E-Learning has the potential to change the world of learning. And, assuming that is a true statement, we should all look forward to the impending fall of the wall between business and education. That wall has separated the two sectors for many years, but the pressure of global economic competition is leading many to plan for that barrier’s demise. The historical separation is between business and that sector of the educational system responsible for the 75% or so of high school students who are not likely to earn a college baccalaureate degree. These students eventually comprise the majority of America’s front-line workforce, and the prosperity of this country depends on them.

Compared to other countries, American front-line workers lag far behind in the sophisticated skills needed in order for a country to compete internationally: communications, math, science, conceptual thinking, flexibility, responsiveness, and technological expertise.

What these other industrialized nations have already learned about education and the workforce has been translated into comprehensive public education programs for the non-college-bound student. These programs all but obliterate the conventional lines between education and training.

In our country, E-Learning is singularly poised to become the highway for this needed transition — because it can successfully communicate with today’s typical workforce population — something that can no longer be effectively accomplished with the old “lecture/reading/testing” model.

Ray Fox (founder of the Society for Applied Learning Technology, now deceased) in his Winter 2003 “Society for Applied Learning Technology Newsletter” has summarized some of the attributes of sound E-Learning programs — designs that can bridge the gap between education and training:

• Uncluttered backgrounds are better for image clarity and comprehension.

• Narration should be conversational with significant voice modulation. Sound sets the mood and affects what one sees. An audience sees with its ears as well as its eyes.

• A program should never take control away from the user. The user should be able to interrupt the programming, and skip to another activity or choice at any time.

• Too many buttons or icons are confusing. Keep the number to a minimum and make the symbols simple, internationally generic, and very clear.

• Avoid the tendency to over-design and under-explain control features.

• A good “how to” is critical to almost every program.

• Music heightens emotion and increases the enthusiasm and energy of participation. Appropriate music increases the viewer’s perception of pictures, sustains mood, and provides pace.

• Underscoring text with voice narration gives text much greater impact.

• Too much content in a program is as bad as too little.

• The look and feel, structure, content, art direction, and functionality are each programming elements that should be evaluated separately and together.

• Transparency is the key to the link between the mind and emotions of the user and the content of a program. Keep it simple. If the user needs to get from A to C, let him get there without having to go through B –– if that is his or her preference.

• The “you attitude” is basic to content, script, and user-centered activity. Use of the word “you” places the focus upon the receiver of the information and is a basic of good communication. “You” attracts the interest of the person whom you are targeting and engenders a measurable emotional reaction.

America’s blue collar workforce is our lifeblood. These smart, talented individuals create, build and mold this nation’s future. They are among our leading citizens and have earned the highest respect from all of us.

Without a highly trained and well educated workforce we will find ourselves at a disadvantage to the rest of the developing world. The people who merely trade paper back and forth will be of little help if the needs of our blue-collar population are ignored. They built this country — and, can do so again! (With the help of E-Learning.)

More on Thursday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning (Tuesdays & Thursdays)