Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Agile Elearning Design Manual - The role of Social Media

I went out with my students today to watch Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen. The movie, for me was an absolute disaster. Visually and story-wise, there was way too much going on and I realized very soon that the only thing I was really focussing on, was Megan Fox. It made me think of the way I've seen a lot of elearning in past years and in recent days. Designers seem to be really keen to do everything they possibly can, inside flash-based-elearning. This made perfect sense about 5 years back, when we didn't really have as many online, interactive learning methods. We as designers had to make a compromise and place all learning into a single learning object.

How people learn

While the compromise made sense, in a way this was fundamentally different from how people learn. Think of learning how to play golf, for example. If you were trying to learn the sport, you wouldn't really read every golf coaching book in the world before you played your first stroke! People learn iteratively. You learn the basic rules, you then try your hand and end up being absolutely rubbish, you then get some help from someone with experience, maybe find partners to play with, and over a series of events, you start to play the game well. Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, says that the people who become really good at something put in 10,000 hours of practice. We can't control all of this within one elearning module! One of the most insightful blog-posts I've read in the recent past happens to this post from Tom Kulhmann. Tom is spot on when he says that learning is a process and not an event! I followed up Tom's post with a post about why customers like a "Rapid" approach. In short, people learn over time and its unrealistic to believe that people will learn in one go, by going through your two hour, flash-based elearning module. Given that learning is a continuous process you need to support that with different activities and resources over time.

"Being a Leader"" vs "Being a King"

I'm a great fan of Seth Godin's writing and I recommend his blog to any professional of the 21st century. Seth often bashes the "TV-Industrial" complex, where we come up with a good idea and PUSH, by interrupting people with advertisements after advertisements. The myth that drives this complex is, "If you have enough money to sell a product, then spend it on creating great advertisements and push it to people". Traditionally, the elearning fraternity has suffered from this mindset too - only in a different way. We believed that by getting management to invest a lot of money in a $50000 elearning course (with lots of fancy stuff), getting them to make it mandatory, and making people pass an assessment at the end, we were making people learn. Seth goes on to say that in this model, you're playing King, by telling people what to do and by controlling how they do it. At the end of the day, the success of your product (in this case elearning), depends on how much you push it!

Seth proposes the model of tribes where you play the Leader and give people a reason to do something. A reason to connect and a reason to learn. Blocking course navigation, making a course mandatory is PUSH. Building options for people to pick what they really want to learn, creating opportunities for them to connect and share their thoughts with others, facilitating that connection and thereby spreading the idea and learning virus - that's leadership. That's creating a tribe!

Our times have changed

Things have changed today, and how! If you change the game in the market, someone else will. This means that industry practices and job skills are changing every day. As one of the most innovative firms in the business, ThoughtWorks is constantly finding new ways to create value for the customer. It takes just one look at ThoughtBlogs, to know how many different ways we do the same thing, in order to bring continuing benefits to our clients.

In a situation like this, your learning content could change every few months! With a $50,000 bespoke flash course, you can get yourself really stuck when you want to evolve and enhance your elearning. Its also useful to ask yourself if its really meaningful to spend that kind of money on a course that could be out of date the day its released!

Socio-technically too, the times have changed. Mobile devices are becoming extremely popular and interfaces are becoming smaller and smaller, though the size of our fingers remains just the same. What's the future of mobile learning? I definitely don't see a realistic future of hour long, flash based courses on the mobile, because people just don't have the time and because small interfaces just don't support that kind of learning! Which is the second point. A 24 hour day is increasingly becoming too short for the number of things we have to fit into it. People have limited time on long online courses - in many cases its easier to learn on-the-job, from colleagues that have experience. A coffee table conversation generates great insights as does a search on Google or Yahoo! Answers. People want to make the most of their time. They need answers on how to do their job better. Philosophy and theory have started hitting an immune section of our brains!

The rise of social media

A quick Google Trends comparision across elearning and social media sees the rise of social media traffic in recent years. And that isn't surprising, considering how people spend so much of their time on the web! Jane Hart has written and spoken extensively about the importance of bringing social media into the workplace. As Learning and Development professionals, how do you supplement your elearning modules with social media? Have you considered a Facebook group or a Ning community or a YouTube video or a collection of bookmarks on delicious or microblogging using Yammer or group brainstorming using Ideascale or Social QnA through Yahoo! Answers or synchronous learning using DimDim? Why does all interactivity need to happen within your elearning box? Is interactivity limited to clicking across a screen or does interactivity mean more about making people think and engage with the learning? If its the latter, then its perhaps a better idea to seed people's learning using short pieces of learning, and to consolidate and supplement it using social media interaction. While this gives you the power of social interaction and group think it takes away the pressure of having to do everything within your elearning tool. One of the big secrets to Agility is the use of Rapid Elearning and social media. How do you harness the potential of this simple, yet effective combination?

Try this at work

I have no doubt this will take some influencing and a huge amount of politicking, but if you can, try either of these at work:
  • Invite all the people you know in your firm, to form a corporate Yammer network. See if you can get people to start sharing ideas around work and answering each other's questions!
  • Aggregate feeds from all your company's bloggers. Try to see if you can use something simple like Drupal to showcase a "featured blogpost of the week"
  • Try a discussion forum or wiki with the topic you're teaching online.
  • Try a Ning network to evangelize a core competency in your firm.
I can't guarantee that any of these will work - putting a set of usable tools cant guarantee adoption. This said, you will perhaps gain a fair idea of what kind of social media will work in your firm. Hopefully that will kick off your social learning journey and my blogpost would have served its purpose.
How did you like this post? Please feel free to let me know. If you liked this post, you may just like some of these other, related posts:
The Agile Elearning Design Manual - Problems with existing Approaches
The Agile Elearning Design Manual - Agile Re-explained
The Agile Elearning Design Manual - Think Small (Iterations, Action Maps, Storyboards, and Mini-Modules
The Agile Elearning Design Manual - Iterations huh?
The Agile Elearning Design Manual-Of Project Spaces and Project Managers
Why "Rapid" is a word your clients will like.

1 comment:

Web Designer said...

The clarity in your post is just nice and i can assume you are an expert on this subject.The above articles is pretty extraordinary, and I really enjoyed reading your blog and points that you expressed.

Related Posts with Thumbnails