Day 59 & 60: My life w car…and a note about elearning

Is elearning effective? I’ve wondered that for a long time…personally sometimes it works, like for short topics with clearly identified skill goals, and sometimes it doesn’t work, especially for conceptual learning. IMHO, It’ll never work for teaching customer service handling skills, for example–that’s a practice and mentoring issue.

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But I was reading Design for Living this morning and was captured by her idea of rolling several other layers into traditional elearning–blogging on the subject matter, for example, being able to share one’s experience or understanding of the subject matter, adding to it, filling it out, making it more vital to the individual or community–and that made a lot of sense to me.

The biggest problem for me with elearning is how “flat” it feels–it forces me into such a passive role and I get antsy in about now time at all. Anyway, this idea of adding several community creating layers to elearning is just great–and the elearning company could potentially use the information to vastly improve their content on an ongoing basis. win/win.

On the car front: after tax time, I’ve pretty much realized that I can actually call my car a 100% business related expense since anymore I’m doing all my tasks, errands, etc on my bike. This helps me see my car in a more limited way–and I really like that.

Daily stats:
Days without carbon based transportation: 2
Car miles: 0
Bike: 6.5
flexcar/bus: 0

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3 responses to “Day 59 & 60: My life w car…and a note about elearning

  1. “Flat” e-learning like what you have experienced isn’t very good–it’s not good teaching and it doesn’t create good learning experiences. There is a lot of really awful e-learning out there that people are subjected to. E-learning that is basically just slides on a screen where you read questions and take a multiple choice test at the end is a lousy way to help people learn anything. Then again, a face-to-face course that consists of lectures where students are expected to be passive recipients of information without actively sharing their ideas or producing anything isn’t going to be any better.

    Fortunately, e-learning can be much more engaging than that. You can create activities which respect learners’ experiences and existing knowledge, where the instructor is the “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage.” What’s more, in e-learning you can also provide opportunities for individuals to practice at their own pace. In a simulation, you can practice as many times as you want. If you understand the content after one practice but I want to go through it five times, I can. If I need more time, I have the flexibility to do so. E-portfolios like Natalie described not only let students create real products (as opposed to artificial academic exercises), but they let students share their learning with others and gain an audience.

    I don’t want to bore you with all the learning theory, but essentially, e-learning (or any learning) that is designed with the idea that students should actively DO something tends to be more exciting and effective than learning that asks students to be passive.

    Clark Aldrich just posted some case studies with successful simulation e-learning which you might be interested in for further reading.

    BTW, congrats on cutting down your car usage! I am very impressed.

  2. Hey Christy–thanks for the insights. I agree 100% that the problems with e-learning parallel many of the problems with human-led training–very true. One big difference, as far as I’ve seen, comes up in the area of corporate training with large global companies.

    These initiatives start out on the wrong foot: viewing e-learning as a way to cut costs and standardize the message being delivered. Neither of those goals have much to do with the actual content learned by the employees and thus, if the employees actually walk away with much info, it’s just short of a miracle most of the time.

    Since I consult on customer experience, what I see as the final product in that training supply chain is ill-informed, beta-waving agents and very frustrated customers. Dell is a good example of this problem.

    The scenario in your middle paragraph sounds ideal–and workable for the most part (convincing some less-enlightened companies to deliver training to desktop in time constrained service delivery groups, for example, is a real challenge!). The key becomes access to training at one’s desktop rather than exclusively in a training room environment with time limitations *and* access to community for that key ingredient that would lessen the sometimes sterile interface of e-learning.

    Your comments are encouraging–thanks so much for writing. I’m going to check the Clark Aldrich link now.

  3. Absolutely!. Too many companies view training as just a check on their to-do list, whether it’s e-learning or not. Companies that just want e-learning to save money end up with “shovelware”: shovel the content into online pages with a string of “Next” buttons and a quiz, and shovel the content into the poor learners’ brains. As you said, if the students come out with any knowledge or change in behavior at all, it’s remarkable.

    I’m very fortunate for my job; my manager is a strong constructivist and really wants us to create courses where students are actively engaged. Our audience is practicing K-12 teachers though, so we really should have the good pedagogy to accompany the technology. She is the advocate for doing things the right way for the students, and that makes her a great asset in my book.

    Companies have to decide that investing in their people and “sharpening the saw” is worth the money and time though, and some companies just don’t get that. I wish I knew how to convince those “less-enlightened” companies; it feels like a losing battle sometimes. I’ve been there and I feel your pain!

    Best of luck to you!

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