Thoughts on Atrixware’s recent post on Destructive Trends in Learning

I follow a number of vendors through my Facebook presence and this post from Atrixware caught my eye. The title certainly had some drawing power because L&D professionals are frequently (and often unwittingly) engaged in destructive behaviour. Not for themselves, of course, but in terms of learning outputs and impact. Let’s face it: we’ve all been there.

The major thread of the article is that the e-learning community is akin to the Lemming, following leaders or new ideas in droves. I suppose there’s some anecdotal truth to that assertion, in much the same way people become enchanted with the zeitgeist of the day in their work or social circles.

While the general guidance is OK at a basic level for L&D, I struggle somewhat with their points, so here are my thoughts.

General comments:

The article is posted authorless, although originally written in the first person. There’s no link to any research or industry numbers placing these trends in any kind of context so this is really an op-ed piece that ret-cons the trends to the 3 major headings.

Trend 1: “Cut the Lectures”

Atrixware is correct that lectures are a cornerstone of the pedagogical approach, and that they embody the “Sage on The Stage” mentality. However, their opening comment is about PowerPoint. While it is an assumed trend that many “lecturers” over-use slideware, as a visual aid, it can serve an excellent purpose for outlining key points and supporting a talk. Anyone who has followed the incredible work of Gar Reynolds and Presentation Zen will see how the tool can be used for very powerful impact.

Where I also struggle with this “trend” is that there wasn’t really a strong tie to online learning in this section. There’s certainly no shortage of “webinars” (a term I cordially despise) that are poorly executed, and no shortage of “slideware” or IMI Level 1 “clickware” out there.

There’s also ample evidence that lectures, properly planned, supported, and executed, have their place in any learning cycle. The work of Lambiotte, Skaggs, & Dansereau (1993) serves as an example. As with any other delivery method, avoid using it to the exclusion of all others, and use it appropriately.

Trend 2: “Beware Social Networking”

The title of this “trend” would almost seem to pander to corporate IT folks who are selling Social Media as the bane of workplace productivity to an uninformed C-level.

Social Networking is certainly a hot-button topic almost anywhere, and one that offers a significant potential to L&D. Atrixware makes passing reference to market research showing indicating a flat ROI with respect to social networking for learning, but there’s no provision of said research. ROI is, of course, another hot-button topic and I won’t get into it here.

Again, I’m not convinced that social networking is a destructive trend on its own, if the work of Jane Bozarth, Jane Hart, and the folks at the Internet Time Alliance is any indication. The author is correct, however, that adopting a “if we build it, they will come” approach isn’t effective (Sheppard, 2011), but that is true of almost any learning initiative and not the exclusive domain of e-learning.

Trend 3: “Don’t Be Destructively Creative”

There is some good advice here, in that you want learners to grasp the point of what you’re saying, and to be able to navigate and work through the learning experience with intuitive design and a solid user interface (Nielsen & Loranger, 2006). Again, this is guidance that applies to a number of areas, not just learning.

There is one little hidden gem in this point where the author refers to a multitude of contributors for a Wikipedia entry. While there may be some truth to the adage, “too many cooks spoil the broth”, but there should be a balance between harnessing the collective intelligence of subject matter experts or other corporate knowledge, and forcing someone into a solo design and production effort.

Final Thoughts

I admire any vendor who wants to offer value-add content to their online presence, because keeping the material fresh will – in principle – keep people coming back. However, for an organization that positions itself as one with award-winning platform and tools suite, this effort seems superficial at best, although this was good exercise in critical thinking for me because there was clearly a disconnect between the title of this vendor blog offering and the materials contained within.

REFERENCES

Lambiotte, J., Skaggs, L., & Dansereau, D. (1993). Learning from lectures: Effects of knowledge maps and cooperative review strategies. Appl. Cognit. Psychol., 7: 483–497.

Nielsen, J., & Loranger, H. (2006). Prioritizing Web Usability. Berkley, CA: New Riders

Sheppard, M. (2011). Making your e-learning initiative an internal bestseller. OpenSesame. Retrieved August 15, 2012 from https://www.opensesame.com/blog/making-your-elearning-initiative-internal-bestseller

Disclosure: I serve on the Expert Review Panel for OpenSesame.com

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About Mark L. Sheppard

learning geek, lifelong learner, terminally curious, recovering blogger and Ed Tech explorer.

Posted on August 15, 2012, in blog, commentary, learning, opinion, readings, reflection and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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