So tired of shi##y eLearning

Back in my Walgreens days when I was on the buyer’s side of the table, I had the opportunity to talk with many learning companies. I remember clearly, the day that a sales person from one of these companies was demoing a sample course and explained that clicking next or clicking an icon to reveal some more content to read was interaction.

Clicking ain’t interaction

While clicking a button on a screen is an action, it is NOT  interaction. And since that day I have been on a personal crusade to help clients push the envelope on their own thinking about interaction and engagement. I want learners to THINK. To take a position. To put a stake in the ground. And none of that happens if they are clicking next and then going to change a load of laundry.

So why is it like this? Is it laziness? Lack of imagination? Budgets? All of the above? And how can we, as an industry, create engaging online learning experiences? These are literally the questions that keep me up at night. (I know, get a life.)

A quick history lesson

Back in “the olden days” before tools like Lectora and Articulate (which I like and use) hit the scene, we had to hire programmers to develop our eLearning courses. This was expensive. These eLearning development tools were a godsend and allowed all of us to bring our costs down.

But, I think we lost a fundamental element of the software development process that actually contributed to better instructional design (ID) and way more engaging learning experiences.

As soon as these tools hit the market, IDs flocked to classes to learn these tools. Not a bad thing at all–I did too. I believe that knowing the tool makes me a better designer because I have an idea about what the tool can do.

But, now many people are hiring IDs to do the design work, write the content, and do the development. I think this is creating a problem.

Why this is contributing to shi##y eLearning

If I’m an ID working on a design document and dreaming up all kinds of wonderful interactions and then think to myself… “Self, I have no idea how to develop that brilliant idea  I just had and they only gave me X number of hours to develop so I don’t have time to figure it out.” Then, I am likely going to scrap the really good idea and opt for a more conservative (aka, easier to develop and probably less engaging) approach.

In this scenario… the learner does not win. And, aren’t we supposed to be advocating for the learner?

Mind you, I do not fault the ID. We set her up to fail. She needs to eat and if you are only going to hire her if she can do both, you can bet she’s gonna do both.

But, this is why at Hartke Designs we very rarely have an ID do the development work. We split the roles up so that each team member is solely focused on fulfilling his/her role in an exceptional way. And the designer and the developer can lean on each other to collaborate–often taking ideas to an even higher level of engagement.

In my world, this means that everybody wins–most importantly the learner.

P.S. And before anyone starts to say… isn’t that more expensive having more people on the team? The answer is no. Typically Storyline (the tool we use most) developers are cheaper than IDs. Therefore, overall project cost stays the same or possibly goes down.

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