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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What is Rapid eLearning?

Based on my recent posts about the Shift in eLearning from Pure Courseware towards Reference Hybrids, I was asked if this isn't just "Rapid eLearning" - a term that simultaneously is good and bad.

First the good. Rapid eLearning is on the mark in terms of the demands on learning professionals - Learning Trends Point To and Shape eLearning 2.0 - the heart of which are the following needs:

  • Very fast transfer
  • Occurred in short bursts w/o leaving the workplace
  • Fast to develop (and low cost)
  • Had real impact on performance

Another post that discusses this is: The Driver for Rapid eLearning. In it Rick Nigol talks about the same kinds of drivers and he discusses approaches to rapid eLearning in terms of tools, people and process.

Now the bad news. The term "Rapid eLearning" has taken on a life of its own and now normally means:

rapid creation of courseware by people who are less experienced with
courseware development particularly subject matter experts

and if you are around the industry much, you realize that it's been taken over by two main types of solutions: PowerPoint -> Courseware and Form-based Authoring tools. This is only the tools portion of what Rick discusses in his post.

eLearning Guild's Research Report on Rapid eLearning talks about how hot this topic is, but then you get things like a recent blog post by Gabe Anderson of Articulate:

Of course, Articulate has long been at the forefront of the industry, setting the standard in PowerPoint to Flash conversion ... rapid development authoring tools have become synonymous with the very concept of rapid e-learning. And Articulate is the global leader in rapid e-learning.

Ergo, Articulate is rapid e-learning.

I don't fault Gabe for saying that "rapid development authoring tools" are synonymous with "rapid e-learning." Unforuntately, that's mostly what people are saying when they use the term.

Why do I say "unfortunately?" Well I think we all know the answer. Giving a SME a tool that lets them create PowerPoint + Audio and maybe a question or two, well that's certainly fast and low cost. And I'm sure there are good examples of using this effectively. But it only hits one of the four needs that I listed above. In particular, it fails with:
  • Very fast transfer

    Often you have to sit through long, boring presentations waiting for interesting points to be made. Cmon we all just leave the thing running in the background while we go back to our real work. At least one of the tools on the market allows you to put the presentation in fast forward mode and adjusts the speaker's voice so that it still sounds good. That's at least a little faster. Transfer? Hardly.
  • Occurred in short bursts w/o leaving the workplace

    Again, these are normally not handled as short-bursts. But, we could try to get our SMEs to create shorter presentations.
  • Fast to develop (and low cost)

    Does this well.
  • Had real impact on performance

    Yeah, right.

I could tell you what I would like rapid eLearning to mean, but that's pointless. They've already taken the term. I just now need to figure out how to differentiate Reference Hybrids and other models from rapid eLearning.


Anonymous said...

Thanks alot for these declarations!

Anonymous said...

I wrote the original research report for Bersin & Associates that coined the term Rapid E-Learning. This is how I defined the term in the original 2004 report.

The Rapid E-Learning category is defined by the following criteria…
* Courseware which can be developed in less than three weeks
* Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) act as the primary resource for development
* A well-known tool (e.g. PowerPoint) or user-friendly templates form the starting point for courseware
* Simple assessment, feedback and tracking are usually provided
* Media elements which enhance learning but do not create technology barriers may be included (e.g. voice)
* Learning modules can be taken in one hour or less, often in less than 30 minutes.
* Synchronous (scheduled or live) and asynchronous (self-paced) models may be utilized.

Although the SMEs do act a a major resource on the project, I propose a process by which the Instructional Designers act as editors and enhancers of the content. It is a different way of using the tools to gather content, but we shouldn't confuse content gathering with course creation.

Articulate was one of the first sponsors of this report and did help us define the term.

The original definition was based on research that I did in 2004 with approximately 170 survey respondents, as well as 5 in-depth case studies and interviews with the creators of the "rapid e-learning tools."

The E-Learning Guild has disagreed with defining a timeframe that is considered rapid. But, in my view the word "rapid" infers a timeframe, so I felt that we needed to define it. As time goes on I believe the timeframe for "rapid" can be re-defined.