September 22, 2014

I’ve been in the media courseware business for a long time. My career in visual-media training goes back a to the earliest days of videotape instruction (black and white, as color cameras were not an option). In addition, there was no profession called “Instructional Design.” Rather an SME prepared the content (all factual with only the uniqueness of the camera work and rudimentary hand-drawn graphics to provide the motivational elements).

Later, the beginnings of Instructional Design took root. For the record, the best of these earliest designers were former elementary school teachers because they have had to adapt their instruction to the disparate events and learners that populated their classrooms.

Today, many of our Instructional Designers hold graduate degrees in the field and have had their education steeped in formalistic design. Adjustments to changing learner populations and multiple learning paths are, generally, lost in their graduate preparation.

So it is not surprising that what we are getting from much of our e-Learning designs today is nothing but an adaptation of the very old “lecture/reading/testing” method of instruction.

Those designs don’t work! (It is estimated that 65% of would-be learners never complete a reading-based e-Learning course!)

Let’s look at a bit of history.

In 1944 the G.I. Bill changed the makeup of our college population and, consequently, laid the ground rules for the practice of adult live instruction throughout American business and industry. Prior to the G.I. Bill, less than 9 percent of Americans ever attained a college degree. The individuals who did attend college did so in order to listen to authoritative lectures given by acknowledged scholars in a particular field. “Live instruction-as-lecture” was reserved for the intellectual elite.

As we now know, this “reading/lecture” education model, applied universally, has not worked well for the majority of Americans.

Fortunately, there is another form of live instruction that is both active and effective.

Live instruction in elementary school education was (and essentially still is) multimedia in design — “expose and practice” in small discrete segments. The learner reads or hears a little bit of information, practices what she has learned at home through homework assignments, and then reads or hears a little bit more about the subject the next day. A proven method of live instruction that works for most because the learner becomes an active participant in his own education.

Effective media instruction, in fact, is based on those very same principles. A media instructional design that mirrors the teaching adaptability we find in an elementary school classroom — and, not the rigid “lecture/reading/testing” model that permeates our college lecture halls. In that way we can keep the best of what has worked before — “expose and practice” in small discrete segments — while combining the awesome power of video, optional word-for-word audio (which will communicate with all of your trainees), and hands-on practice.

Our workforce is very smart, talented and creative. They have always learned best by seeing and hearing. Let’s give them learning designs that will help them achieve success and, as a result, increased profitability for their organizations.

More on Wednesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Mondays & Wednesdays)