October 3rd, 2012 E-Learning

Whether e-learning professionals care to admit it or not, there is generally a negative perception associated with corporate-wide e-learning initiatives  From our point of view, e-learning creation is fun, simulating, challenging, dynamic, and essential to a progressive organization… but in many cases, this is not how it is viewed from the learner perspective. Negative connotations around e-learning are becoming a constant hurdle for us practitioners today, and overcoming this hurdle begins with a fundamental change how e-learning is leveraged across an organization.

I don’t mean that people hate e-learning, but often it is viewed as a “waste of time” – heck, I am even guilty of this mindset as well.

You see, most organizations rely heavily upon e-learning to administer standard processes or policy to users. The content is generally dry, and so is the delivery (often the result of throwing a PowerPoint presentation into an e-learning template and pressing “publish”). When I am mandated by my company to take e-learning, I often find myself doing what most end-users do: pressing the NEXT button until I get to the stupidly simple quiz at the end.

Which begs the question: is this the best that we are capable of?

Don’t get me wrong, some content is just so boring (i.e. safety compliance) that it is difficult to make it even remotely entertaining. But implementing modern instructional design strategies may go a long way in making this experience slightly more enjoyable. I am under the impression that organizations jumped onto the e-learning bandwagon back in 2002 by throwing their dusty presentations (clip art graphics and all) into some e-learning shell and calling it a day. To me, this is as bad as companies that still use VHS tapes for their sexual harassment videos – surely we can do better, can’t we?

I know there are probably some of you out there who can think of multiple examples of ultra-successful e-learning courses – and that’s great! I still contend that, for the most part, e-learning is often accompanied with sighs of annoyance. We can overcome this, but it will take some convincing, and educating, of adult learning theories, tools, and best practices to key decision makers. Sure we can’t change the content, but we have ultimate control over the delivery. So, for example, I find that when content is dull, then linear course progression only exemplifies the issue. Use some game-ification, puzzles, “choose-your-path”, stories, or any other dynamic learning method to get the point across.

Also, there is no rule that content must come first, and then end with a quiz. For compliance training, offer a quiz upfront: if they pass then they don’t need to take training (make sure you have a massive question bank). If they don’t get a passing grade, then off to the lessons they go! And for once make the questions meaningful, something that actually measures knowledge (beyond common sense).

I am not claiming to have all of the answers here, but merely to point out an epidemic facing the e-learning industry today… from an outside perspective. And maybe you are already applying new innovations to the old methodology, and if so, great! Hopefully soon the stereotypical response to e-learning will be a thing of the past.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter


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Once again I cannot argue with a single word. Yes, I have felt the sting of negative attitudes and comments regarding eLearning/online learning. Based upon some other very emotional posts in the Distance Learning group, I am more and more beginning to believe that most of this negativity is caused by unqualified “hacks” slapping text, audio, and graphics together with no education/training and calling it “eLearning.”

You referred to pre-testing, interactivity, and branching options that stem from proven theory and practices. But how many of those “eLearning” authors would recognize or understand?

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