March 30, 2015

Sixteen years ago, in a speech delivered at ASTD’s Interactive Multimedia Conference, I described some of the negative fallout accompanying the 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: “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.

A dozen years later at the SALT Conference in Orlando, Adam Kovic and I presented our ideas relating to the topic, “Instructional Designers Have Failed E-Learning.” After our presentation, several attendees asked why our emphasis had focused on full-motion video and optional word-for-word audio as the key ingredients for successful online instruction.

We answered by pointing out the many studies indicating that traditional “lecture/reading/testing” training no longer gives the payback in skills acquisition that it once did. For individuals born after 1960, their learning culture has become grounded in video-based delivery and/or gaming. And the platforms for information and learning have become smartphones, tablets, computers and, of course, the TV.

In addition to these delivery characteristics, instructional designers must return to the basics of “Skills and Task Analyses” for the core content approach to their designs.

And, instructional designers need to re-focus on the “who” and “what” to be taught — and, not on the instructional design formulas they learned in graduate schools. Good design-for-learning is not a cookie cutter activity.

The challenge, then, for courseware developers is to ensure that their programs are of the highest quality and achieve the intended learning outcomes that parallel the results of the best instructor-led training and education.

Unfortunately, too many courseware developers have regarded online instruction as a “reading” or page-turning activity. Of course, that leaves behind the nearly 40% of America’s workforce which tests below a fourth grade reading level.

In striving to build a winning online curriculum, many developers have also based their strategies on limiting costs or creating flash while sacrificing the basic learning principles necessary to meet the goals of adult learning.

Although the Web has been used as a tool for delivering training, unfortunately, the development has been more focused on the mechanics of using the Web rather than in effectively applying Web-based technology to achieving the intended learning outcomes.

Yet knowledgeable instructional design is more important than ever.

As Adam and I emphasized in Orlando, full-motion video, graphic animations and optional word-for-word audio must become the roots of online instruction.

More on Wednesday – – –

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