Does a Good Content Management System Beat a Good E-Learning Application? You Bet!
This morning I received an email from one of the top e-learning websites on the Net. The opening paragraph of this email was as follows:
“It's 2am Sunday morning, you're diligently editing videos for your course and you can see the finish line (and your pillow) floating just ahead. But you're stuck. Maybe you're stuck on the best settings for exporting your video, or how to add transitions in Camtasia, or where to find the file uploader. We know it’s hard to find time to work on your course, but it's easy to find answers.”
They then go on to offer their solutions to these nightmares: a link to their own courses on how to get un-stuck; a link to 3000 instructors who are waiting to help you with a production question (yes, 3000!); a link to questions and answers in their Knowledgebase; and a problem-solving email address.
It’s my contention that this has been normal in the e-learning world since the name, e-learning, was coined. All of the following assumptions are there in that paragraph: the assumption that producing an e-learning course requires hard work; that you’ll be up working on your masterpiece, and tearing your hair out, at 2 am in the morning (and on a weekend when you should be doing something better!); that it’s inevitable that you’ll “get stuck”; and that un-sticking yourself and completing your project requires more of the same hard work.
Like many non-techies (I am a trainer first and foremost), I’ve been there many times. Yes, probably 2am on a Sunday morning (there are too many occasions to remember exactly); yes, hard work; yes, getting stuck and no idea how to get unstuck; yes, having to wade through interminable forums to find solutions; and waiting days for someone to answer my questions while my whole project comes to a grinding halt.
I know I’m not alone. When I go on the stand-up trainer circuit and meet fellow professionals who are non-techies, the world of e-learning is nearly always a total no-go area. They look at me as if I’m from another planet and are often dismissive of many of the products they’ve seen that call themselves, “e-learning”.
Our current approach to e-learning with its over-emphasis on the technical difficulties and the technical solutions does a good job at excluding people in the training world who are likely to be either subject matter experts or instructional design experts or both. Why would they exchange the traditional approach of training for a life of staring at a stalled computer at 2am on a Sunday morning? Without bringing these people fully on board, e-learning is never going to break out of its current technical stranglehold.
What Are The eLearning Solutions for Trainers?
For me, as a trainer, the solution has been to turn my back on using any of the e-learning applications that are on the market. In putting together our latest e-learning website at My Learning Log, we deliberately set out to make it as simple as possible. It is a site that we want trainers to use to upload their courses without any knowledge of SCORM, AICC, Tin Can API’s or any other regulations. It’s also a site where we wanted users to learn knowledge and skills without any technical hurdles. You could say it is a site created by non-techies for non-techies. So, instead of a standard e-learning application, we used the best content management system and text editor we could find.
As a result, we deliver courses on normal web pages. We use great content from years of stand-up training in the classroom (not a grainy youtube video put together in 20 minutes). We link to well-selected videos, presentations, pdfs, wordpress blogs and anything else that supports the course information. We provide a learning log for users to record their assignments. We get them to complete a personal profile with a training tweet and fun “2 Truths and a Lie” game about themselves. We allow them to create groups with other course users where they can ask for help, offer help, and raise new issues. We let them take quizzes, write reviews, share experiences, and add material of their own. We can tell course users about upcoming events related to the course. And, most importantly, as course providers, we can add something new in seconds through our content management system.
As a result, we believe that My Learning Log is an example of e-learning that is friendly, useable, transparent, fun, alive, dynamic, and a bit chaotic, just as all good learning vehicles should be
I wish I could say the same about those applications that users are still working on at 2am on a Sunday morning!
To take any of 200 free management and soft skills courses produced on My Learning Log with a content management system (not Articulate, Lectora, Camtasia, youtube, Toolbook et al), sign in to My Learning Log and browse My Learning Log A to Z of current courses. And then tell us what you think about this debate!