Making Meaningful Interactivity

Training Challenge Number Six: “The failure to recognize e-learning that truly works”

The third essential quality for truly effective e-learning is “Meaningful and Individually Interactive Instruction” which, of course, means that a knowledgeable instructional designer has created it.

Far too many e-learning courses are designed today by individuals who know very little about the audience they are designing for and who don’t really have the knowledge to separate the “have-to-knows” from the “nice-to-knows” in their design.

The interactivity should be meaningful to the user and not just clicking for its own sake. Learners should be challenged before they click ahead. (It’s actually insulting when a learner is asked to continually click away for no educational reason at all.)

Instructional design for media instruction grew up about three decades ago. Much of it was learned by talking with organization-users, the workers to be trained, and subject matter experts. Designs were tailored to particular subject areas, trainees and specific curricula. Designers listened, read and learned in order to create meaningful instruction. And the best of these were former elementary school teachers who had had a history of adapting their teaching to the individual needs of their learners.

Unfortunately in recent years, higher education has started granting undergraduate and graduate degrees in instructional design. Formulas have been composed and, as happens so many times with higher education, attempts are made to emulate the sciences and mathematics in their formulae, allowing for no deviation in structure. Those institutions have forgotten that “one size does not fit all” in everything. The Enlightenment approach works well with science and math but it has little place in interpretative design and creation.

The result is that today many programs designed by degreed instructional designers have very little relationship to their learner-audience or to intellectually stimulating interactivity.

Ditto for those vendors that send their program creation overseas. Do you think they do that because they truly believe that they’ll get back a superior training product? Or, do they do it because the profit motive is, essentially, their driving force?

It may be less expensive to use foreign labor and a template, but it sure makes for inferior courseware. How does one template multiple subjects? Do those vendors really think that every subject and every learner is the same?

You’d be wise to avoid e-learning courseware that has been template – where knowledgeable instructional design is absent and programming personnel just fill in the blanks over and over and over.

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning