Sunday, August 27, 2006

Thought for the day, take 2

It's an unusually cool, wet, and all around dreary day here in Connecticut. I just finished my weekend chores and sat down to check my email. Along with the typical spam I discover I have received a comment from one of my posts. My first thought is "Cool! Somebody took the time to read me."

Then I opened the email, read it, and it started my head spinning. It was from Dr. Tony Karrer, who runs his own elearning blog at eLearning Technology and he hit me with a interesting question in reference to my post on August 23rd "Thought for the day. In that post I discussed my realization that as an instructional designer I am often put in the position of learning the content informally in order to create a formal learning engagement. Dr. Karrer posed this question to me.
I think your post here is great (and I'm glad that some of my previous posts helped spark your return to blogging) ... but can I be so bold as to challenge your question: "The question is how do we develop formal learning processes that are more informal in nature and hence more likely to stay in the learner's mind."

Or is it how we can support modes that are more like the mode you've been in while you've been informally learning. In other words, are you going to create resources that support a course OR are you going to create resources that support smaller bursts of learning on particular items? Which would have helped you more during your investigation of wiring?

And I'm honestly interested in your answer.
Well, I have two responses, one is what I consider the ideal and the other is reality.

First, the ideal. In an ideal world I would like to be able to create resources that support smaller bursts of learning on particular items. These types of resources would have and actually did help me in my investigation. For a newbie to electrical systems, Wikipedia provided an excellent starting point. Then my subject matter expert pointed me to a site run by the Siemens corporation that provides open learning courses about electrical installations. The site is, of course, geared to promoting Siemens products, but it still proved to be a great learning site. For elearning to be truly effective it needs to be accessible quickly and needs to be chunked so that the critical piece of learning is easily located.

Reality, at least in my company, seems to be the creation of big, bulky one hour (or more) courses that are housed on the customer's learning management system (LMS). Once on the LMS it is only accessible if the learner is registered to take the course. By the time I become involved in a project decisions on the structure of the course and its location have already been made. Corporations still like this approach because it gives them the illusion of control over their employees' learning. In reality it is just an illusion since most real learning occurs when they learner has an opportunity to actually apply what they have learned. The only thing the LMS approach accomplishes is to provide a means to measure the learner's short term memory by testing them at the end of a lesson. Someone (I forget who) called this type of training throwing stuff up against the wall and seeing how much sticks.

The big question is, how do we educate the decision makers on the folly of locking up learning in an LMS? I think part of the problem lies with the elearning salespeople and customer managers who do not understand the new possibilities. If they do not know, the companies that are employing us to design their elearning solutions (or considering us for employment) cannot be educated. One of my goals with exploring informal avenues such as blogs and podcasting is to try and educate them so we can in turn educate our customers.

1 comment:

Tony Karrer said...

Another great post. And having worked with several off-the-shelf and custom vendors who are selling "courseware" - pricing and the expectation of the client makes changing models extremely difficult.

I have been seeing some vendors willing to shift slightly (to smaller chunks) because their clients demand it of them. However, this is a big barrier.

I just posted on about this on LearningCircuit's blog:

The Learning Circuits Blog: The Innovator's Dilemma of Learning

It would be great to have your input on what I hope will be a good discussion there.