I always use the January column to look back at what was on my mind over the past year, and to set some resolutions for the year to come. In reading back over my columns and my work from 2017, one theme leaps out in a pretty big way: getting back to our roots.
Since eLearning started to gain popularity in the 2000s, we’ve seen new tools and affordances grow by leaps and bounds. But I worry that sometimes, in pursuing the next “best thing,” we’ve lost sight of what eLearning was supposed to do. Remember? It promised just-in-time, just-for-me learning opportunities, quick to deploy and easy to access. Some lessons from the early days are, I think, worth keeping in view: Don’t overdesign; be careful of too much content; use the right approach for the desired performance; be careful of templates and easy-build quizzes that may obscure your view of a more effective approach; and remember that content is abundant—look around before re-creating the wheel. Be careful of blaming the learner; make sure bad design and one-size-fits-all thinking aren’t undermining learner success. Try, when you can, to keep constraints like lack of budget and dry content from driving inferior or ineffective design.
In addition, we’ve identified ways of supporting learning that don’t fit the original eLearning (“online course”) mold. Thanks to Google, YouTube, and other social tools, we have literally put learning right at learners’ fingertips. Channeling and leveraging self-directed approaches and social opportunities? We’re working on it. Our challenges? Making resources and experiences available, often while satisfying mostly useless (sorry) demands for completion and tracking and credit. Some suggestions: Don’t miss Jane Hart’s ideas about shifting to a “learning concierge” role. Continue supporting efforts at working out loud to facilitate the flow of information across organizations and disciplines, and to help us understand not just what someone does but how she gets things done. Learn about the inner workings of real communities of practice in order to better help support and sustain them. And, in taking stock of what you know about how people learn, step back and look at it from their points of view and their beliefs about learning. What, for instance, are the consequences of throwing big experiential-learning experiences at learners who believe that learning should happen fast, in discrete, easily tested bits, and that “learning” is the ability to recall and spit back information?
Finally, I can see I spent a lot of 2017 pondering ways to be more influential: Get out of your usual designer/facilitator box and polish up some new skills, like dealing with data, learning to read academic research, understanding behavior change, and developing business acumen. Look for some help and practice with negotiation and assertiveness skills. Work on ways to educate stakeholders. And sometimes, in dealing with objections and resisters, take off the gloves and counterpunch.
As for resolutions for the new year? Well, 2018 promises something different for me. After 28 years, I retired from my job with state government and yesterday started a new job with The eLearning Guild as Director of Research. I’m not sure what resolutions to set for that—yet—but plan to be bringing you useful, practical, data-based information to help you improve your practice, keep you up to date, and support your efforts at building your influence.
Wishing everyone happiness and health as we move into our new year.