I was participating in the short-lived and ill-fated Fundamentals of Online Education course on coursera.org before it was shut down. Inside Higher Ed has a good overview of what happened with the course. As the article notes, there were problems with the group assignment process, but that was really just the beginning of the problems in the course.
I was concerned when I started viewing the videos. I didn’t think to get a screen capture, but the slides were poorly designed, with an unrelated graphic element taking up the top third of the screen, a difficult-to-read display font, and a lot of text. The instructor essentially read the slides. The material was presented as a very limited overview of concepts. Various learning theories were presented without any discussion of whether or how they were scientifically supported or any controversy or disagreements (also, are we really still teaching people about learning styles?).
An acquaintance of mine told me recently how she left her learning and development master’s program for a degree in liberal studies after seeing the adult learning professors fail to adhere to everyone of their espoused best practices. This course was quite a bit like that.
It’s easy to criticize the work of others, and I’m certain that developing a MOOC is challenging. But it’s not an impossible task – Kevin Werbach led a great course on Gamification. And it’s not unreasonable to expect an expert in the development of learning experiences to provide a good learning experience. The instructor has emailed the students indicating that the course may return after retooling. I hope those efforts don’t stop with group assignment.
As an instructional designer, I’m having many conversations lately with people to explain why I’m not going to do what they want. These conversations are happening because we’re making a big leap in the quality of our elearning offerings. We’re making the transition from order-takers to designers, and my director has tasked me with leading that charge. What people often want me to do is to take the PowerPoint file that they have carefully prepared, add the multiple choice questions they have written, and upload it to our LMS.
Instead, I’m treating that PPT as a jumping-off point. I’m asking many questions – and sometimes suggesting other, non-elearning solutions. The most important question I’m asking is, “What problem are you trying to solve?” And often that answer indicates that elearning is not the best (or at least not on its own) way to solve that problem.
Elearning has a strange reputation in this organization. Everybody dreads “LMS modules” but committees and managers repeatedly identify them as a way to solve behavioral, cultural or procedural problems. It is as if people simultaneously believe that elearning can teach nothing and solve everything. So I have to begin with education about what elearning is and what is can (and cannot) do well. In an organization of over 8,000 people, that has to be done over and over, often group by group and even person by person.
And it involves saying “no” politely, diplomatically, constructively, and repeatedly.
I’m currently in graduate school, and statistics is one of my classes this term. I took stats as an undergraduate, and kinda sorta understood it well enough to eke out a B+. But this time I really wanted to learn the material. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on Khan Academy watching the statistics videos. After a few videos, the site started giving me messages about the points and badges I was earning by watching videos. This practice is known as “gamification” – creating incentives to encourage ongoing engagement with media.
October’s “Big Question” from ASTD’s Learning Circuits blog takes on this growing trend: Does Gamification have a role in Workplace Learning?
I am just going to go ahead and admit that in my organization, elearning is not synonymous with fun. As much as I might like to imagine otherwise, nobody thinks, “YES! I get to do some eLearning courses today!” This is partially because our organization has a poor track record with elearning – we are so guilty of bullet point overload. And partially because we have to train on many non-fun topics. Anybody want to spend an afternoon learning about bloodborne pathogens? How about corporate compliance? Or health care privacy regulations? Can learning about infection control ever be fun? And what is fun, anyway? This is the question posed by the ASTD Learning Circuits blog in their monthly Big Question. Actually, the question as written is: How do you make e-learning fun? Or is engaging really what you go after? And how does that differ from fun? Read the rest of this entry
I read a great blog post today about working with a completely novice computer user. The educators who have been in my department for several years still tell stories about the transition from paper to computer documentation a few years back. Some of the staff hadn’t used a mouse before. Read the rest of this entry
Our training department has been working hard to get better at creating eLearning modules. We’re working entirely in PowerPoint, but that application can do a lot of things to support learning if it is used correctly (and so many things to hinder it if not). I recently redesigned a module on patient bracelets – every patient who comes into the hospital receives a bracelet for identification, and they can collect more if they have allergies or other conditions. Read the rest of this entry
I came across a fantastic example of eLearning today. Partnering to Heal is a sophisticated social simulation produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to educate providers and patient advocates about how to reduce the spread of infections in hospitals.