First I need you to read this.
This was written based on a twitter conversation I began after reading this line of a previous post:
“Rapid elearning played a role in the evolution of elearning mostly because it took course creation out of the hands of a few programmers and placed it into the hands of anyone who wanted to create a course.”
My question was: Is this a good thing?
I have worked as an instructional designer my entire professional career and take great pride in both my formal educational background (2+ years doing an MA) and the 15+ years on the ground building technology based solutions. I am both extremely well versed in Instructional design (which encompasses a multi-disciplinary background) and technology. I am a professional instructional designer, not an “elitist”. I believe everybody who works in the capacity of instructional design ought to be a ‘professional’ which means that anybody who ‘designs’ not ‘build’ technology based learning solutions ought to have the required knowledge and skills to do the job correctly.
I have no issues or qualms with any tool, other than the argument I made in Michael Allen’s 2012 Annual. In case your interested, here is the link to the book on Amazon.
The author of the post I’m responding to says “Someone asked if that’s a good thing to place the tools in the hands of anyone who wanted to create a course. It’s a good question. But is it the right question?” That was me that asked the question. Is it the right question, damn straight! According to his previous post, any opinion to the contrary makes you an ‘elitist’ and that providing tools to non-programmers is the ‘democratization’ of eLearning.
This reminds me of cult tactics, where a cult leader will say “If you don’t believe in what I’m saying its cause your not ready to see the truth”. Its smoke and mirrors designed to get you to buy into the philosophy. Lets face it, Articulate has done a masterful job at convincing the unqualified that they can build eLearning too, and that this is a good thing. The issue is really about ‘qualifications’ here and whether being able to ‘program’ without ‘programming’ is the qualification that enables you to build out eLearning.
Admittedly the author says:
“Does it mean that I am a better instructional designer? No. Does it mean that having a drag & drop interaction is going to make my course better? Not necessarily. But it does mean that I am able to do something I couldn’t do before.”
He also states:
“I’d hate to think that there’s some elitist blocking my entry into Home Depot because she’s deciding if I’m qualified or not to use a hammer.”
This isn’t about an elitist blocking access to home depot, its a question about whether you want anybody with a hammer to build you a structure using the hammer that they may or may not be qualified for. If a nail gun was sold as “Now you can do your own framing, no need for a contractor” would you feel comfortable with that? If I said, well, you should probably hire somebody qualified to use the nail gun, would I be an elitist?
So…I don’t disagree with a lot of what was said in the article. The problems I see with the positioning of the article is that:
a) Anybody who wants to create a technology based course can with the now available easy to use tools, implies that the barrier to creating courses was the programming end of things. I’m not sure that’s accurate at all. In fact, Powerpoint from a ways back had and still has save as HTML. There could be no easier way to put up electronic courseware on the web. Programming is not the barrier. Drag and drop exercises don’t make for better learning interventions. Books worked just fine before learning came along. So if its about getting stuff online…
b) We are made to believe that setting criteria for building eLearning is simply an elitist philosophy as opposed to some form of professional designation. These are cult tactics that ultimately undervalue real criteria that may be put in place, including the value that real programmers bring to the table.
c) The idea that the tool helps people become better is pure hogwash. I am in total agreement that there is probably as much bad online courseware developed by supposedly ‘qualified’ individuals as there is bad courseware developed by those using rapid learning tools. If rapid elearning tools were to make people better at doing this why do we see more poorly designed (not executed) online courseware than ever before.
And here’s where the rubber hits the road. If we’re all being honest with one another, has the advent of rapid elearning and all the hoopla around the community and all the tips and tricks created a surge in better elearning? The answer is quite the contrary. The marketing of the ‘democratization’ of elearning, allowing anybody to do it has led to a surge in really poorly designed (not executed) courseware because those who aren’t qualified in ‘design’ believe that with a few tips and tricks and a great tool like Articulate they too can build online courseware.
Here’s a bit of irony for you, and something I address in my book coming out in the fall (Learning onDemand: How the evolution of technology is shaping the future of learning) is that as the ‘democratization’ of elearning grows in popularity, it does so only within the L&D community who struggle everyday to get respect. And so the community keeps building ‘courses’ (poorly designed at that) and the rest of the world (as evidenced by the technology outside L&D) is running at full speed towards ‘content on demand’ which is contrary to the ideas behind a ‘course’ (at least in the way courses are conceived today).
I can take up the metaphor arguments as well but I think at the end of the day there are tools meant to help qualified individuals do the same job they did previous to the tool, just better and quicker and then there are tools built for the unqualified that supposedly compensate for lack of skills. If the initial argument that began this conversation was the tool will help you do your job, I wouldn’t have said anything. But to sell a tool as a replacement for skill followed by the notion that if you believe otherwise you are simply an elitist is, in my opinion, just marketing tactics that work very well.
From where I sit, this is not an argument about the tool and its capabilities. I don’t even really play in the space where rapid eLearning is prevalent. I am more a semantic web kinda guy and believe access to information is really the problem IDs will need to solve in the future. What I do feel strongly about is that tools don’t make you better, they allow you to do a job you know how to do better and faster. Tools don’t give you skills and the key to designing good online learning is not programming. The key to building complex systems that will be consistent with the evolving technology world outside of L&D is in fact programming.