Saturday, February 7, 2009

How e-learning helps

E-learning is usually all about results. “How much will performance increase after everybody has done the course?” “What kind of tangible effect can we see after someone has finished?” These are very real questions, with hopefully real results in the end. But there is one other result which you’ll get when you start with e-learning: a thorough examination of what you are trying to ‘teach’ with e-learning.

During almost every course we develop, we see that clients start to struggle with their content. They thought they had it all figured out. It was supposed to be an easy breezy affair, this e-learning course. But most e-learning courses are about mimicking real processes and situations. At the start of an e-learning project clients will say: “Well, there are 14 processes which we would like to present to our learners. We have them all here, in these charts. Look, this is the decision tree we have made in Visio. Just go into this new application we have build, capture the steps and make it into e-learning.” Fair enough.

But then theory has to be become practice. Real processes need a start, middle and end; they need to be fleshed out. Every step will be held to the light: “Is this going to be in the e-learning or not?” “Is this step in the process really carried out this way?” We see this all the time with software application training. Software applications always seem to be in a state of near-completion. Several of our projects have been on hold for a long while, because applications which we need to screen-capture, aren’t ready. And even if the application is ready, we always ask: “Why does someone have to do this?”

We are well aware that making something into a process or ‘structure’ is hard. Thinking up ways how people will do things and how a software application is going to facilitate this, requires a lot of testing and thinking. But it leads away from the most prominent question learners will have during an e-learning course: “Why do I have to do this? Why am I sitting in front of a computer looking at all these processes unfolding on my screen?” We, as e-learning developers, try to be the voice of the learner: “Tell us Why! We understand it must have been hard work to flesh out these work processes, work flows and applications, but why exactly do we need them?”

And it’s here, that you can find the difference between good and bad e-learning. Good e-learning focuses first on the Why and second on the How. The How is the blood, the Why is the heart that pumps it around. That is why e-learning helps: we make you think about your Why’s again.

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