We are somewhat closer today to realizing the dreams that will be made possible by online learning. However, the need for digital technology to catch up with the new learning designs required is greater today than it’s ever been. But just what are those goals and challenges facing us — and by extension, our companies, our co-workers, and our society — as we move through uncertain times to the new millennia?

Certainly, the training requirements of today’s workplace are intensifying. The National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) undertaken by the Department Of Education has reported that, “Growing numbers of individuals are expected to be able to attend to multiple features of information in lengthy and sometimes complex displays, to compare and contrast information, to integrate information from various parts of a text or document, to generate ideas and information based on what they read, and to apply arithmetic operations sequentially to solve a problem. The results from this and other surveys, however, indicate that many adults do not demonstrate these levels of proficiency.” Obviously, it is no longer enough to simply stand on the assembly line and push one button over and over. Today’s workplaces — and the global economy — have rendered much of this rote activity obsolete. And, where repetitive task labor is still required, the corresponding remuneration allows only for a life bordering on subsistence.

In education, too, there is a real gap in learning and it grows with each passing year. It’s growing because of the unintended arrogance of the “reading elite” — those of us possessing more advanced reading and writing skills — combined with a greater need to use those skills. According to the NALS, adults who performed in the lowest two levels of literacy (on a scale of 1 – 5) were far more likely to report receiving food stamps, to be living in poverty, and to be less likely to have voted in a recent election. “Adults in prison were far more likely than those in the population as a whole to perform in the lowest two literacy levels.” “. . . The continuing process of demographic, social, and economic change within this country could lead to a more divided society along both racial and socioeconomic lines.”

However, let’s get to the real point here. The opportunities in media instruction that I am challenging you to think about are those instructional designs which should be directed at the current two-thirds of Americans who are cut off from that reading-based learning culture associated with the CBT-design world of the 1970’s. Our future e-Learning instructional designs must become part of that television learning culture — which supplanted the printing press world as the primary medium for communication — beginning in the 1950’s.

More on Wednesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning