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Of good quality

December 6, 2009

Good quality content makes for good quality E-Learning. It’s as simple as that. At least that’s what I’d love to believe. The only problem with this statement is, time and time again I experience ‘it isn’t as simple as that’.

Seems like ages ago since I’ve written E-Learning by heart; venting my ideas on creating balanced quality E-Learning. And I’d expected by now to have gathered some different perspectives on the whole. Yet nothing can be further away from the truth.

Best practices not the problem

We can all think up a few best practices when it comes to developing E-Learning material. Here’s a quick overview of my own development strategy:

  1. Define your target audience and learning objectives.
  2. Analyse your raw content material.
  3. Design a learning concept (including instructional methods) that best suits your target audience, learning objectives and content.
  4. Work out the above in a storyboard and finally in an online course.

I think in general most course developers work this way. So in my opinion, this is not where the core of the problem lies, when developing quality E-Learning.

Dealing with peripherals

In time I learnt it’s not the working method described earlier that impacts the quality of your E-Learning material. Surprisingly enough — and to my utter frustration — it’s the peripherals. And to date I’ve dealt with the following ones:

#1. Client unfamiliar with E-learning. This is not uncommon. Though the concept of E-Learning has been around for a while now, for most clients it’s their first time with the ‘real thing’. And this is where we (E-Learning companies) fail miserably. We omit to guide them properly through this introduction.

We seem unable in describing the educational benefits of E-Learning without sounding as if we’re selling something. It’s crucial for the client to fully understand the pros and cons before even embarking on a project. For a poor understanding ultimately reflects itself in a/o the budget, the educational level and the presentation of the content.

#2. The budget. As an educator I really hate saying this. But the budget agreed upon with the client is a determining factor when developing courses. E-learning is a commercial business. If the client’s not willing to pay for a well-developed course, he’ll get his PowerPoint presentation transferred one-on-one to a digital learning environment. A Copy & Paste job; including bullet lists and all.

Oh yeah, we’ll add an assessment at the end. Just to make it look like a real course. But that will be about it. No learning concept, no educational vision.

#3. Going for the X-factor. Here I go again. Bashing Sales. But let’s be up front for a second. Sales persons are commonly not concerned with the educational value of content. They perceive this as boring. What they want is jaw-dropping glam content as opposed to thorough and clean-cut learning.

I keep bringing this up because I keep hitting my head against the wall. It’s discouraging to see that in the (business) scheme of things, a Sales person has more say than I do in the development of educational content.

#4. Consensus. You know what totally kills the development of quality E-Learning? Well, it’s when the team has no consensus on how to translate the raw content into learning material. This seems like a no-brainer. Yet sadly enough, it happens way too often that a team works on a project, lacking a common vision. The results will be the worse for it.

#5. Communication. Another no-brainer. The way the team communicates among itself and the way we communicate with the client also determines the quality of the content. More often than not, refraining to communicate in the team will result in bad communication with the client. We all know the importance of good communication. Yet, we keep making this same mistake over and over again.

Give E-Learning a bad name

In the end, it’s very frustrating to see that the peripherals have a greater impact on developing quality E-Learning than the best practices do. The frustration lies in knowing that it’s easy to work on building best practices; but it’s very hard in ignoring or even eliminating the peripherals.

What frustrates me the most though, is that this is what gives E-Learning a bad name. And for now, it looks like there’s very little I can do about it. I can really use some help here… Any ideas?
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