When I read e-Learning Magazine’s article by Bob Little, Rapid e-Learning Polarizes Opinion, I was very irked by it. Especially when I read the following excerpt.
“While purists sneer that e-learning produced via rapid tools may lack quality in terms of adhering to instructional design principles and may just be brain dumps by subject matters experts, if such e-learning materials improve workers’ performance, who can criticize their place in the learning and development armoury?”
I will say this, if they are not adhering to instructional design principles, then they are far less likely to improve workers’ performance. I have never been a fan of the term rapid e-learning. I believe there are some great rapid development tools, but these still require sound instructional design, which takes time and effort, starting with a needs analysis.
As stated, I am not fond of the term rapid e-Learning, but I do not wish to be negative or come across as bashing efforts made under only good intentions. Here is the reality, not all organizations have the luxary of employing an instructional designer or perhaps enough instructional designers. However, they do wish to offer their staff online training. So, the subject matter experts gets a hold of the new fangled software that says “create e-learning in only a matter of hours” or some such thing. They then do their very best, but because they did not identify the learner’s needs and create an effective course design it falls short and does not result in learning or impact behavior.
So, here is what I suggest.
First off, be willing to dedicate more time to the analysis and design phases of your project. Learn as much as you can about instructional design, more specifically e-learning design. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Follow e-learning blogs (the eLearningLearning blog community and eLearningPulse are chock full of great blogs)
- Attend conferences (there are plenty of great e-learning conferences out there)
- Join e-learning and instructional design societies and groups (the eLearning Guild and ASTD both have plenty of books, articles, research, webinars, conferences and more)
- Network with e-learning designers and ask for advice and reviews of your work (LinkedIn has plenty of e-learning and ID groups and Twitter is perfect for connecting with people in the e-learning world)
The more time you invest in instructional design, the more effective your courses will be and your audience will appreciate it too. And remember, sloooow doooown and spend some time in instructional design!
Over at the PLS Online Course Development blog they have been posting e-learning horror stories and they have had some doozies so far. These stories are not only entertaining, but also valuable ways to learn directly from the witnesses of such ghoulish e-learning events.
Christy from the PLS Online Course Development blog was nice enough to include my horror story, but worked her magic and transformed it into a poem in the style of Poe’s “The Raven.” Thanks!
Here is the original of my horror story. Although it may be more funny than scary, it was a horror to me went it happened.
Seven years ago, when e-learning was still new to my company, I launched an online course. My company, which provided health care to military personnel from North Carolina to Maine, had service centers throughout its footprint. Of course geographical distance was no obstacle to me, for I was a Distance Educator. Well, actually they called me an e-Learning Designer, but just the same.
As always, I marketed the online course. I included the title of the online course, who should take the online course, what they will learn
from the online course, the benefits of taking the online course, and how to access and launch the online course.
Several days later, while sitting in my cubicle in Baltimore, someone came a tapping. As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my cubicle door. Why is a co-worker from the far reaches of our Virginia service center here at my door?
She said, “I am here for my ONLINE COURSE.”
- George Siemens
- Tony Karrer
- Jay Cross
- Tony O’Driscoll
What is the attention span of participants taking a self paced e-learning course? A lot of different numbers have been thrown around out there. In my opinion, the attention span for an e-learning participant depends on many different factors, which I will list here:
- Is the working environment conducive for learning online? Time given away from daily responsibilities to take the course, a location without distractions , etc.
- Do they have a preference for learning online?
- Are they encouraged by supervisors to complete courses? An optimum situation is not only where supervisors encourage participation, but where they also discuss the course with staff (what was learned, how they will apply the new skills or knowledge, etc.).
- Is the content relevant to the learner and their job?
- Is the content engaging and have an appropriate level of interactivity?
- Is the content succinct?
Navigation and orientation
- Does the course allow user control? Adults like to direct their own learning.
- Is there an ease of navigation? Difficult or confusing navigation is discouraging and certainly does not increase attention span.
- Does the learner know where they are in the course at all times (orientation)?
When all elements are in place, I believe course participants’ attention span is 30 minutes maximum. It has been my experience that longer courses, even with all of the above elements, do not maintain participants’ attention. Courses I have developed that fall below this 30 minute threshold have higher completion rates and time spent in the courses are more reflective of the estimated course completion times. I cannot say the same for my hour long courses.
Here are links to what others have said about this topic:
Please feel free to share your opinion on the attention span of e-learning participants and what factors may affect it.
I am still exploring Screenr. While exploring, I wanted to find Flash tutorials… I can never learn enough about Flash. Am I missing something? Believe it or not, there is no search function on the Screenr site. Luckily, I eventually found a Screenr tutorial on how to search Screenr. Thescreencast is below and was created by onEnterFrame.
Remember, if you are looking for Screenr tutorials, just use a search engine to conduct a site search – site:screenr.com yoursubject. And yes I know one could search Twitter for Screenr tutorials, but keep in mind many companies still do not allow access to Twitter.
Thank you onEnterFrame for sharing this simple solution.