Rapid eLearning Panel

by Jay Cross on April 11, 2007

This afternoon at the Guild, Paul Clothier chaired a panel on The Future of Rapid eLearning Tools. Panelists were Silke Fleischer (Adobe), Gabe Anderson (Articulate), Andrew Branch (Qarbon), and yours truly. Rapid eLearning (the rapidity is development time, not learning time) has not been on my radar; I approached the topic with beginner’s mind.

captivate.gifHow did this approach come about? I trace the genesis back to the late nineties. A training manager who wasn’t going to develop content around a topic from a meeting would make the PowerPoint deck available. Ninety percent of the ones I saw had neither sound nor notes. I learn about as much from looking at someone else’s silent PowerPoint presentation as I do from looking at inkblots, yet training directors included this crap in their listings of courses and workshops to bulk up the appearance of what they had to offer.

When is it appropriate to use rapid eLearning development tools? For procedural, how-topics. For things you have to get out the door right away. And I see e-information applications in addition to eLearning. “Information is not instruction,” but sometimes information is all you need.

12While no one came out and said it, rapid eLearning can cut the instructional designer out of the process. One member of the audience cautioned against letting the rapid tools fall into the wrong hands. Another said it would be disastrous if content were developed outside of the watchful eye of an instructional designer. It wouldn’t be “real training.” You betcha.

qarbon.JPGThink back to Henry Jenkins’ presentation this morning. We are going to be learning from one another. In communities. Peer learning. Why deny people tools for formatting and consistency? Clive Shepherd pointed out that this would be a marketing bonanza for the vendors. Get everyone creating content. Millions upon millions of potential customers….

My major ah-ha’s were that Articulate, Adobe Contribute, and Qarbon can play a major role in sharing knowledge and democratizing content. My wish list would include easy assignment of tags. I’d also like to see a content rating system that kicks in automatically. As Wayne Hodgins has said, there’s no excuse not to associate a rating with every scrap of digital content. Another person wanted to be able to pluck (or add) one slide at a time from an existing presentation.

People were concerned about keeping track of swarms of small rapid eLearning chunks. Chris Willis brought up the good old days of Authorware, when everything was right there in one package. Unfortunately, those monoliths were difficult to update and required skilled programmers/designers.

My picture of the future mimics the loose coupling of the web. “Small pieces, loosely bound.” Today’s rapid eLearning tools may evolve into the platform where the small pieces are made.

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