Friday, January 22, 2010

Elearning Without Envy

Here we are again. Another week, another Deadly Sin to cleanse from our elearning. This week we’re going to check the green-eyed monster called Envy. Mr. Envy is like the Hulk. He’s a normal, sweet guy, but once provoked he’s a seething pit moshing psycho on a mission. Lest that be us, here’s some ways to quell the jealousy.

Just to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing, let’s start with the Wikipedia definition:

Envy (also called invidiousness) may be defined as an emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."
What Is Elearning Envy?

What does this have to do with elearning? I’m thinking it’s like the time I went to an elearning demo put on by Big Name Training Company. Man, did they ever have great stuff. Their training simulations were so slick, so cool, so…what I wanted, nay, needed, to have. Immediately I wanted to rush back to my workbench and start chiseling, hammering, gouging and whatever else it took or cost to craft something like that. Wouldn’t it look nice on my resume. Wouldn’t it be so shiny and pretty. Everyone would love me. My life would be complete and I’d be lauded for time ever more.

Sound familiar, even a teensy weensy less-dramatic bit?

Basically, I sum up elearning envy as wanting the Bling for Bling’s sake. Who doesn’t want their elearning to be pretty and do cool things and make people stop and say Wow? Who doesn’t want to play with all the new technology and tools? But having a reason to get your elearning all gussied up is another matter. And then there’s also the whole worth thing. Sure there might be a reason to buy a fancy, new car – but is it worth it?

Stop the Elearning Envy Train

Consider what performance the Bling would effect. Is that performance worthwhile? Take a look at Thomas Gilbert’s notion of worth at Dave’s Whiteboard. No effect, no dice. No worth, no deal. Take a look at Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping to help hone in on what should be in the training.

Recognize what you have. Get creative with your tools. All you have is PowerPoint? Then get yourself a copy of Powerful PowerPoint for Educators. You can do quizzes, calculate results, branching, all sorts of things expensive tools do. No pretty graphics? Use the Microsoft Gallery, which is free as long as you own Office. Need other media, check the Creative Commons site for all sorts of great *free* media.

Learn a programming language. Okay, I hear the groans already. But sometimes, bypassing tools and being able to do it yourself unlocks your potential. I don’t do it often anymore, but when necessary, using HTML, JavaScript, and CSS can let you churn out some great stuff. Without needing software tools that cost thousands of dollars.

Take into account cognitive load. Do you really want to use video, animation, voiceover, avatars, podcasts, and flying monkeys? Instead of spending hundreds of hours building all of that, spend 3 hours reading up on some Ruth Clark articles. From the library or the Internet. For free. You might save yourself a lot of hassle.

Fall back on the real basics. Great analogies. Simple, but clear drawings. Stories that illustrate. Job aids that they’ll use. A place to take notes. The ARCS model, which focuses on attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction.

The lesson here is that Bling is not an indication of true value. All the Bling in the world won’t make your students learn. It won’t even make them give high marks on a smile sheet. Students want to know that their needs are met, that they are learning what they need to, and that they can use the skills/knowledge from the training. They’ll put up with crappy media. They’ll put up with shoddy materials. But they won’t put up with crappy results and content. Give them what matters.

For fun, tell me your elearning envy story. Or, share your tricks for keeping the right things in focus. I hope I'm not alone in this!


Anonymous said...

Nice post!

I think about this a lot with trying to work games into e-Learning -- does it need to be shiny-shiny to be gamelike? I don't think so, but there's no denying that people are attracted to the pretty.

But as you've observed, all the prettiness in the world won't help e-Learning if the basics aren't there.

Somewhere I have a research report from Will Thalheimer on "Seductive Augmentation," which is a term I've always loved (will have to dig it out).

Dave Ferguson said...

At least partially connected to your "programming language" suggestion, I often recommend to anyone with a blog or website Head First HTML, which includes CSS. That's both for the practical utility of knowing how the machine works (and how to tinker with it), and for the engaging, energetic approach the book takes. (There's a 'browse contents' option at that link well worth exploring.)

To Julie's comment, one of the most effective simulations I've sent was in a classroom-based workshop for salespeople learning to use a custom sales application. The salespeople would be taking laptops into the stores they called on.

As an integrating exercise, an instruction printed signs for parts of a typical store: MAIN REGISTER, MANAGER'S OFFICE, FREESTANDING DISPLAY, and so on -- each with some required information.

He pasted these around the hotel meeting room in which training took place. Participants had to navigate the room (and past each other) as they completed a mock store call.

Realism? Very low. Realistic experience? Yes--because they were concentrating on the complex skill of physically using their tools in space while applying the sales software.

andy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Karina said...

I'll share my story :) For the longest time YOU were my eLearning envy. Back in the NB | POS days...
Happy to be on the same team now - for 2 more days, that is :)