Training Industry Magazine - Fall 2014 - (Page 15)
TOOLS IN LEARNING
A N D PRAXIS
- ROBERT BECKER, PH.D.
E-Learning pioneer Michael Allen recently
blogged a complaint, that most e-learning
today has too much content and not
enough activity. Allen believes this because
content and activity are (metaphorically)
two harmonious pipes of the e-learning
instrument. When the pipes are not well
paired, their imbalance lessens playability.
We may blow hard, yet very little music is
made, and none of it is sweet.
While true enough, he only scratched the
surface of this problem.
The word content gets bandied about,
as though it means the same thing to
everybody. But it doesn't. Content to
a writer is different from content to an
illustrator. Content to a designer is different
from content to a developer.
Further, content may be created, searched,
presented, transformed and managed.
That same noun, when paired with each
of those verbs, means something different.
Content also gets misused as a synonym
for subject matter, information, and media.
In reality, content is a narrow slice of
subject matter, a container for information,
and a product of media.
This linguistic flurry may sound trite, but
it's important to understand the language
used to describe e-learning. It's more than
semantics. Grasping what content is can
decide the difference between quality
training versus a useless heap of junk.
For e-learning designers, content is
equivalent to knowledge. Content is the
sum total of words, pictures and sounds
that connote knowledge. Creative and
technical efforts that support instructional
design either produce content or enable
e-learning is fundamentally a praxis, or
a process. It uses logic and data to make
ideas actionable. It helps students expand
their knowledge, hone their skills, and
(most importantly) become competent
This being so, we might as well ask, "how
can there ever be too much content in
an e-learning course?" After all, content
is knowledge, and the whole point of
e-learning is to impart knowledge, isn't it?
If you look for balance and praxis in the
kind of e-learning that Allen dislikes, you
won't find them. Instead, you'll be drowned
in a tsunami of content. Activity is limited
to "page turning" and multiple-choice
questions that check your knowledge. No
praxis, no experiential learning of any kind,
no support for developing competencies.
Actually, the answer is, no. The point
of most e-learning is not to impart
knowledge, but to improve performance.
Instead, e-learning facilitates the use of
knowledge to develop skills; to practice
skillful behavior during training, and
beyond training in a workplace. That is
the point of e-learning. Allen calls this
performance. I call it competence, but we
probably mean the same thing.
Performance and competence hinge not
on knowing, but behaving. Robert Mager
and Donald Kirkpatrick, among others,
have written that just gaining knowledge
is not a satisfactory outcome of training.
People also have to demonstrate what
they learned by acting it out.
That activity can be anything students
accomplish while being trained, so long as
they use knowledge to solve problems.
An e-learning course should be a balanced
blend of knowledge gain and skillful
activity, with emphasis on activity, because
TRAINING INDUSTRY MAGAZINE - FALL2014 I WWW.TRAININGINDUSTRY.COM/MAGAZINE
KNOWLEDGE IS NOT
OUTCOME OF TRAINING.
So the next time you hear somebody
bloviate about the value of content, and
exciting ways that e-learning content may
be packaged and delivered with an LMS,
ask, "What else have you got?"
Because remember, e-learning that hustles
content, but isn't a praxis, is undermining a
basic promise of technology and probably
failing to meet the learning objectives.
Robert S. Becker, Ph.D., operates Becker
Multimedia and is an adjunct professor of
serious games and gamification at Elmhurst
College. Email Robert.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Magazine - Fall 2014
From Where I Sit
Table of Contents
Guest Editor: Improving Sales Onboarding Effectiveness
An Emerging View of Learning Content
Manager Compassion: The Antidote of the Revolving Door
Balance and Praxis
Giving Old Content New Life
Leveraging Custom Learning Initiatives
Contextual Anchoring in Learning Design
Training for Performance Improvement: A Carrot or A Stick?
Rewiring Your Learning
Working with Subject Matter Experts
What's Your ROI for Content Development?
Casebook: Manitoba Hydro: Powering Up with e-Learning
Design Considerations for Content Delivery
Improving Online Learning Performance
A Brain-based Approach to Developing Training Content
Training Industry Magazine - Fall 2014