What Is Guerilla eLearning And What Can You Do About It

What Is Guerilla eLearning?

Imagine that you are a millennial who just purchased a new home, and your new home has a leaky kitchen faucet. You do not want to pay a plumber to come fix it, so what do you do? More often than not, the answer is “YouTube it!” There are hundreds of instructional videos posted on YouTube on how to diagnose and repair a leaky kitchen faucet. Most of these videos are amateur videos posted by a helpful plumber or contractor. None of these videos are considered formal training or instruction, so they have not been developed or reviewed by a professional instructional designer. I think of these videos as guerilla eLearning modules.

Much like guerilla warfare, these videos are developed and launched from the trenches. They are produced quickly with little-to-no budget and are used on the spot, as the viewer is applying the skill being taught. These videos can be very effective for hard skills, like changing a faucet or rotating your tires.

Every day, there are hundreds of training opportunities being exploited by non-training professionals because, well, we don’t think of them as training opportunities! In a January article, Vicki Kunkel outlined the top three untapped markets for eLearning instructional designers. I believe that these three markets are the tip of the iceberg.

The learner-driven shift in personal development learning started with the “How To…” and “… for Dummies” books in the 1990s and has translated to the web 2.0 environment by using YouTube and other social media as a platform for self-instruction. Today, many retailers and authors have latched on to this trend and are publishing their own eLearning materials, from videos that make sure that the customer orders the correct size shoes to book companion materials for book clubs and study groups. In these situations a marketing department or an author will develop these videos on their own, and eLearning instructional designer professionals are rarely involved in the development process.  While it is exciting that eLearning has become so engrained into society that people use it without thinking about it, poorly designed eLearning can result in a negative learner experience, missing the desired result, failing to meet the training objective, and making the learner less likely to turn to formal eLearning in the future.

What can we do about Guerilla eLearning? 

eLearning has gone “guerilla” because a training need existed and no training professionals were filling that need. Obviously, Paul the Plumber and Mike the Mechanic are not going to hire an eLearning professional to help them post an instructional video on YouTube, they are just trying to get their name out there and maybe get some free marketing from the video.However, there is an untapped market of retailers, celebrities, authors, bloggers, YouTubers… The list goes on and on. What we need to do as training professionals is get the guerilla eLearning developers to reframe in their mind that what they are doing is a training event. We need to show them the value of approaching their material as formal eLearning, applying eLearning development fundamentals to their product. Rather than producing off-the-cuff videos or one-dimensional instructional materials, they can produce valuable, sticky learning snippets. “Guerilla” trainers will quickly come to realize that eLearning is a powerful tool, and well-designed eLearning can launch their website, or blog, or YouTube channel, into another stratosphere where their customer enthusiastically watches their videos, applies what they learned, and then subscribes to their YouTube channel, or buys their book, or orders new shoes that actually fit. Well-designed eLearning is marketing; well-designed eLearning can define a brand. Retention is retention, if the learner retains the learning objective set forth by the guerilla trainer, the learner will retain the positive relationship with the trainer and their website/company/channel.

This is an exciting time in the eLearning community; eLearning is really leaving the classroom behind and coming into the living room, bathroom, kitchen, garage, anywhere! As eLearning professionals, our job is to shepherd these learning materials into the market while separating the wheat from the chaff. People are not going to stop Googling, “How Do I Change a Flat Tire,” but we can help ensure that the video that pops up is informative and speaks to every kind of learner. The audience is out there, they are already ingesting this guerilla eLearning at a ferocious pace; the subject matter experts are out there, they are already producing this guerilla eLearning as fast as then can; we just need to help these “guerilla” educators engage their audience and keep them engaged in eLearning.

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