Our eLearners are suffering from information glut. What does this mean for our eLearning designs?

QuestloveI have been thinking a lot lately about the concepts of information glut, data smog, information overload, etc. In a previous posting, Does it matter if you are late to class in a MOOC? Thousands a week still register for MOOCs even after they are completed… I discussed how I read an article recently from Wired that discussed how “The Internet has muddled the line between past and present” (see Netflix and Google Books Are Blurring the Line Between Past and Present). But still I wonder, is anything is really in the past?

With CBS News celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the JFK Assignation recently by airing four straight days of its news broadcasts? Or have you heard of Internet Archive, best known for their WayBackMachine which currently has 391 billion archived webpages. But did you know that they are now involved with creating a public searchable archive of 140k VHS tapes from Marion Stokes (see The Incredible Story Of Marion Stokes, Who Single-Handedly Taped 35 Years Of TV News)? Is anything is really in the past?

What effect does this have on our society today? Everything is accessible with a simple search… and did I mention that we can do this on our phones?

Well I think Questlove has something to say about it and I believe he hits the nail on the head when it comes to the effects of information glut, data smog, information overload, etc. How in the world do we find new music and still keep the excitement and thrill of the hunt that we once had? Here is  Questlove on How to Find Music You’ll Fall in Love With?

Discovering new music was always an act of revolution for me. When I was 5, it was in my parents’ house, sitting near a stack of records I wasn’t allowed to touch, waiting for whatever was next on the turntable, whether it was Stevie Wonder’s Music of My Mind or the O’Jays’ Ship Ahoy. The record went around; that was a revolution. When I was 15, it was sneaking Prince songs onto my Walkman as I practiced drums in the basement, pretending that I was listening to something less scandalous. The cassette reels spun around; that was a revolution. When I was 25, it was walking back to the van after opening for the Pharcyde but getting drawn back to the club by a woozy, witchy beat that turned out to be J Dilla. I turned around; that was another revolution.

There were, of course, less dramatic ways of finding music. Digging in the crates. Staying up all night with a transistor radio. Eavesdropping on conversations in high school. Those were offline revolutions, unwired; it’s just the way the old world worked. Then digital music arrived and again turned everything around. The iPod happened. Playlists happened. Pandora happened. YouTube happened. Spotify happened. SoundCloud happened. Shazam happened. I couldn’t believe them when I saw them. I couldn’t believe them when I heard them. But they are here, and they are changing everything about our relationship with music.

Still—like Fishbone said in a song I just heard on a streaming radio station—problems arise. Sometimes it’s a little too easy to get to a song: think, type, retrieve. What about calling up your friend, making him drive you to the record store, waiting patiently behind the guy who won’t move away from the “B” bin, and then flipping through to see what Beach Boys records (or Beastie Boys or Brothers Johnson or Buckingham Nicks) are left? All of that’s gone now. And, counterintuitively, because it’s gone, it’s harder and harder to truly fall in love with a song or album. What was your cost of entry? How hard did you have to work? Which leaves the ultimate question: How do you build a relationship with music? How do you find your way to those songs that draw you in and—like Eddie Floyd and Mavis Staples said in a song I heard just yesterday on a randomly shuffled playlist—never never let you go?

We did it one way in the past; now we have to figure out how to do it in the present, which, in so many ways, is the future. I try to navigate the waters by remembering where I’m going. When it comes to players, to programs, to services, think of them as ships bringing you to the music you need, have always needed, will continue to need. They’re not the voyage. They’re the vessel. Learn how to steer in the prevailing winds and soon you’ll be sailing.

Have we lost the trill of the hunt? The hunt most certainly doesn’t involve waiting for that song to pop up on the radio so that you can record it on cassette like I used to. Or going to the mall and asking the music connoisseurs, “Hey, who sings that song that goes ____, ____, and ____.” I actually probably tried to sing the tune… epic FAIL 🙂 Then you spend an hour talking about the artist and their lyrics. Leaving feeling like you had such an amazing connection with someone else that shares the same interest in music that you do.

Is there still value in these types of relationships with songs, others who like the songs, etc.? Do you even talk about music any more with your friends the same way that you used to? For some reason I don’t and I think it is because of concepts of information glut, data smog, information overload, etc.

But where am I going with all of this? I am very much an eLearner. I am currently involved in three MOOCs online, active on Twitter, blog occasionally and try to keep up with those with similar interests, etc. Talk about information glut. But this is a criterial attribute to who I am as an eLearner and I know that it defines others as well. So how can eLearning be designed so that it will engage someone as inundated with content as me?

I have a partial answer. Remember above where I mentioned how much I enjoyed making random connections with those interested in the same music that I am interested in? The same is true for eLearning. Don’t undervalue the human element!

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About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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4 Responses to Our eLearners are suffering from information glut. What does this mean for our eLearning designs?

  1. Pingback: Our eLearners are suffering from information gl...

  2. Laura Winkelspecht says:

    Great post, Dave. I remember as a teenager sitting on a couch and just listening to a record. I’d have the liner notes and just listen–sometimes over and over, alone, without anything else grabbing my attention. Do people do that anymore?
    And yes, I do wonder how, as instructional designers, how we make the information we want people to learn relevant and interesting to them when there are so many other things competing for their attention. Love to hear more about putting the human element into elearning.

  3. DaveHallmon says:

    I unfortunately didn’t get into records until after their prime. My parents were not much into music. So I don’t have the ears to know which one sounds better. But I do think they are nostalgic and I hope to get a vintage record cabinet some day.

    You are absolutely right. Our learners… want to learn what is relevant and interesting to them. If it isn’t relevant and interesting, I posit that they will only have it in their minds for a short amount of time… and not really learning. They always need to be engaged and know, the WIFM, i.e., “Whats in it for them.”
    I have blogged about the human element some in the past, but I know that there will be a MOOC coming up again at the end of the year with this topic through Canvas Net. I am hoping to help wayfind in it as a co-instructor. Let’s connect and I will make sure you know about it when it becomes official.

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