Monday, July 02, 2007

Conflicting Trends?

I need some clarification of what I am witnessing in the eLearning environment. Please let me know if I am completely off base here. And pardon me for my rambling...

Looking through my Google Reader over the past few months, I am seeing 2 seemingly conflicting trends.

Trend 1) Build performance support tools. Short how-tos / reference materials at the point of need. These tools aren't "instructional" per-se. Help when you need it.

Trend 2) Build instructional tools. Tools that are truly educational using the most advanced brain research and design methodologies. Tools of this nature are more like "events". Objective-based, skill-based. Hang out for an hour or two and play...

I'm certain that these 2 trends are not mutually exclusive. That one can build an instructional strategy that incorporates the best of the 2 worlds.

I know that my professional environment wants me to focus on trend 1. Essentially, becoming an online documentation specialist. Make it easy, make it quick, and one day put it all someplace where we can get to it fast. It's not about instruction or permanent "learning" so much as it's about access to resources. The "learning" is knowing where those resources are kept.

I know that my natural leaning is to build trend 2 - particularly for the residents. The ability being able to evaluate how well they can perform whatever it is they need to do. Something more objective-based.

I'm seeing the tug-of-war in the ever-shifting requirements for the online tutorials I am building.

Build short resources - no one is ever going to use it. And they are not in this to think. Just show them how to do it, and let them go.

But the residents need training, so we need to build a full training deck.

However, they aren't really going to learn how to use it until they are in the clinic.

We want to sell the tutorials to outside parties. Make sure other organizations can use it for training. It should be instructionally sound.

But we want the docs to be able to eat their lunch while they watch....


I suspect my confusion is a result of having too many stakeholders with conflicting agendas wanting a piece of my work. Still - I see the same tug-of-war in the e-learning blogs.

Maybe if I focus on mini-games...... short game like things that have them perform the task they need to "learn".

But so much of what they need to do is in the context of a process....

How can I combine the pressure for resources and allowing people to find stuff for themselves vs. creating things that are truly "educational?" Are my attempts to "educate" actually a need for control in disguise and I should just give up altogether?

Am I completely off base here?

Thanks for your help.....

4 comments:

Tony Karrer said...

Wendy - I would agree with your analysis of the situation and certainly it is more common these days to create what I call reference hybrids that can be used both as reference and as learning or that have embedded learning.

I believe that this is going to be an ongoing design challenge.

I'm not sure I agree with your claim that people who use online reference are not in it to think - they just need help doing a particular task and telling them more than that is a waste (in their opinion) - and often it is a waste.

I wasn't sure about the multiple audiences - maybe you can lay that out more to see if there's a model that works.

Tom Haskins said...

Wendy: I've enjoyed pondering your dilemma this morning and am very glad you articulated the complexity of this issue so well. Usually a dilemma is so frustrating we lose all motivation. It seems like a Catch-22 where there is no way to win. Structurally, a dilemma is system feedback that something is missing. There is no problem with either of the irreconcilable opposites that appear problematic. In thinking about what might be missing here, I got several impressions:

Both the performance support and instructional tools are on the outside of the learners trying to get inside. If the learners had to first come up with a question, problem or need "from inside", then their request would answered in a very different context from getting reminded to use available tools.

Both kinds of tools may need some expertise to select and sequence them. If the learners were in cohorts with an advisor, they could rely on their go-to person to get what they needed when they needed, rather than relying on them to seek out the resources themselves.

Both kinds of tools are usually deployed by individuals. If the learners were in communities of practice, they could collaborate on what was misunderstood, causing them problems, not working like expected, etc. The tools would then look timely and useful to them in order to handle their issues in their community.

Both kinds of tools may come across as impersonal, standard issue, and efficient. Learners may demonstrate more buy-in if the tools are assembled into a customized combination or personalized sequence of tools that puts a spin on the resources: "we care about you", "you are more important than the tools to us" or "we're responding to your unique needs".

I hope this points you in the direction of resolving the dilemma.

Tom Haskins said...

Wendy: I've enjoyed pondering your dilemma this morning and am very glad you articulated the complexity of this issue so well. Usually a dilemma is so frustrating we lose all motivation. It seems like a Catch-22 where there is no way to win. Structurally, a dilemma is system feedback that something is missing. There is no problem with either of the irreconcilable opposites that appear problematic. In thinking about what might be missing here, I got several impressions:

Both the performance support and instructional tools are on the outside of the learners trying to get inside. If the learners had to first come up with a question, problem or need "from inside", then their request would answered in a very different context from getting reminded to use available tools.

Both kinds of tools may need some expertise to select and sequence them. If the learners were in cohorts with an advisor, they could rely on their go-to person to get what they needed when they needed, rather than relying on them to seek out the resources themselves.

Both kinds of tools are usually deployed by individuals. If the learners were in communities of practice, they could collaborate on what was misunderstood, causing them problems, not working like expected, etc. The tools would then look timely and useful to them in order to handle their issues in their community.

Both kinds of tools may come across as impersonal, standard issue, and efficient. Learners may demonstrate more buy-in if the tools are assembled into a customized combination or personalized sequence of tools that puts a spin on the resources: "we care about you", "you are more important than the tools to us" or "we're responding to your unique needs".

I hope this points you in the direction of resolving the dilemma.

Mark Frank said...

Wendy

Interesting post - thanks. Of course you are right about the two extremes of e-learning. But I don't see it as a conflict - just different solutions for different situations which may well support each other. You put it nicely:

"one can build an instructional strategy that incorporates the best of the 2 worlds."

It sounds to me as if you are suffering from too many stakeholders that are placing conflicting requirements on you.

For what it is worth here are my parameters for deciding between trend 1 and trend 2 (although in practice it usually cecided before I get involved):


Who owns the objectives? Does the learner decide what they need to learn or does management? E.g. compliance training suggests a large amount of trend 2 to me.

Volatility of content. Hard to use trend 2 for fast changing material - although you can achieve it with a combination of trend 1 and trend 2.

Motivation of learners. A sales rep who desperately needs the content for tomorrow will work with trend 1.

Budget - trend 2 is expensive!

Nature of objectives. Affective objectives and complex cognitive objectives are hard with trend 1.

And so on....

I dare say someone has developed a model for this.