Enough With Being Selfish


Ethan Edwards of Allen Interactions recently wrote “Improving Your e-Learning Design: What\’s Good Advice?“. I agree with much of what Ethan writes, especially regarding the recent onslaught of gimmicky articles pushing Clicky Clicky Bling Bling to improve elearning.

Here are my thoughts on some key quotes from his article:

“We have switched the focus to something that helps us feel good about ourselves, forgetting that we don\’t really matter all that much—it\’s what new skills the learner walks away with that matter.”

The wild success of rapid elearning tools is all the proof you need. We’re lazy. We’re so far removed from good instructional design that we don’t even remember what it looked like. When we moved from true instruction into more presentation design and information mapping with the first PowerPoint-to-Flash tools, there was still some value in the knowledge transfer. But now we’ve all gone nuts and are causing more harm (and frustration) than good. How many of you would rather just read a three-page PDF than take a modern elearning course? I know I would.

Enough with being selfish. It’s not about you. Let’s stop with the “how to fly your bullet points from off the screen into an avatar dog’s mouth” bullshit animations and get back to the real reason we’re here – helping people learn.

“But the point is, we didn\’t start out with a layout looking for a place to apply it; rather we identified the requirements of a particular interaction and then applied this visual approach because it satisfied those demands better than the alternatives.”

Using a template to develop elearning is a cop-out. It’s weak. Don’t do it. And don’t blame PowerPoint or the rapid tool vendors (though they don’t get a free pass here, either). Blame yourself. Blame me. Blame leadership if you want. Truth is, we’re all to blame for letting this happen. We’re also to blame for letting it become the standard. We’ve all had our marching orders from the top. I get that. But I don’t think we’ve put up enough of a fight.

At least we can do something about it.

“Tools that don\’t support variables in some way and tools that restrict the graphical elements and placement of responses in the interactions are unlikely to be successful tools in the long run.”

Authorware and Flash were the two tools I learned when I started designing and developing elearning. One of the reasons they were so successful and so effective was variables. Now that tools like Storyline are making variables easier, there’s some hope for the accidental instructional designers. But the more traditional IDs, those of us who fell into the rapid trap and let ourselves be limited by the first generation of rapid development tools, we need to get our mojo back and push these new tools to their limits, and demand even more from the vendors.

Because they’re worth it. The learners, I mean.