I had the privilege of speaking at the INGO E-learning Conference at Oxfam House, Oxford today. Fellow speakers included Clive Shepherd, Jane Hart and Rob Hubbard. There is a growing interest amongst charities and other non governmental organisations in more effective and efficient approaches to learning and development. When you have staff, volunteers and other representatives spread across the globe, often in hard to reach areas with little infrastructure and tight budgets it can be a real challenge to provide sufficient training support. E-learning is clearly of value in these situations but also it has to be flexible in its design and delivery to avoid just becoming an expensive white elephant.
Talking of elephants, I gave the audience the benefit of my “elephant in the training room” message – that despite best efforts, much training is delivered by the wrong people, to the wrong people, at the wrong time in the wrong way. What is the result? No learning, no value gained by the individual or the organisation they serve. E-learning is no different – too much of what people experience is plain dull, ironically hard to access and use and similarly lacks relevance. Design is crucial to the success of a learning experience, online or offline. This does not necessarily mean spending large amounts of money on high production values (although that can be sensible and appropriate). Instead, it is developing a more elusive skill – smart selection of design treatments/concepts, clear, energising writing and the appropriate use of media that fit within your project constraints (time, budget, technical).
I used my IMPACT framework to illustrate how e-learning design can be more effective and impactful than the “slide-ware” many people default to creating and even more people have to endure. We can all do much better than this and I’m optimistic that as technology supported learning becomes ever more mainstream, good design will be recognised and valued. After all, the objective is to change attitudes and behaviour in our learners for the long term – and that’s worth dedicating the right level of investment of skill and resource to achieve isn’t it?