Training Industry Magazine - Fall 2014 - (Page 15)

TOOLS IN LEARNING BALANCE 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. DEFINING CONTENT 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, analyzed, organized, engineered, 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 its transmission. 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 performers. 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 JUST GAINING KNOWLEDGE IS NOT A SATISFACTORY 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. 15

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
What's Online
Company News

Training Industry Magazine - Fall 2014