Thursday, August 9, 2007

What is important for eLearning design?

I keep running into people who
completely discount other people's ideas and abilities simply because
there are a few typos or spelling mistakes in their presentations. (I'm
not referring to Phil as guilty of this, but because he illustrated that
this can be an issue.) I see this as a symptom that also affects course
design. These same people will spend hours agonizing as to whether
their bullet points should do a flip as they fly into the page, and will
choose visually animated content any day over solidly instructionally
designed material.

Yesterday, I was talking to someone (with very strong graphic arts and
engineering capabilities), and they mentioned that they had yet to see
an eLearning course that they found really interesting. It dawned on me
that indeed, eLearning courses will only be as interesting as the content.
Adding visual stimulation is the kind of window-dressing/ distraction that
the "analysts" seem to push to compensate for poorly designed or even just
run-of-the-mill content.

I'd like to get people to move towards the idea that if your content is
average (and 99.9% of content falls into that category), the best way to
compensate is to give the student the ability to control their session.
It is more important to have students who use the content and are not
immediately repulsed.

For example, I have seen PPT presentations that were shipped out with
mandatory (but extremely boring) content. The company didn't want to
spend the extra day of work to port it into a more web-friendly
structure (and I don't mean Flash) because they thought it was a waste
of time. I watched how the audience viewed the content:
1. They opened the PPT (it was a PowerPoint Slide Show)
2. They clicked the "Next" button on every page until they got to the
certification piece. Average time on each page was probably 5 seconds.
3. They completed the certification and closed out.

My observations:
1. When you multiply 5 seconds/page times 20 pages times 1000 employees,
you realize that a lot of time was wasted.
2. If the content was more "friendly" it would have a link to jump
straight to a "What's New" summary, and a link to the "Certification".
This would actually result in employees spending useful time on what is
"new", and then jumping to the certification page, rather than
dismissing every page as quickly as possible (without reading them).
3. The flying bullets only slowed the students down from getting back to
their other daily tasks.

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