Good, Fast, Cheap…pick any two.

Good, fast, cheap…pick any two.  This has been my email tagline since the mid-90’s.

I find it so fitting for just about everything and e-learning is no exception.

I bring it up today because the use of video in e-learning seems to be gaining in popularity.

And I ask myself, “Why?”

Video is a passive activity.  We watch videos.  We listen and we watch.  Often, we read something that matches what we are listening to and watching.

Are we learning?

To me, when I feel like I have “learned” something, it is because I feel that I am comfortable being able to do something.  I can manipulate a piece of machinery, I can behave in a certain way, I can recite some information.  Another way of saying it is, I can demonstrate knowledge.

Can I demonstrate knowledge of something I’ve gleaned from watching a video?

Well, I suppose I can if I am given an opportunity to do so.  At least, I probably could if that opportunity came within a few minutes, hours, or possibly days after watching the video.

And then, what would it take to be able to demonstrate that knowledge six months after watching that video?

I think the answer is practice.  Don’t we have to “try” something before we know we can “do” something (and I mean successfully do something – where it meets some acceptable standard of performance)?  Regardless of whether that “do” is in the form of manipulating, behaving, or reciting.  Sure, we can think we know how to do something but we really don’t know for sure (nor does anyone else) until we actually do it.

To say you have learned something, you have to be able to demonstrate that you can do something.  That is how you verify and validate that what you think you know you actually do know.

So, in the world of e-learning, where learning is supposed to be taking place, there has to be more than just viewing a video (otherwise we should just call it e-watching).  There has to be an opportunity to practice and demonstrate – and not necessarily in that order.

Which gets me back to the use of video in the world of e-learning.  Why is video becoming so popular and being touted as “e-learning”?

Because the two that the decision-makers have picked are “cheap” and “fast”.

Until next time…

You Better Think

Do you remember that 60’s song from Aretha Franklin, “Think”?

That song pops in my head every time someone asks me “What makes good e-learning?”

e-Learning should make people think.

That’s where the Aretha Franklin connection comes in, but there’s one more piece that’s required for “good” e-learning: feel.

Good e-learning makes people think and feel.

There is lots of e-learning out there that makes people think.

It gives them something to differentiate, reason, conceptualize, create, decide, deduce, infer, discern, judge, speculate, act, form, do, etc.

But, too often, those “somethings” are in the form of “tests” or “quizzes” provided after a bunch of information has been passively provided in the form of bullet points, talking heads, voice overs, captions, etc., that the “learner” reads/watches/listens to.

What is really being tested is the ability to remember for a few minutes what was read/watched/listened to.  The “thinking” involved is trying to remember what you just read/watched/listened to in order to correctly answer the question so that you can get credit for having taken the e-learning.

That’s okay if your goal is to:

  1. Ensure someone can remember something for 5 minutes
  2. Give a check mark for completing a course.

But if you want people to really learn something, you have to inject a “feel” component into the mix.  You need to get people emotionally attached to what it is you want them to learn.

We’re probably all familiar with the terms “interesting” and “engaging”.  That’s usually high on the list of someone requesting e-learning.  “Make it interesting!”  “Can you make it like a game?”  “Put lots of graphics and pictures in it.”  “Make it interactive.”

What the requester is saying is, “I want the learner to have an emotional attachment.”

What the requester is really saying is, “I want the learner to only have a “feel-good” emotional attachment.”

But is that the way we learn in the real world?  Do we do our best learning when there is no risk involved in our choices, where there are no consequences to our actions, when every step in a task is performed flawlessly – and we know it before we go to the next step?

Performing in the real world is fraught with emotions that aren’t all “feel-good”.  We get annoyed, confused, hurt, upset, frustrated, perplexed, exasperated, shocked – all valuable emotions in the quest to learn something.

It is what makes the learning stick!  We remember when we blew up the lab because we mixed the wrong chemicals.  We remember when the movie didn’t show on time because we didn’t have the lamp in the projector.  We remember when the computer didn’t boot because we plugged the RAM in the wrong socket.

So, having all the “feel-good” emotions are necessary – you want your e-learning to be interesting and engaging – but good e-learning needs to contain the not-so-feel-good emotions, too.

After all, isn’t that how real learning happens?

Think about it.

Until next time…