As I said in a previous post it’s not only a good idea to step back every now and then and have a look at what one is doing, but also document the process. So in this post we consider how effective is eLearning.
To think about this I decided to go back and re-read the book Michael Allen’s guide to e-Learning.
Michael Allen has been championing online learning for a really large number of years and has lots to say that is really useful to reflect upon. So this is my reflections on the first half of his book. I’ll consider the second half in a subsequent post.
The following are a few quotes I have plucked out of the first half of his book which looks at eLearning effectiveness in general.
“We should not evaluate eLearning as a whole, rather we need to evaluate if a particular course is effective. Instructional design not the delivery technology determines effectiveness.”
“Effective instruction is always less expensive than instruction that does not work.”
“Boring is bad.”
“Entertaining does not equal good.”
“Employees may already know full well how to perform tasks in the manner desired, but they simply choose not to do so.”
“It (elearning) will not change behaviour when there are greater rewards for continuing the current practice.”
“Design success comes from doing three things well:
- ensuring learners are highly motivated to learn;
- guiding learners to appropriate content;
- providing meaningful, memorable, and motivational experiences.”
Generally I agree with all the above points, however let’s consider some of these in more detail.
It is not whether online learning is effective or not. There are cases where it is hugely effective and cases where it is a complete waste of time and resources. It’s all about the ability of the course to achieve the desired goal.
The course needs to engage the learner. A learner that has been motivated to learn will compensate for everything else being average, but we are always going to struggle to achieve any change in a disinterested learner.
This brings us to the next significant point. We need to have clearly defined what we are trying to achieve through our online learning course. Generally we are trying to change the behaviour of individuals in some way, but unless we understand all the factors surrounding achieving this change we cannot design the appropriate solution. The current situation might be failing because of inadequate resources or defined work practices that are not realistic. Just producing a training course will not solve these problems. I’d have to admit that for a variety of reasons we have clients that come to us and say they want an online course that contains certain information and looks a certain way. They do not want to engage in the broader discussion of what are the course is trying to achieve and how best to achieve it. Yes, it may cost more to develop overall solutions that work, but as Michael says above this will always be cheaper than spending on something that does not work at all.
Even if we feel we have understood the problem thoroughly, involved all the stakeholders in coming up with a course that will achieve the desired change in behaviour we need to evaluate the success as fully as possible. As much as we wish we get the solution right every time, in the real world this does not happen. So the process needs to be define, build, evaluate, redo. How a plan is to be evaluated needs to be considered at the start not as something tacked on the project at the end.
I wish it was was always possible to do all the above, however recognising what we would like to do is always the first step to doing it.