Category Archives: eLearning

Dream the impossible e-dream

dreamcatcher

Another nail struck firmly on the head by Clive Shepherd in his post on the four Ts. So often, when keen individuals walk through our training room doors, their expectations are high. Unfortunately, equally, their expectations are also very often unrealistic. It soon becomes clear that there might not only be a lot to learn (but attainable) but a lot of time will be required to reach the appropriate skill level.

Clive explains this needs practise and practise needs time. Those already in the learning and development field may not need skills in how adults learn in general (you’d hope) but they will need to adapt their skills to design for a different delivery medium.  This means stepping into a whole new technological world – and, oh, how much of it there is! On the other hand those who might already be tech-savvy may not have the necessary skills in what make good learning.  Therefore each of these groups need up-skilling.

It’s encouraging to continually witness continued enthusiasm of people on  the eLearning courses I run.  Of course there are dips – usually when they realise exactly how much is involved.  But there are also highs when they realise they often have more experience and aptitude than they might have thought.  When they leave, their high expectations may have been capped, but mostly they still leave enthused and keen to put their new-found knowledge into practise.

However, that’s often when we hit the biggest downer of all ….

With these skills gaps already identified by organisations, employees are signed up for training courses to achieve what’s required.  It’s great news that organisations recognise this and are investing in their employees.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction.  However, along with the investment comes unrealistic expectations of speedy implementation.  In a previous post, I discussed the likelihood of compromising quality when unrealistic goals are set when implementing an in-house e-learning project.

This isn’t just limited to the domain of eLearning design though – again as I replied to a comment from Clarke Quinn to that same post above.  Throughout the years L&D teams have been faced with unrealistic time-scales and misconceptions about how much work is involved in developing learning programmes – whether they are eLearning, formal face to face training or even e-bites of instructional ‘how-to’ support material.  The result?  A compromise on quality or working ridiculously long hours or both!

Unless a clear eLearning strategy is agreed and supported by senior executives and across all levels of the organisation, we may likely to see a slow improvement in the quality of in-house produced eLearning content.

It’s not an impossible dream – it can happen with commitment, support and understanding.

 

Field of Dreams!

I’m sitting here in my hotel room catching up with some much neglected research via my Twitter network with half an ear on the TV (who said I couldn’t multi-task – oh yes, that was me!). The programme is Alex Polizzi’s ‘The Fixer’ where she advises waning businesses on how to improve. This week it’s the turn of The Chough Bakery in Padstow; a family business baking fresh and quality breads.

What actually pricked up my ears was a statement along the lines of “it doesn’t matter how good your product is, you have to be able to sell it”. The family had a great range of products. However, the person tasked with sales and marketing the range didn’t have the detailed product knowledge, nor the drive to proactively market them.

We can often forget how important marketing is to our eLearning programme. Or, indeed any learning programmes. But it’s especially important we know how to ‘sell’ any new product well.

Just imagine….. you and your instructional design team have spent weeks designing and developing the perfect learning solution to meet the detailed analysis which also took blood, sweat and tears to complete. You’ve meticulously project managed the development and run a very successful pilot. The solution is good to go and has been opened up to the masses. So there it sits – in your course booking system like a forgotten toy waiting for someone to remember it and take it out off the box.

Without a robust marketing strategy all that hard work, time and resources will go to waste. Unlike Kevin Kostner’s Field of Dreams, just because you built it, your learners won’t necessarily come.

If selling to external customers, it goes without saying that your sales team should be fully conversant in what your eLearning or blended solution entails; identifying the unique selling point for different customers. A sheep dip approach has the same pitfalls in sales and marketing as it has for learning. One excellent way of helping your sales staff fully explain and sell the solution to different needs is for them to experience the learning first hand. Perhaps they could take part in the pilot?

But it’s not just down to our sales team. In L&D we are all ‘Ad-men’ selling the benefits to our learners, motivating and engaging. So remember, if all that hard work is going to pay off, your project plan has to include a good marketing strategy too.

The price of perfection

I recently read this excellent post by Clark Quinn (@Quinnovator) despairing about the continued dire examples of eLearning continually being created. Sometimes I wonder whether eLearning designers take their profession seriously enough to continually research, read and improve. It isn’t particularly hard to keep up with best practice especially given the ease with which we can now collaborate, share and network with peers and experts in the field. With the likes of Cathy Moore, Connie Malamad, Ruth Clark, Tom Khulman to name only a fraction who feel so strongly about improving the quality of eLearning tutorials that they give advice freely, I certainly share Clark Quinn’s frustrations. I’d like to think I play my own little part in the revolution.

However, I then have to take a step back and climb down from my high horse (mixing my metaphors). When discussing what is good eLearning (referring to the self-paced interactive tutorials) it often becomes very clear that even when people have the knowledge, skills and drive to produce quality their hands are quite tightly tied by time and resource constraints. People gasp with disbelief when I give them an indication of how many hours of development time to hours of learning it can take. Then their gasps turn to nervous laughter when contemplating what their bosses/sponsors would say if they asked for enough time to develop this level of excellence let alone get to grips with their new skills.

So I can equally empathise with Rob Stephen’s comment to Clark Quinn’s post. The problem is, in today’s climate where time and resources are scarce, something’s got to give – all too often that something is quality. So instead, perhaps we should ask ourselves “what’s the alternative” and take a more agile approach to make sure quality is maintained. After all there is more to eLearning than the self-paced (so called) interactive tutorials we often think of when faced with the term.

There is little excuse, however, if such poor examples to which Clark Quinn refers are still being produced. As ‘expert’ instructional designers they should know what good learning involves. Although, there may be various reasons why this might be so. Giving the benefit of the doubt, it may be that the sponsor, knowing little about what great eLearning looks and feels like, insists on info-dumps testing knowledge not application to tick those compliance boxes.

The culprit may be the sponsor’s limited budget and of course more complex the eLearning the longer it will take and therefore will cost more but that doesn’t mean that simple interactions needn’t be performance based, relevant and contextual. In which case the experts in instructional design surely would act as consultants to those with less knowledge in learning design. But it shouldn’t just be laid at their door. We all have a duty to work together, to make sure learning is effective no matter how it’s delivered. Are we willing to pay the price of perfection or will persuit of efficiency be the cost of quality?