Here are three commonly held assumptions about online courseware.
- Elearning is an efficient way to train people
- Rapid development equates to streamlined training
- People enjoy elearning
Consider the impact of these assumptions.
- Corporations continue to transition leader-led to WBT
- Development costs influence WBT design
- Seat time trumps comprehension
- Learning theories evolve to support popular assumptions
In transitioning from classroom learning to web based training, we may have forgotten the first two tenets of effective teaching: “observe the student” and “evaluate the experience”.
What role does observation and evaluation play in assessing the effectiveness of your web based training initiative? Do you follow the ADDIE model such that Evaluation arrives at the END of your process? Upon successfully launching a WBT might the “E” actually become a “silent E” and then be quietly forgotten? Do you perform an Evaluation at all?
In training situations where evaluation is of value, unbiased feedback assists in identifying the success or failure of entire curricula; and, on a more granular level, the success or failure of individual learning objects in each course.
We must recognize “feedback” for the potential value it holds; as unfiltered reactions to experiences that indicate interest, boredom, displeasure or neutrality. Without direct feedback, we have nothing upon which to base our beliefs except “smile sheet” opinions and a bit of guesswork.
For businesses, unlike online colleges, training is not a commercial product. Companies do not attract employees because their training courses are first class.
When businesses consider training an expense that marginalizes profit, it is natural for the organization to search for the best low cost solution. Certainly then “best” becomes subjective, most often defined as fast or simple. In a profit-or-loss paradigm, one would agree that “best” cannot include anything that increases time, cost or effort.
So what is the overarching influence of this reality? Companies seek streamlined (fast and cheap) rapid development solutions. Application developers shift their focus to meet the demand for tools that allow training courses to be created faster and cheaper. Without the need for skilled (expensive) Instructional Designers, organizations provide these “easy” development tools to anyone who knows how to use PowerPoint. Students are expected to learn from rapidly developed page turners. Training is completed and success is measured by the only evaluation measurement required – the completion status in the LMS.
This is a bleak picture for those recognizing the value of the professional Instructional Designer’s contribution of learning theories to course development. It should disturb anyone who believes education/training should impart knowledge and impact job performance.
Solution? In a business sense we must move training to the profit side of the ledger. We can provide a greater scope of value by capturing mineable data from each student/course engagement that can help a business make decisions that positively impact its bottom line.
We need to show organizations the data returned from a student’s training experience is at least equally as valuable as the content and concepts presented in the training itself. This can be achieved by following teaching tenets 1 and 2…observe and evaluate.
Next: Blindfolded Design