eLearning: Unaviodable truths

Kenneth Carlton Cooper wrote an interesting article in January's edition of CLO where he details 12 unavoidable truths about eLearning. Below is a shortened version of the 12 truths that he describes. I would recommend reading the entire article as he gives some great examples in most of the point.

If you were able to add another 8 truths to make it the top 20, what would you add? Even if you can't add another 8, send me what you have. My thoughts coming soon....

"Truth No. 1: It’s All About Compelling Content.
Providing real benefit is the primary requirement of all learning, regardless of delivery method or clever instructional design.

Truth No. 2: It’s Initial Learning and Refresh Learning.
Over time and without reinforcement and use, people forget nearly all of what they learned in any single event. If you want people to truly know how to do something, you must regularly refresh that training.

Truth No. 3: Management Support is a Requirement.
Performance management processes must specify the new behaviors. Management must expect and encourage new behaviors, and employees must see they will be formally and informally rewarded for using the new behaviors. If management isn’t supporting the effort, skip the training and save the money — it isn’t going to work.

Truth No. 4: Focus on the Task Versus Topic.
Learners prefer courses that address specific tasks they have to do now… The content is already “pre-integrated” for immediate use and doesn’t require workers to figure out how to adapt the learning to their job.

Truth No. 5: It’s Not Blended Learning — It’s Learn/Apply.
Blended learning is the wrong way to segment content. The most effective and cost-efficient approach is to use distance learning to “teach” and some type of synchronous learning to “apply” that knowledge to the job.

Truth No. 6: Content Must be Totally Custom.
Even with relatively generic content, simply creating custom background graphics, putting the instructor in a logo shirt and customizing a few stories can make all the difference in learner interest and retention. Learners need to be thinking, “They’re talking about my business.”

Truth No. 7: Use the Voice of the Learner.
Content can’t be “everything is wonderful” propaganda. If a new product sounds eerily similar to a previous failure, then that issue must be candidly addressed. Whatever the situation, the learner should be thinking, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’d ask in a meeting … if I had the guts.”

Truth No. 8: It’s a TV Workforce.
Today, people should consider digital streaming video with special characteristics and instructional design as an ideal teaching medium. In “2004 E-Learning Research Year in Review: Predictions for 2005,” an annual year-end review, analyst Josh Bersin wrote, “One of the biggest challenges in self-study e-learning continues to be the problem of engaging the learner. Recently, we have run across some very compelling and exciting uses of Flash-based video. It is now possible to take a fantastic instructor or celebrity and put them online.”

Truth No. 9: Shorter is Better.
According to an article in The New York Times Magazine from Oct. 16, 2005, a University of California-Irvine study found the average time between interruptions at work is 11 minutes. It’s a fantasy to think 21st-century workers can sit through a 60- or 90-minute online course and maintain their train of thought… Learners require just-as-needed content: short programs delivered right before they undertake a task.

Truth No. 10: Engagement = Interaction.
Many instructional designers start with the false assumption that physical interaction is a requirement for effective distance learning. As a result, organizations create custom-programmed courses with fancy animations and mouse clicks — all for the sake of interaction. These are no longer needed, and they are costing organizations millions of dollars in unnecessary expense. What is required from a distance learning course is mental “engagement.”

Truth No. 11: Deliver Where Needed.
People can now learn at any time, in any place. Organizations must start delivering training in nontraditional locations (e.g. home, car, gym, airplane) and in nontraditional ways, including mobile computers, phones, PDAs, route handhelds, iPods/Zunes, etc.

Truth No. 12: Create Once, Deploy Many.
Organizations need to take compelling content and deliver it for the variety of uses required to maximize learning, retention and application. The mistake that most instructional designers make is trying to develop a version of the training for each primary use. This “create many, deploy once” approach is time-consuming and enormously costly. What is needed is a “create once, deploy many” approach — a form of “multipurposed learning.”"