30 Day Challenge – Day 12 – Serious eLearning, Seriously?

In the Online Learning Insights weekly news this morning, there is a review of the Serious eLearning Manifesto, released last week by four e-learning “instigators.”

Serious eLearning Manifesto

These instigators suggest that most elearning is broken, and that a new set of standards are required to raise elearning to its potential.  Quoting from the manifesto:

Supporting Principles

1.  Do Not Assume that Learning is the Solution
– We do not assume that a learning intervention is always the best means to helping people perform better.

2. Do Not Assume that eLearning is the Answer
– When learning is required, we do not assume that elearning is the only (or the best) solution.

3. Tie Learning to Performance Goals
– We will couple the skills we are developing to the goals of organizations, individuals, or both.

4. Target Improved Performance
–  We will help our learners achieve performance excellence; enabling them to have improved abilities, skills, confidence, and readiness to perform.

5. Provide Realistic Practice
–  We will provide learners sufficient levels of realistic practice; for example, simulations, scenario-based decision making, case-based evaluations, and authentic exercises.

6.  Enlist Authentic Contexts
–  We will provide learners with sufficient experience in making decisions in authentic contexts.

7.  Provide Guidance and Feedback
–  We will provide learners with guidance and feedback to correct their misconceptions, reinforce their comprehension, and build effective performance skills.

8.  Provide Realistic Consequences
–  When providing performance feedback during learning, we will provide learners with a sense of the real-world consequences.

9.  Adapt to Learner Needs
We can and should utilize elearning’s capability to create learning environments that are flexible or adaptive to learner needs.

10. Motivate Meaningful Involvement
– We will provide learners with learning experiences that are relevant to their current goals and/or that motivate them to engage deeply in the process of learning.

11. Aim for Long-term Impact
– We will create learning experiences that have long-term impact–well beyond the end of instructional events–to times when the learning is needed for performance.

12. Use Interactivity to Prompt Deep Engagement
–  We will use elearning’s unique interactive capabilities to support reflection, application, rehearsal, elaboration, contextualization, debate, evaluation, synthesization, et cetera—not just in navigation, page turning, rollovers, and information search.

13.  Provide Support for Post-Training Follow-Through
–  We will support instruction with the appropriate mix of after-training follow-through, providing learning events that: reinforce key learning points, marshal supervisory and management support for learning application, and create mechanisms that enable further on-the-job learning.

14.  Diagnose Root Causes
–  When given training requests, we will determine whether training is likely to produce benefits and whether other factors should be targeted for improvement. We will also endeavor to be proactive in assessing organizational performance factors–not waiting for requests from organizational stakeholders.

15.  Use Performance Support
–  We will consider providing job aids, checklists, wizards, sidekicks, planners, and other performance support tools in addition to–and as a potential replacement for–standard elearning interactions.

16.  Measure Effectiveness
–  Good learning cannot be assured without measurement, which includes the following:

a. Measure Outcomes
Ideally, we will measure whether the learning has led to benefits for the individual and/or the

b. Measure Actual Performance Results
Ideally, an appropriate time after the learning (for example, two to six weeks later), we will measure whether the learner has applied the learning, the level of success, the success factors and obstacles encountered, and the level of supervisor support where warranted.

c. Measure Learning Comprehension and Decision Making During Learning
At a minimum, during the learning, we will measure both learner comprehension and decision-making ability. Ideally, we would also measure these at least a week after the learning.

d. Measure Meaningful Learner Perceptions
When we measure learners’ perceptions, we will measure their perceptions of the following: their ability to apply what they’ve learned, their level of motivation, and the support they will receive in implementing the learning.

17.  Iterate in Design, Development, and Deployment
–  We won’t assume that our first pass is right, but we will evaluate and refine until we have achieved our design goals.

18.  Support Performance Preparation
–  We will prepare learners during the elearning event to be motivated to apply what they’ve learned, inoculated against obstacles, and prepared to deal with specific situations.

19.  Support Learner Understanding with Conceptual Models
–  We believe that performance should be based upon conceptual models to guide decisions, and that such models should be presented, linked to steps in examples, practiced with, and used in feedback.

20.  Use Rich Examples and Counterexamples
–  We will present examples and counterexamples, together with the underlying thinking.

21.  Enable Learners to Learn from Mistakes
–  Failure is an option. We will, where appropriate, let learners make mistakes so they can learn from them. In addition, where appropriate, we will model mistake-making and mistake-fixing.

22.  Respect Learners
–  We will acknowledge and leverage the knowledge and skills learners bring to the learning environment through their past experience and individual contexts.

We acknowledge that this is an important but not exhaustive list, and further, that the ideas embedded in this list were drawn from, and inspired by, the work and research of many.”

This manifesto seems geared towards corporate elearning more than online learning in higher education, yet there are portions in here with which I agree.  As the graphic above suggests, too many have attempted to replicate the large lecture hall experience with the online experience, leading to course designs that are content focused, efficient for the faculty, attendence-driven (read “seat time”), focused on knowledge delivery rather than authentic learning, and one-size fits all.  So I agree with the manifesto’s call for making elearning meaningful for learners, authentic, relevant, and individualized.

Community of InquiryIn many ways, these “principles” align with Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice.  Where I would differ from these instigators is an underlying assumption that “the learner” is isolated.  There is nothing about building a community of practice within this manifesto.  If the web is open, social and participatory…and if the future for our students requires cooperation and collaboration, then it would seem that aspects of a community of inquiry should appear in this manifesto.

Yet, I like Stephen Downes’ take on this in Monday’s OLDaily.  Stephen said:

“…Basically the manifesto emphasizes “continuous assessment of learner performance” in order to “optimize use of the learner’s time, individualize the experience for full engagement, address needs, optimize practice, and prepare for transfer of learning to performance proficiency.” The manifesto is relentlessly provider-focused, which is unfortunate. If I were writing a manifesto it would be more about making my profession unnecessary, so that people wouldn’t need specially designed materials in order to learn, but rather, could forge learning out of raw materials for themselves.”

Which leads to today’s 30-Day Challenge question:

Day 12 – How can I as faculty make myself unnecessary?

This is not to suggest that I am planning on quitting my day job.  Rather, it is a reminder to focus on student’s learning rather than on delivering content.  As my colleague Jeff Nugent reminds us:

“You deliver pizzas, not learning.”


{Graphics: elearningmanifesto, Athabasca University}


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One thought on “30 Day Challenge – Day 12 – Serious eLearning, Seriously?

  1. The supporting principal for making eLearning valuable are the same my district applies to professional development and staff evaluation. These steps should be universal for any organization, not just in eLearning situations.

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