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Saturday, January 05, 2008

EPSS and ePerformance

In a comment in my post Amusing Findings in Keywords Jack Pierce asked:
I'm searching for the right term for what a lot of us do when we do EPSS type solutions.

We could use EPSS as a term, but it seems a bit old, and a bit engineering-like. So, for some time, we have added "ecoaching" to our "elearning" offering, to describe our electronic support options. Now, go to get plenty of hits if you search ecoaching, or eperformance, for that matter, but they mostly do not have to do with anything related to elearning.

Searching on eperformance I ran across your 2003 LearningCircuits blog entries (E-Performance Essentials) separating eperformance into edevelopment, einteraction and esupport.

Do these still hold to you (a search on esupport or e-support gets you mostly remote software support sources)? It seems like no term has taken such a firm grasp as elearning, to describe what we think is a real value-add for our clients.
This is a question I've struggled with for quite a while. I've actually had some interesting conversations with Clark Quinn about this as well. And the answer is that there is not a well known term to describe kinds of eLearning Solutions that are not typical courseware. I talked about definitions of eLearning a while ago and the basic conclusion I came to is that when you say the term, while it could mean a wide variety of possible solutions - most people think of formal training delivered electronically (virtual classroom, courseware).

So, what about these other terms:

EPSS (Electronic Performance Support Systems)

This term is still used quite a bit, but most often it refers to online job aids or a modified front-end to software systems. While I highly respect Gloria Gery's work, I think she did us a disservice by continually pointing to Turbo Tax as THE example of EPSS.

Like Jack, I find that this term is a bit tired and many people turn off when they hear it. Still, of the terms, its probably the one that is most recognized.


This is a term that I tried to put out there back in 2004 through a series of articles in Learning Circuits:
The core definitions provided were:
ePerformance: Improving individual performance by leveraging technology

ePerformance = eDevelopment + eInteraction + eSupport
eDevelopment eInteraction eSupport
Performance reviews
Development plans
Virtual classrooms
Self-paced online learning
Informal learning
1-to-1 (e-mail)
Online communities
Threaded discussions
Communication templates
Tools and job aids
Knowledge bases
Search capability

I used it because I wanted to differentiate solutions where learning was not the outcome, but rather performance. For example, one of the systems that we built helped retail store managers improve customer satisfaction through planning, goal setting, communication support, eCoaching, etc. Yes, they learned, but really these were tools aimed at helping them DO more than LEARN. eLearning and EPSS as terms really are not appropriate for this kind of solution.

I personally still like the term ePerformance, but it has not taken off and it has somewhat has been overloaded by optimization and performance review applications.

Similarly the terms eDevelopment, eInteraction, eSupport, and eFollowUp have not taken off even though I similarly consider them valuable to define very particular kinds of solutions that we build. And especially when EPSS and eLearning are not appropriate definitions.

I'm open to the best approach to giving names to some of these approaches.


jay said...

Tony, you might drop all the e's to simplify the terminology, ending up with performance support, performance, development, and learning. The "e" obscures the importance of these things.


Steve Wexler said...

Tony, I don't know exactly where this fits, but Bob Mosher uses the term "embedded learning" and it resonates wtih me.


wslashjack said...

Thanks for getting more minds involved in this, Tony. And thank you, Jay. You are at least partially right about dropping the "e" I think.

At w/, we actually landed on "elearning and performance support" as a single descriptor in marketing copy...keeping the e in elearning because it is so well understood and accepted (and to be clear that we work online). This is a simplification from previously using (and trying to explain) elearning, ecoaching, and emarketing.

Our company tag line is still "eperformance strategies + solutions" (you know, we didn't even consider estrategies or esolutions). And it's here that I remind myself that copy we want people to read is much more limited than the same words when spoken. In our marketing, we will keep it simple and streamlined...with just the differentiating e's in elearning and eperformance.

And when face to face (literally, or virtually) we can still integrate solutions that leverage technology and address support, coaching, marketing, etc, etc. In that context, it doesn't matter what you call them, right?

Valerie Bock said...

Why the interest in separating out support for learning from support for doing?

Seems to me that the most critical learning is that which is in support of performance. And the most effective teaching platforms are those which keep the learning close to the task which is to be performed.

That said, I find "blended learning" continues to be a useful term for describing learning programs which include an online component in addition to other elements.

Tony Karrer said...

Valerie - fair question and like you I like learning to be as close to(or better yet part of) performance as possible. The point I'm trying to make is that if I tell someone that I'm creating a "learning system" as compared to a "support system" you probably have very different picture in mind of what I mean.