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The Terrible Speed of eLearning September 28, 2010

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
Tags: , , ,

Sales reps should appreciate this post. This post has been ruminating around in my head ever since an executive suggested turning some classroom training into podcasts back in 2005. But this is not a rant–a long time in the making. It’s a turning point piece, toward a fresh era of elearning. The executive’s reasoning for podcasts was simple: so sales reps out on the road could listen to the training in their free time between sales calls.  

Really? Free time?  

Mobile Learning Classrooms

Traffic from eLearning

Even if there was such free time, who wants to spend it digesting elearning while driving? And what would happen to traffic conditions if every car became a mobile classroom?   

What was really bothering me, though, was the sub-text. eLearning is supposed to get squeezed into everybody’s busy schedule. The same elearning that saves money on travel and that allows for self-paced learning is also supposed to get tacked on to everyone’s day like a wretched after thought.   

It reminds me of when a meeting gets tacked on to lunch, creating a lunch meeting. What you get is a bad meeting and a bad lunch.   

Much early elearning has been catch-up material like a recorded webinar or a copy of a PowerPoint presentation. These are rudimentary forms of elearning, perhaps better described by the more generic “distance learning.” Still, these examples and others like podcasts of lectures, unless packaged well, are just partial versions of the original, and learners chomp at the bit to fast forward to the nitty-gritty content.   

It’s 2010, and elearning is expected to move at fast forward to the nitty-gritty pace.   

And woe unto you if the elearning you make or deliver has a hiccup. You will have 47 emails and 36 voicemails in a heartbeat if your elearning module has even one sterile button. Yes, elearning must be fast-paced and perfect, for the audience for elearning is ravenous and rowdy.   

Trigger Happy Mouse Clicker

Ready for eLearning

What if elearning wasn’t an after thought? What if your elearning wasn’t squeezed into a day? How would it be to have learners look forward to their next elearning module? If they did, what would that look like?   

I have seen students in a college library spread out and sink into some learning, in a cozy corner with open books surrounding a pad of paper and a cup of coffee. It’s romantic to picture. Can that be the case for elearning? Can you picture an e-learner like that?   

What I see now is e-learners coming to their computers with a twitchy, click-happy finger. Learners’ eyes dart across the screen for key content and that next button as if they are all in some cosmic race to spend the least amount of time on the elearning module. The e-learners of today need an e-methodone of sorts to ease their approach and to slow down the terrible speed of elearning.



1. Mike - September 28, 2010

I am so with you, man. The whole internet needs e-methodone I think.

I’m picturing an e-learner in a coffee shop with a laptop … a little chai tea … ear phone buds in … getting ready to enjoy some elearning.

Eric Matas - September 28, 2010

mmfvcmnfvhn Eric Matas http://ericmatas.com Sent from my HTC smartphone.

Eric Matas - September 28, 2010

Lol – that reply was from my 4-year old son, who must have figured out how to check email on my phone, and he must have felt compelled to reply to your comment, Mike. I too like the comment and the vision.

2. Gary Hegenbart - September 29, 2010

It’s not just elearning that gets squeezed in, it’s learning in general. Taking time to learn, really learn not just pass a multiple choice quiz, is under valued in American corporate culture. What if 10% of our time was devoted to learning? What would the overall efficiency gain be? I think we’d get back that 10% plus a lot more.

3. Matt Beran - September 30, 2010

Great post Eric! Can’t agree more… make the time, do the work, apply.

4. Connie Malamed - October 1, 2010

Wow. This is a great commentary. Speeding through eLearning leaves no time for informal learning either. And in addition, spacing the learning over time works better for retention. Now I know for sure that learning experience designers should rule the world!

5. Eric Matas - October 1, 2010

Gary, Matt and Connie –

I really appreciate the feedback: thank you. Elearning seems ripe for a new version (elearning 2.0 ?). Two aspects stand out in this regard: aesthetics and pacing: let’s make beautiful elearning that learners slow down to enjoy.

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