April 10, 2014

Many years ago, in a speech delivered at ASTD’s 1999 “Interactive Multimedia Conference,” I described some of the negative fallout that has accompanied the then emerging digital networking technologies. I cautioned that, “Today’s learner, all too often, is being left out in the cold. Talking about technology from the learner’s point of view, rather than the digital, seems to be an antiquated discussion packaged away with a box of yesterday’s videodiscs.”

What I was discussing was the switch from effective analog instructional design to digital networking delivery of instruction —- a transition that has long taken place. However, my major concern fifteen years ago remains valid to this very day because, as I pointed out then, both good instructional design and effective learning have been suffering.

“Unfortunately, vendors continue to hawk their own particular one-dimensional solutions – regardless of the customer’s increasingly sophisticated education/training challenges. The potential learner is in danger of getting lost in this early age of digital networking,” I warned.

One size no longer ‘fits all’ – stand-up instruction, videotapes, distance learning, books, gaming, and multi-sensory e-Learning all have a place in business, education and government today. But, our learning culture has changed — dramatically for more than half our population. So, if we’re going to effectively serve our trainee population, we will do so with video, gaming, simulations and optional full audio.

Historically, an organization has focused certain time and money on training when either some process or function within the organization has gone awry or an edict-to-train has come down from high up in the organizational structure. It is at this point that the trainer or educator has had to focus on the “who-to-be-trained” and the “what-to-use” components. Far too often today, the “who” is overlooked because of the rush to adapt the learner to the new networking technologies (the “what-to-use”).

Too bad! For isn’t having well educated/trained individuals going to ultimately be more valuable to those trainees – and, give more of an ROI to their organization? Why have so many of us forgotten the fundamentals of effective learning? How can we assume that learning takes place just because instruction and learning materials are made available?

We’d better refocus the purpose of our digital learning technologies!

More on Monday – – – – –

— Bill Walton: Founder, ITC Learning