The question expanded was the following:

“Most of the people that I’ve met are not happy with eLearning / CBT applications. The only time an employee goes online is when something is mandated for appraisal, and that’s true especially for IT/Software companies. Any guesses why? How can eLearning, something that has been touted as a saviour, be really made somewhat and/or more effective?”

In my opinion, E-Learning, as a means for making educational resources accessible to learners, is still ripe with promise.

In practice, the complaints are generally around a devolution of something noble (learning) and how its been commoditized (the e-learning your people might be complaining about).

Consider this from design-thinking perspective (which requires a little bit of history for context). In 2000, there was this thing called e-learning in which digital objects called we also sometimes call e-learning (I’ll call it “content”) was supposed to work in “learning management systems.” This distinction is important. Outside of an LMS, we might have called this Web-based Training (WBT), which was the move to the web from native applications and content that operated on your computer’s desktop (CBT).

There were challenges that went with the mysterious thing called e-learning: it was very difficult to swap content out of one system into another, which was forcing lock-in to vendors as organizations were adopting learning content that was tethered to the systems that tracked it. Hence, out of the many examples of e-learning and the systems that were tracking them (as well as a number of standards that were in place), a framework called the Sharable Content Object Reference Model emerged as a de facto standard, and it accelerated adoption of a particular framing of how e-learning was defined.

The Knowledge Funnel
"The Knowledge Funnel" from "The Design of Business" by Roger Martin

By 2002 there were many adopters who understood how to design and develop content that worked in this framing of e-learning, which was when e-learning really took off because there were heuristics, other patterns of design and development that accelerated.

By 2005, tools began to emerge that took these design/development patterns and forged them into products (turning the heuristic of how e-learning was framed into an algorithm that could make it efficient) for end users to rapidly develop e-learning content; this resulted in tools like Captivate, Lectora, Rapid Intake, Articulate, etc. It made the practice of putting “content” into an LMS really easy by making the tools to build such content as accessible as PowerPoint, which is on pretty much everybody’s computer.

What I believe most people complain about is how prevalent the PowerPoint metaphor is in e-learning content. This wasn’t the original intent of e-learning, but it is certainly a result of trying to make the design/development of e-learning easier, more efficient and more accessible to more people.

So…. to your question, what do we do now? We need to once again look at the mystery that is “learning” today, and find new patterns of design and development (new heuristics) to support with new specifications, new technical frameworks and, eventually, new opportunities for tools and technologies to make learning experiences more meaningful.

As one of several people responsible for ADL’s Future Learning Experience Project, this speaks to the very heart of what we’re looking to do.

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