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Friday, December 15, 2006

Rapid and Really Rapid eLearning

I ran across a link to an article on Learning Circuits - Rapid E-Learning Grows Up and I apologize, because I can't remember where I found this link.

While the author, Joe Fournier, and I share some opinions, I think we differ a bit on where things are heading longer-term. Let me walk through this...

Tony O’Driscoll, a key learning strategist for IBM, told an attentive crowd at ASTD Charlotte that the codified information base of the world is expected to double every 11 hours by the year 2010. As this crescendo of content reaches critical mass, so does the demand for better insight into this information. To more rapidly distribute this new knowledge, workplace learning professionals (WLPs) need to transition from flat content (such as text) to dynamic, rich content that conveys meaning through fewer words and evokes more engaging mental stimulation.
I think we all see the deluge of information coming. However, the way Joe puts it - as if somehow by creating rapid eLearning we can keep up with the flood. That's really not going to happen. Instead, take a look at George Siemens Knowing Knowledge and especially at the part that discusses how Know-Where and Know-Who will become more important.

If you are really talking about the information deluge, it is unlikely that Rapid eLearning tools are going to have an appreciable impact on it. Instead, we need radically different models where we can rapidly find the people and information we need. Maybe Joe is talking about creating quick hit learning pieces as a starting point for quickly understanding topics, but that's different than giving Rapid eLearning tools to SMEs.

rapid e-learning’s primary value is in addressing learning problems, rather than as a communication alternative for flat content
Has he seen the stuff that's being created with Rapid eLearning tools? Especially by SMEs? Take a boring presentation. Add audio. Add a multiple choice quiz at the end (maybe). Force your learners to take it. Admittedly, I'm biased about this kind of format because of my own learning style. So, let's be honest that much of what Rapid eLearning provides is the ability to quickly go from "flat content" to "linear content" - in other words, we go from a few web pages to a linear "learning" experience.

Rapid e-learning pioneer Jennifer DeVries has an apt analogy: “I see rapid e-learning like the desktop publishing industry of 20 years ago, when desktop publishing was relegated to the one person with the big computer who knew the specialized software and laid out all of the documents. Then MS Word came along and it included many desktop publishing features, giving everyone the ability to create reasonably attractive material on a PC using this very simple software. I think rapid e-learning tools are going to transform the e-learning industry in much the same way, so that e-learning development will become more accessible to the general public.”
One thing that Joe and I (and Jennifer) definitely agree on is that Rapid eLearning tools allow a significantly reduced learning curve and more rapid production. What's interesting about this is that we see this same kind of effect with Wikis that allow us to post content at the click of a button on a site. So, Joe's vision of the future where you'll be able to go to the page of the course, edit away is pretty much inline with mine.

But, what's interesting is that the examples that Joe cites later in the article where several tools are being used together, he points to larger eLearning pieces. I would suggest that the longer-range trend will be to use Rapid eLearning tools to create small snippets that are embedded within reference materials (Reference Hybrids).

In a world where you can't get people to learn ahead of time because of the volume of information and the lack of time, you have to create materials that will be used as needed.

What does this look like? Use a Wiki to produce reference materials, quick start guides, job aids, etc., with a bit of small eLearning pieces embedded within it (probably created with a Rapid eLearning tool). Of course, you'll need to justify to yourself the value of having the linear learning event as compared to web pages that you can easily edit on the fly via the Wiki. You'll find that creating the content in the "Rapid" eLearning tool feels pretty slow in comparison to editing in a Wiki.

It's the same old thing of faster, easier tools eating the lunch of the more robust, slower tools on top.

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