Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Good e-Learning

Much of e-learning is simply content-pushing. Much of what passes for training in the classroom these days is also simply content pushing. I have often heard ILT vendors and in-company trainers lament the trend toward "fire-hose" training, getting ever-larger groups of people "trained" in ever-shorter courses. If content pushing suffices in a classroom, then why not use technology as a much more cost-effective time-efficient (and arguably more humane) substitute? It's not ideal, and of course you can achieve so much more with technology, but sometimes pragmatism comes into play. Why not just give them a book? Books are really slow and expensive to produce and nigh impossible to update in real time.

Be that as it may, I think the only criterion for deciding if a particular e-learning instance is "good" is whether it achieves its learning objectives better than any other approach would have, within time and within budget. When I say "learning objectives" I mean both corporate and individual learner objectives. I know that's not very useful, because the actual measure of "goodness" is after the fact and a little imprecise. But if you find models that worked, you can figure out why they worked, and apply those lessons where appropriate to future projects.

From my experience (balanced by some analysis!), these are some of the characteristics that go into creating goodness, particularly in a sales training context:

Accessibility (not slow and turgid, but pan and scan)
Visualization (connect theory with the task via realistic examples)
Collaboration and fostered informal learning (connect relevant learners with each other and SMEs to share concerns/experiences)
Immediacy (communicate product/policy changes in real time, ideally with a training component to the knowledge push)
Feedback loops (build in opportunities for learners to clarify issues and modify training content real-time based on problems or actual experience in the field)
There's more but I have gone on too long as it is.

None of this is expensive video-rich instructional-designed Rolls Royce learning product. And it may not fit the conventional concept of e-learning. But I'd encourage sales trainers to play with things like creating a new product blog (get product managers, marketing people, sales managers involved too), or a regional sales team blog for the sales people to build.

Check out the latest from -- anyone can get a secure image-rich blog up in minutes at no cost. Check out for a very neat social networking tool.

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