I have been devoting my last few blogs the eLeanringManifesto.org which was instigated by Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn, and Will Thalheimer. We are so privileged that this amazing group of professionals in the field of Instructional Design and eLearning banded together to cause some “disruption” to the current state of eLearning. Today I wanted to continue her thoughts from my last blog about how deep the problem with eLearning is (see Can we take a dose of our own medicine? Do you want to take your own eLearning?) and get into something that she mentioned about eLearning’s lack of advancement.
Julie discussed that our typical eLearning of today is very similar to the eLearning prior to the advances of The Internet in early 90s which was delivered on CDROM. If technology has evolved since then why hasn’t eLearning? Her opinion is that it is detriment to our field that Instructional Design is built on process models and not design principles. Is it because we haven’t had good enough tools that will enable us to implement design principles really well? Could be. I know for me and my place of work the instructional design and graphic design is completely separate but I still design what the graphic designers will create. But my initial design perhaps could be improved if I had a better handle on design principles.
Clark brings up the point that the research shows that learners are not seeing the value in our eLearning interactions so they are avoiding them. Is that because technology has advanced and the culture of what good design looks like has advanced so much that learners are expecting high quality video, high quality interactions, etc. I think so. It is just like accessing a website. Our users make decisions as soon as they get there wither this page is for them or not and may then his back and go back to the Google search.
As an online web design instructor I can tell the students that come into the course and just look at the assignments and do not engage with the lecture material. How do I know? I strategically place content within the lectures that I expect learners to implement in the websites. I also have the course analytics which I do use to see which items in the course students actually access and for how long. But did you notice that I am discussing this through the lens of an instructor?
Will mentions that our eLearning platforms has the ability to gather data to show us how our learners are doing? But how much does an instructional designer go back in and use that data as feedback for their design? Where I currently work this is left up to the instructor to continually improve the course and pay attention to that data. While I know what should be happening to fully produce an eLearning module and how much “evaluation” should be happening in terms of ADDIE… it isn’t. The constraints of good, fast, and cheap are confounding and once a project has been bought and paid for when do we want to invest in revising it? Do we revise or build something new? But as an instructor I do go in and see the necessity to interact with my students, engage them, and remind them on how important it is to learn within the course and not just take the easy way out and put in the minimal amount of effort.
So in some ways I wonder if the depth of the problem in some cases isn’t also because of the students. Have they grown to expect so much from this advanced technology? They want good, fast, and cheap as well. They want to quickly do what they need to do with the minimal amount of effort to get their desired grade. But instructional designers, isn’t this data that can be used to influence our designs? What if the learner saw higher quality designs? What if the learner was able to interact more with the design? This is where the eLearning Manifesto is heading.
It doesn’t matter if our learners are lazy and want everything handed to them on a silver platter. They want their winner winner chicken dinner. It is up to us to bend out designs following to accommodate our learners. I talk to many instructors that blame the student and I will only let that type of ideology go so far. There is a big difference between the learners wanting higher quality eLearning because of what they have come to expect from technology than a student wanting the answers to the test.
What do you think? Has eLearning advanced over the years? If yes. How? If not. Why?
For further information on this topic of eLearning advancement or lack of it, check out two articles from Ann Taylor of eLearn Magazine. A Look at Web-based Instruction Today: An interview with Badrul Khan, Part1 & Part 2.