Giants vs. Giant Wastes

Yesterday afternoon, I received a newsletter advertising a new publication that analyzes “Authoring System” choices. They even included access to a short section that addressed a specific company’s offering – and, which I began to read.

Shortly thereafter, my few remaining hairs stood on end and my stomach muscles began to tighten as an angry growl escaped my mouth.

Here’s the “Description of Authoring process” section that did it:

1. The author creates a PowerPoint presentation.
2. The author records narration, often reading the script they typed in PowerPoint’s presenter notes field.
3. The content author can add other desired interactive elements such as annotations, Articulate learning games, Articulate Quizmaster quizzes, existing Flash movies or any Web object.
4. The author publishes the presentation to transform it into a Flash experience.

May heaven help us all!

Professionally, I was fortunate to grow up in the Land of the Giants. Phil Dodds, Ray Fox, Gloria Gery, Rockley Miller, Paul Tenczar and Bob Yeager, among others, led us – very well – into the learning promises of media training.

These original Giants clearly understood the promise of early technology development as it might positively impact learning – in education and in training. They knew that the technology, starting with the original “black Apple,” would allow the promise of increased learning and retention to be realized. They knew that technology was not the end, but rightfully the beginning of much better training and education outcomes.

And so that promise grew as the learning outputs attributable to early-CBT, interactive laser videodisc and CD-ROM helped better educate America, particularly in the arena of corporate training.

Unfortunately e-learning, as it is too often practiced today, has temporarily derailed that progression. Oh, a few vendors still know that the aim of what they are creating will result in a better educated and better trained America.

Look hard for them as you make your training decisions. It’s easy to spot them. The good ones put the learner and the productivity results ahead of the technology. They know that, “just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.”

But many of the vendors dabbling in e-learning today have no interest in, and certainly no knowledge of, what makes for better training and education. They are in love with the technology and the money they might make – if only they can fool enough buyers in the brief time their short-lived invention allows them. Technology is their master and they get ecstatic when they build something they can sell to buyers who mistakenly think that subject titles alone mean real training in that subject.

So no good words from me on that “new authoring system” company with its “latest and greatest” authoring tool. Turning PowerPoint presentations into e-learning is like turning garbage into even more garbage.

PowerPoint presentations give information. They do not teach. Turning them into e-learning, posing as training or education, will just delay the visionary dreams that The Giants actually were able to realize two and three decades ago.

But have no fear. The cream will rise. Just do your own bit to hurry these vision-less “technology creators” into an early retirement.

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning