Friday, December 23, 2005

2005 Review of eLearning

For 2006 I will try my best to ditch the "e" in eLearning and simply focus on ALL of the technologies available that help one LEARN. This is the theme that overwhelmingly bundles all of my thoughts for 2005. eLearning (the term) should simple die the quiet death that other terms have such as CBT or WBT. We are about the use of technology enhanced (and/or enabled) learning: Web, Google, CD, DVD, USBdrive, iPod, phone, cellphone/pda, WiFi, Podcast, videocast, RSS feeds, Wikis, Blogs, tagging, socialnetworking apps, AJAX, and more.

And of course DESIGN. Design is everything! - Tom Peters. We will continue to create eLearning courses with the slew of rapid development tools available, but it has become my mission to get the ISDers of old to now begin to look at their media development skills. How to create a good graphic. How to pick a good color scheme. STOP writing novels of content and just state the simple. My favorite points from RE-IMAGINE are...SIMPLICITY, CLARITY, GRACE, and BEAUTY. Pull off those 4 in your next course and you will be the champion of your training department.

While I do believe Instructional Design has its place, I have become more convinced than ever that the ISD of today is the ISD of yesteryear (more accurately YESTERCENTURY) and is at best a method of Project Management for Learning projects. Harsh? yes. Correct? Maybe not 100%, but darn close. I don't believe in the "eLearning is Snake oil", although I do sympathize with the author. I believe the basic bottom level of all content areas, that rarely if ever change, are well suited to this old school ISD method: Basic accounting, basic electrical engineering, basic thermal dynamics, The history of Company X, etc. Sure, even I will sit through a 1 or 2 hour online course on the basics of a topic that is completely foriegn to me just to get me started. But after that, no instructional designer alive could know exactly where I want to go next with it, what my questions might be, how that content fits into MY brain, and MY life. The trouble I see in most ISD academics is that they are trying desperately to fit the new technologies into the old ISD model. They insist WIKIs and Blogs are not good learning tools because they don't know how to make them "fit" into the LMS, and track, and measure the learning and impact.

So enter the new world of work, and what has been termed Web2.0. If it's important to me then most likely its important to someone else in the world. And chances are I can find them...on the web. And chances are I can Google them. And chances are they already blog about it, or there's a WIKIPEDIA page on it. More on this later.

The attached diagram is one that I have sketched on many a whiteboard to the glased over eyes of corporate managers. I don't have academic research to back me up, just 10 years of experience and a gut feeling. The old timers attend sheepdippings with disgust and disdain, however they thrive on sharing their knowledge and talking about their passion (collaborating) informally and formally. Newbies have tons of questions but don't want to sit through hours of "training" for a few nuggets of information they wish were on an easy to print job aid. Get them what THEY want and get over it people. A colleague of mine expressed it best this year by saying "2005 is the year I lost control". AMEN. We, instructional designers, do not know everything. And we can't possibly know WHAT everybody wants, know WHEN they are going to want it and in the format they need it. Give up the dream people. That's the snake oil.

Microcontent, and nanocontent, as Elliott Masie puts it, is the next wave. And I'm sorry folks, but its not reusable learning objects...that's the new year's snake oil...look out 2006. Unless your idea of reusable learning objects is simply a Microformat for Microcontent based on already established web2.0 standards, then the term will stick and may even produce the highly exalted benefits. The learning community will fail at trying to create standards that the "websphere" has already created and our workforce is already accustomed too. The strength of our learning community lies in applying existing technolgies, not in creating our own.

My wish for the new year is that trying and failing many times at many different new technologies will be accepted because the one that sticks will change the world. (At least the training world as we know it) Adios 2005!
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