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What’s Your eLearning Class Size? October 13, 2010

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
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Can you make elearning that successfully serves 100 students?

When I think about my experience in college classrooms and, as a parent, about my children’s classrooms, ideal class size has never been 100.  My daughter’s elementary school averages 18 students per teacher according to Trulia. Although, that ratio, 18:1, might mean that a class with two teachers could have 36 students. With elearning–self-paced, web-based training–there is no teacher, so the ratio is imaginary and moot. But is class size insignificant?

Seth Godin Blog Getting Smart Dreyfus ModelThis week, Seth Godin’s blog referred to the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. The Dreyfus model shows how learners acquire skills from various training. It reminded me that the more students you aim at, the more vast their skill levels. And with elearning, the skill can be with three elements:

  1. the learner’s skill with the content of the training
  2. the learner’s skill with the computer on which they view the elearning
  3. the learner’s skill navigating the elearning itself

When elearning is developed for 100 or more, how can it serve all the different skill levels of the learners? Does such elearning even cover a significant percentage of learners? Can we call elearning a success if it serves only 70% of the learners? How about 60%, 50%, or 40%?

More and more, I think elearning must suit its audience. So, I get a little freaked out when I’m told that elearning is needed for a team of 200, or even just 100 people.

Perhaps no elearning should ever be made for as many as 100 people.

When elearning is developed for large audiences, it seems to end up as two things: generalized for most and annoying for most. When elearning is that generalized, washed out,  or otherwise watered down, it might be better just to send a long email. Perhaps with a couple of links or job aids.

What do you think?

The Terrible Speed of eLearning September 28, 2010

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
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7 comments

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.

Do We Still Know Our Audience? July 24, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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This article is a guest post by Steve Pena, Instructional Designer and Implementation Consultant, SyberWorks, Inc. Thanks, Steve!

We’re all fond of saying “Know your audience.” But how many of us track our audiences’ rapidly changing demographics? If you’re like me, it’s not a daily action item. But I just received a reminder of how much the audience for my work (and perhaps yours too) may change in the coming decade.

Every year since 1998, Beloit College has published its entertaining and revealing “Mindset List,” ® which “…is an effort to identify the experiences that have shaped the lives-and formed the mindset-of students starting their post-secondary education this fall.” And Beloit has dubbed the latest class (of 2009-2012) the first “Net Generation.” In only four years, these students will join our work force, and according to Beloit’s mindset list:

  • Drink electronic media like water, and breathe broadband communications like air.
  • They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
  • IBM has never made typewriters.

To these, I’d add:

  • AT&T has never enjoyed a telephone monopoly.
  • They do much of their phoning for free over the Web.
  • The Web has always existed.

As each college year begins, this list is a good reminder of how dramatically and rapidly our future e-Learning audiences are changing. And as Beloit reminds us about this year’s group:

“The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm… These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.”

This means a lot for the e-Learning community. The class of 2012 may not be the first to habitually seek much of its information from Web blogs, Wikis, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. And it won’t be the last.

This doesn’t mean that we must immediately revamp the way we create and deliver e-Learning (or as some are now calling it: “Emerging Learning”). But it does remind us that:

  • New electronic channels and Web media are opening every year for our products, services, and promotional information.
  • The world’s next “movers and shakers” will increasingly expect us to deliver content over these new channels, and will seek out our content and services there.
  • They won’t allow themselves to remain bored for long by e-Learning materials that don’t grab and hold their interest.

And these are things we all should keep in mind, regardless of how we do things today!

About the Author:
Steve Pena is a Senior Instructional Designer and Implementation Consultant at SyberWorks, Inc., Waltham, Mass.

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