Or can it?
A strong statement indeed! However, it’s one that does seem to be held (but I hope not by the majority).
I had an interesting debate about this recently on one of my courses about designing engaging eLearning.
Actually, the conversation we had was more about whether eLearning that is designed to cover what people should do rather than what they should know would be accepted by the stakeholders requesting the eLearning. Previously we’d had some great discussions about how scenarios and stories can help the learning come to life and simulate what learners might experience when doing their jobs. Most people, when asked what they dislike about eLearning, usually talk about the boring, information laden, page after page of text followed by the obligatory multiple choice quiz – or as Cammy Bean recently called “read ‘em and weep” eLearning.
Great eLearning focusses on performance. Allowing learners to exercise their cognitive skills and learn through problem solving. All learning should be focussed on helping people do their jobs properly. Classroom learning has improved by leaps and bounds packed full of case studies, role plays, realistic and work-based examples designed to replicate as closely as possible their own roles. They’ve become sandpits where people can experience tasks, make mistakes and learn from each other with immediate, constructive feedback from the facilitator. The great news is that eLearning can be designed along the same lines. It doesn’t matter whether the topic is about learning to give great customer service, identifying fraud, the importance of hand washing in patient care or introducing people to a new purchase ordering software. In each of these examples people are needing to learn how to do something to a given standard.
Then of course the question has to be how we might assess the learning more appropriately? How else can we prove we are complying with legal or organisational policies and guidelines than to show we can apply critical thinking to a given situation in which we might be faced with during our day to day job. Reading pages of dos and don’ts, why’s and wherefores and then testing how well we remember them doesn’t prove we can apply a particular piece of legislation to an unexpected situation at work. The only way we can do that is put people in the situation. Of course this can still include using multiple choice questions but not the type we are most familiar with. We just need to be more creative with them by using mini-scenario questions or case studies so we’re testing actions rather than recall.
Is it really impossible? If you put such a solution forward to address compliance training in eLearning would you be laughed out of the boardroom? Would your stakeholders just summarily dismiss the idea as unworkable? My argument is that its more than possible, complience is crying out for it but you’ll have to sell the benefits carefully. Will you just assume your stakeholders won’t buy-into it or will you be prepared to spend time and effort in producing something you know will engage and produce real results instead of ticking the attendance boxes?
Why is there such resistance by some organisations to producing quality eLearning. Why are we still faced with this situatioin where the goal is just to get as many people through the sheep dip as quickly as possible, so they all come out the other end with a stamp to say ‘done’ rather than ‘can do’. In Craig Taylor’s comment to an earlier blog post ‘How do we ensure competency’, he has been faced with the same brick wall.
Perhaps our stakeholders need more persuading. Perhaps they aren’t aware how compromising the quality of the learning actually has a negative impact on efficiency. If the learning is poor then organisations will still see costly legal procedures continue, mistakes may still be made and productivity may still be down. Retraining may be required but if the learning is poor, the whole cycle starts again.
Perhaps organisations are under pressure from their governing bodies to meet ever more demanding targets in shorter time scales that it’s become more about counting virtual bums on virtual seats than making sure staff are fully equipped with the skills to do their jobs.
Perhaps instead of saying how high and jump to the orders from those who really have little experience in producing quality learning solutions, we should change our strategies from being order takers to becoming the consultants we really are. Supporting learning and performance is everyone’s responsibility, not just the L&D but the line managers, the senior managers and those doing the learning they just could do with a little help.
Only when we know we have tried our best; only when we have put forward all arguments; only when we’ve provided a taster, a working example based on scientific and evidence based practise; only when we’ve managed to pilot and collated feedback; only when we have measured both the efficacy and the efficiency of the solution (like Craig Taylor)can we honestly admit defeat. At least we can say we’ve done all we can to persuade the sceptics.
If, after all that effort, our conscience is still in turmoil and “if you can’t beat them, join them” is not an option for you, there is only one thing left to do …..
My advice? Keep chipping away. Even though your head might bleed from hitting it against that proverbial brick wall, keep going. As Confucius said “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. Before long you’ll have supporters walking along side and one day the rewards will be great.