A serious manifesto & silent pointers

Four people whose work I have been following for a few years now, have come together to write out the Serious ELearning Manifesto. A preamble and 22 tenets. I read through it all with a certain level of happiness for much of what is outlined there is a dire need of the hour. Do give the manifesto a read.

I wasted no time in signing the manifesto and there, I wrote

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”  Charles Dickens in “A Tale of Two Cities”.

He could have written it for the state of E-Learning now! We are richer with technology and instructional capabilities and we are yet to fully experience the spectrum (& depth) of the potential that E-Learning offers!

This manifesto provides yet another opportunity to honestly reflect on the current and to draw up the map of a future that is both productive and fulfilling. And more importantly, helping stay the course, towards creating that future.

I endorse the manifesto and look forward to talking to colleagues, partners and learners about the manifesto and its tenets. “

Having had conversations with several service providers, subject matter experts and after reviewing several hundred hours of e-learning deployment, I realise that as much has gotten done, much more needs to be.  In my view, both the quantity and quality of content that gets passed on as E-learning is ghastly to put it mildly. There is a mountain of a distance to go and it is surprising because the field in itself has been around for a long while.

Am I saying that there is no quality content at all? No. Not in a long way. Super quality content exists, in pockets. Some stuff that we have used as well. But a good majority are a set of page turners, ‘click next to continue’ and some graphics thrown in. Therein resides the problem.

I have been discussing the manifesto with friends, colleagues and partners in the industry. No, the manifesto is not without its criticism, including a very sharp and pointed one by Donald Clark. There are parts of the criticism that resonate with me too.

Heres the google hangout that launched it all. Do take the time to watch it.

Clark Quinn points out in the hang out, that the attempt is to raise the floor not to put a ceiling on what can be done. That is an argument that I am buying, for I think the floor desperately needs a raise of sorts. The intentions of the quartet seem to be good and their effort is laudable.  By the way, here is a parody if you are interested.  A brilliant one at that!

If you are in the business of learning, you must take a good long hard look at the manifesto and maybe discuss with colleagues and partners.

There is another side that this manifesto doesn’t speak much about. And that is the role of the ‘client. The Learning Professional who ‘purchases’ / ‘sponsors the custom building of the E-learning content’ and deploys it. I am a big votary of custom built content, for contextual relevance scores.

For a moment, lets talk road transport and the state of driving. Play with me and assume that you feel that urgent need for improving the driving experience of the average motorist on the road.

Lets assume that the average (and above average) car makers listens to you and several like you. A few of them decide to sign a pledge to ensure changes in the manufacturing process that will ensure the best of cars get produced. Will the driving experience be enhanced automatically because of that? No!

For the driving experience in itself is a combination of several aspects. The state of the road. The capability of drivers. The kind of law. The enforcement of laws. The quality of fuel available. All of these and other stuff such as this, matter as much. Perhaps more.

That brings me to the question: So what must clients do? Clients, especially Learning professionals hold an extremely key for these principles to flourish!  Many aspects rush to my mind. Here are three aspects and perhaps one tenet of sorts!

a. Raise the bar of the conversation: The onus is on learning managers in organisations to raise the bar of conversation on E-learning. The conversation has to move from ‘course completion’ to ‘performance’ and how the eco-system needs to be fine tuned for that. This automatically means, not accepting page-turners. And even importantly, familiarising ourselves with what’s the evolving thought in the industry!

Perhaps as important, if not more, is knowledge about the business problem that is attempted to be solved through the E-learning module. That automatically means greater work with the people who are to be impacted with this and the managers who drive the business

b. Investment of time: Building good E-learning requires tremendous investment of time. Investment of time from Subject Matter Experts, who are aware of the contexts and subjects better. To get the best of line managers to be SMEs and to ensure time commitment from them is key. This of course is automatic, if the learning opportunity is defined, owned and supported by leadership teams and line managers.

c. There are a clutch of other things that are key to build the eco system for E-Learning to thrive which learning leaders need to proactively build. This includes building partnerships with IT for effective infrastructure, keeping the ongoing communication going strong, ensuring space for discussion / conversation on the formal learning etc. Over a period of time sowing the seeds and building buy in for the learning from leadership teams, managers and learners. That is a long hard journey.

But there is another aspect that I think is extremely important and that is to build relationships based on trust, mutual respect and a  sense of ‘win-win’ with E-Learning content creators / service providers. Over a point in time, that can perhaps make the biggest of differences to the experience that employees can experience through E-Learning

Do give the manifesto a good read and lets continue the conversation! 🙂