6 Things To Consider Before You Jump On The eLearning Bandwagon

6 Things To Consider Before You Jump On The eLearning Bandwagon
Chuck Wagner/Shutterstock.com
Summary: We keep hearing about shiny new tools every day… Tools that promise quick fixes and cure-all solutions. In such a scenario, how do we decide on whether to jump on the eLearning bandwagon or not? In other words, how do we decide which tools to follow, and which ones to avoid? Read on to find out.

The eLearning Bandwagon Is In Town. Are You Aboard Yet?

Books will soon be obsolete in schools… It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture” – said Thomas Edison in 1913. More than a 100 years later, we know that this has come to pass. At the same time, we are also painfully aware of how badly the “motion picture”, in the name of engaging online learning, is being abused. In other words, while the tools have changed (from books to motion pictures), the century-old framework remains, doling outdated education to children year after year. This is not a one-off case. Every once in a while, along comes a shiny new tool, technology, concept, or methodology that promises to change the game for the better. The eLearning bandwagon is a familiar cycle. It starts small, followed by much hype and euphoria over its applications in our work. Only to fall and rise again based on the sentiments of the day. A few of them stick around long enough to make a lasting impact.

Trends And Tendencies 

We have seen this rise and fall cycle happening with learning styles, visual learning, brain training, neuroscience, Myers Briggs Personality Tests, Kirkpatrick’s Levels of Evaluation, Dale’s Cone of Experience… the list is endless. Add to this bunch the “technologies” and “strategies” that keep emerging - microlearning, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, gamification, mobile learning… again I could go on, but you get the drift.

When an idea comes up, an interesting thing happens. On one side, the world is beating itself up over the excitement and possibilities that the idea has to offer. On the other side, there are the skeptics calling it out for being a fad and a fake. There are endless ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments, and voices seeking to drown others out in a game of one-upmanship.

Meanwhile, a few thought leaders quietly emerge, working to put their forces behind what needs to be done – identifying possibilities, boundaries and limitations, defining terminology, and citing research for or against the idea.

We recently saw such an interesting debate happening on learning styles, though it is by no means a new idea. Here is a blog post from Arun Pradhan on the subject.

And here's an entire set of resources, from The Debunker Club led by Will Thalheimer, dedicated to exposing the learning styles myth. And, a thoughtful post from Ryan Tracey on why some of it might still be relevant.

To access the wider debate, just Google “learning styles”. What comes up will keep you busy reading all day, if not a few days :-).

Back to the point: When a new idea or concept surfaces, how do we decide whether or not it is worth pursuing?

Jumping On The eLearning Bandwagon? 6 Things To Consider 

Here are a few thoughts that I think can help.

1. Research, research, research.

If you hear a new idea that you find exciting, read up about it from as many valid sources as possible before deciding to jump onto the eLearning bandwagon. Note that I say “valid sources”, because, in this digital age, it is all too easy to find arguments to support our own opinion. A valid source, on the other hand, is a neutral voice that provides an informed analysis of the pros and cons of the idea.

2. Reject extreme viewpoints, whether for or against.

Extreme viewpoints don’t serve anyone. What we need are balanced perspectives.

3. Examine your own intentions and expectations.

Are you trying to adopt the new idea to genuinely improve your work and obtain better results, or just to show some change? If it’s the latter, step back, and take stock. You can always decide to jump in once you have clarity.

4. If you do decide to implement the idea, keep a watch on how it’s doing.

If, at some point, you realize that it is not working, perform an analysis to find out why, rather than rejecting the whole idea as a dud. It is possible that there were flaws in the implementation, or that some environmental factors prevented it from working the way you intended it to work.

5. Remember that any new idea, technology, application, or concept is just a tool.

Every tool comes with its own possibilities and limitations, and the effectiveness of the tool is ultimately determined by the way in which it is implemented.

6. Keep in mind that no tool can be a panacea for all ills.

No matter what the latest buzzword is, it cannot replace fundamental principles of good design.

Final Word

For any idea that comes along, we need voices of approval, voices of dissent, and voices of reason. And we need healthy, constructive debate amongst the three. I’m happy that we have plenty of this in our industry.

What methods do you use to decide whether or not to adopt a new idea or concept? I’d love to hear from you. You can add your comments at the end of this article, or post them on Twitter (@Learnnovators or @elearnindustry).