Nick’s opinion “will be on resources and peers.”

For me, Clive and Nick are both right (and wrong) about the future. In my organization, e-learning plays a significant role and will continue to do so in the future because the problems that Clive outlines. However, recently I’ve been doing the type of instructional design work that Nick describes, using “smaller and more agile technologies” to facilitate learning. I can only see this growing more and more in the future.

Saying all this, however, I believe that the future will also include the traditional classroom. Despite the recent development of educational technologies (and theories), in my organization the traditional classroom still holds sway in discussions about training. And while the argument against grows, I don’t think this will change in the near future.

The Problem with a Prerequisite

13 Apr

This week I had a really good discussion with my team about creating a program for MS Office 2010 training. While we agreed on course outlines, we differed on the issue of how to enforce a prerequisite.

The idea behind a prerequisite is to ensure that learners have prior skills/knowledge before starting a course.

While we agreed that our training program needed a prerequisite (a “What’s New”), we disagreed on how to ensure that learners took the prerequisite.

The crux of the problem rested on the prerequisite course being classroom based. Classroom based learning has significant benefits when introducing learners to something new, most notably the availability of an instructor to answer questions. However, classroom based learning also has significant drawbacks, primarily a lack of flexibility for the learner.

If a learner can’t attend a course on a particular date, at a particular location, and that course is a prerequisite to attend other courses on a training program, we have problems!

So what is the solution? As a team we came up with a number of possible solutions:

1. Schedule the prerequisite course across different locations, over a wide date range.

2. Video the prerequisite course and make that available for those learners who could not attend the classroom.

3. E-learning – turn the classroom course into an e-learning module.

4. Virtual classrooms – run the prerequisite as a virtual classroom.

All four options have their own advantages and disadvantages. However, I believe that there isn’t a single solution. Rather, I think a blended approach would work best.

As we go forward with this training program, the problem of the prerequisite will need to be addressed. How that looks is still up for debate!

A Template for Training in Healthcare for the 21st century

14 Sep

I recently read Clive Shepherd’s excellent blog post on Julie Wedgwood. The post is a profile of Julie, who for the last 3 years has worked with the Cheshire ICT Service, which provides support for 10,500 National Health Service employees across Cheshire in the UK.

The post details the challenges that Julie faced especially with convincing management the value of training for the organisation. Working in healthcare myself, I also felt empathy with Julie’s initial struggles with existing trainers and working within increasingly tight budget constraints.

However, the story of Julie’s experience really came alive when Clive outlined her 3 year blended learning strategy. This strategy, implemented by stealth and slowly from the bottom-up, helped learners and trainers ease into a new way of learning.

An example of this new way of learning was the delivery of ELITE, the NHS Essential IT skills course. The IT skills of a healthcare workforce tend to range widely from zero to expert. However, healthcare professionals are increasingly becoming depended on technology to do their jobs. For me, the biggest hurdle to get those with zero IT skills up to speed, is actually getting them the training (some simply avoid IT training out of fear, others have jobs that don’t allow them the time to attend classroom training).

Julie’s solution to this problem is really innovative. To draw employees in, the ELITE course is mapped to qualifications (I find developing/sharing learning paths an excellent tool for learner motivation). In addition, the course is delivered as blended learning (offered within a classroom and as e-learning). The e-learning side in particularly interesting, as staff are supported by a tutor either by phone or email.

Notably, the most significant success of Julie’s solution was not just the increase in staff taking the ELITE course, but the increased uptake in other e-learning courses.

Although the learning strategy was implemented slowly and from the bottom-up, the change was culturally dramatic and lasting. Arguably, we have here a template for training in healthcare for the 21st century.

Check out the original post here: