Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Horses for courses

I've just spent an enjoyable 45 minutes talking to a very nice lady who was researching the current state and future of e-Learning for the organisers of Learning Technologies following the mind-boggling article by Rob Chapman on Training Zone a few days ago:  in which he denounced e-Learning as a passing fad without one piece of factual evidence!

"So, is e-Learning the best delivery method then?" she asked me.  To which I replied "No, it's just one of many delivery methods available to us."  I then went on to explain that, whatever delivery method or methods is or are chosen, this decision should always depend on a number of factors.  First there is why people need to learn and what they need to learn, for example, for a qualification, for workplace performance, for their own needs/satisfaction.  Identifying the need then enables us to see whether the learning needs to be achieved through a training course, a development programme or an educational course.

Having decided the nature of the beast, it is then possible to produce a learning or instructional design for it.  This involves structuring and sequencing the content in relation to previously identified learning objectives and a detailed profile of the target audience, and deciding on the most cost-effective means of delivery.  The latter decision requires an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of all delivery methods as well as those which are available to both the organisation and to the end users, i.e. the learners.  Yes, it's horses for courses and in my view for the true training and development professional it has always been thus! 

Where people adopt this systematic approach, a 'blended solution' is often the end result as there is no one perfect delivery method.  For sure, sometimes e-Learning, particularly of the 'Rapid' kind, might form the total solution and that's not a problem when a proper needs analysis and instructional design has been undertaken.  However, far too often these essential steps or stages are ignored on the basis that "we don't have the time for all that" and this is where the rot sets in and does so very quickly.  I'm not a betting person but if I were I'd bet you a penny to a pound that the really bad examples of e-Learning which exist today were produced in the absence of any needs analysis and instructional design.

So, as far as I am concerned, e-Learning in all its many guises is definitely here to stay and will continue to grow in its use across the board.  However, the demands which this means of delivery places on those involved in its design, development and production is another matter altogether and definitely the subject of another blog!