I just finished reading an article over at Learning Circuits about growth in Rapid eLearning (REL) tools and methodologies … it is a good read and is worth the time. It has been clear to me for some time that the overall process for producing top quality eLearning materials is way too bloated and ends up costing everyone way too much. I have been a proponent of alternatives to the traditional instructional systems design philosophies as they relate to the creation of learning materials — especially in the technology-heavy landscape of eLearning. Back when I came to Penn State I honestly thought the days of working hand in hand with a SME to collect, design, and develop materials was over. I was building a toolset that I thought would allow SMEs (at that time faculty) to create their own materials much more quickly and much more easily.
Of course I was wrong — and a little right. You see, my team of designers/developers adopted several of my ideas and helped shape them into a solid, replicable model that allows us to do things much quicker, a little cheaper, and with much higher quality standards. But, we have never taken the next step, put our tools in the hands of our SMEs, and let them really build the learning experience. Our toolsets are easy, but the new bread of tools I am envisioning now will make design and development very transparent and simple.
That’s what REL is talking about — let’s streamline the process, give SMEs simple tools to work with, and reduce the long drawn out process of materials development and delivery. I have been looking into so many open source tools to take the place of the off-the-shelf products we all know about and I think there are some that will finally allow faculty or other SMEs the ability to design, develop, and deliver on their own. Everyone can argue that SMEs should focus on content, that quality will be undermined, or objectives won’t be met without the full on involvement of the instructional design team. I think, with a little training, some solid support, and the availablity of designers SMEs can create very solid instructional content that can be developed in the matter of days instead of weeks and months.
At any rate, just an interesting article that got me thinking that eLearning design really could stand to take some ques from rapid prototyping methodologies and get with the program … I think our community could really benefit from some new methodologies that put the SME/faculty back in the driver’s seat and allow them to take more ownership of the process. I think that day is coming and will get here very quickly if the toolsets to empower them become available. Just my two cents.