A Plea for Some eLearning Help

A few years ago the design of eLearning seemed so obvious to me — align a systematic process, a team, and a technology platform to create courses to support resident or distance education. So much has happened in the online space the last couple of years that has shattered my thinking as it relates to the technology platform choice … I still think any project must be supported by the strategic alignment of factors (you know, something like people, process, and tools), but the notion of selecting a single eLearning design and development environment seems very difficult and confusing.

Friday, several colleagues and I spent close to two hours in our conference room talking about all of this. We were getting together to explore those three elements and discuss how we should move forward to support our new eLearning efforts. When I was the Director of the Solutions Institute we created a four-tier instructional design model that was supported by our Digital Design Document tool set that our team would use to manage the creation of eLearning. In the world of the web back then, it seemed OK to build courses that were page turners — really just textbooks on the web with a few interactive (Flash) activities thrown in. Today that just seems wrong and the team on Friday came to that conclusion. If we are going to really build a model for eLearning that we are proud of then we are going to have to think very differently about how we go about doing this. Over the last two years we’ve worked really hard to bring new tools to our campus to support digital expression — we came around to the notion that to do this right we should be promoting and leveraging those platforms in new ways.

What I struggle with is the idea of what is a really good eLearning environment these days? In my mind, a handful of pages of content that link and embed objects that drive student and faculty to engage in conversations (on or off line) seems to be the goal. With that said, why not design those content pages in a blog so students and faculty (and maybe people from the outside) can have conversations in context? Why are we still struggling with what the right eLearning tool set looks like when we are sitting in a world with dozens of content creation tools? The model we are trying to avoid consists of tons of static text pages that prompt students to leave the content and jump into a discussion forum to interact — I’ve never liked that, but now the technology supports what I am after … the opportunity for conversation at every level of a course experience.

So, at the start of our meeting we were exploring an eLearning design, development, and delivery tool … it is a powerful web-based environment, but it just didn’t seem to fit where our thinking was taking us. The group started by saying we should adopt and adapt it, but as the conversation grew we came around to a different conclusion — that what we needed was an environment to create and save the design information of the course (you know, a digital design document) and an easy way to connect content that is created in blogs, as podcasts, digital movies, or whatever else. We need a project management and communication environment that can be used to support a distributed team and a collection of content management tools to deliver the results from. This is all new thinking, but I am trying to piece together in my mind a path towards aligning the people, process, and the new set of technology tools we’ll need to get to the next level of eLearning design strategy.

I would love to hear from those of you out there who design courses and what works for you … what are the right tools and approaches? Think of a design environment that a team (with specific roles) is asked to create scalable eLearning materials … what are some examples of people ditching the all in one design/development environments to create courses that are made up of small pieces? Can we legitimately ask our faculty to work with us to select and deliver killer learning environments using the platforms we constantly talk about? Any thoughts for me?

7 thoughts on “A Plea for Some eLearning Help

  1. Sounds a bit like Jim’s EarlyAmericas course, built on WordPress.com and PBWiki.com


    I’m struggling with this too – most of the “course” projects we’ve had are shovelware page turners. Not effective or inspiring. But that’s what the clients are demanding. Much of the shift needs to happen behind the scenes, where people need to stop expecting static online books as the pinnacle of course design…

  2. I’m thinking…
    This is no trivial puzzle that has also occupied my thinking of late…I feel like the Grinch (who stole Christmas) in that my puzzler is getting sore on this particular issue…teachers and online teaching practice need the same level of thought, since the platform and tools are only 1/3 of the equation (the students and tools are coming along, but online teaching practice generally seems to be lag a smidgen…perhaps)
    I’m still puzzling and have shared your questions with our IDD group at World Campus.
    -Joel G.

  3. Joel … thanks for the comment and thank you for passing this along. I have some more thoughts to share on the topics and am wondering if getting a larger group of people to bang the conversation around would be worth while? Keep in mind that I am likely to act sooner rather than later on it and would love to get some feedback to where my head (and experience) is leading me. I also agree that learning design in general for the Internet needs more attention — I read you post on the subject and fully agree we cannot get caught up in the technology too much … it is after all, about learning.

  4. Hi Cole, Just checking in to see the state of innovative learning, and think I can offer a perspective for consideration . . . that of an online instructor, one committed to the cause but who still feels well behind the curve when it comes to using these technological tools. I’m just getting a blog going for the Music 007 courses, but not much action yet (since it’s not a course requirement). Anyway, I just want to say, yes, you can ask the faculty to work with you. And we want to work with you. But I think some of us will always be playing catch-up with the technology, and we’ll have to have these new tools explained to us. Even so, once we understand the capabilities of the various technologies, I think we’ll have something to offer when the talk turns to applications within our respective fields. Steve

  5. Steve, thanks for the comment! I have to say, watching faculty get turned onto using technology the right way to impact their teaching is what it is all about. The work you have done and continue to do is what we should be modeling — faculty members who are willing to go the distance in finding new and innovative ways of keeping students engaged.

    BTW, of all things, my Mom downloaded and listened to the podcast we did about a year ago and fell in love with it — I think she asked me something along the lines of “who is that guy? What a voice! What great music!” They were out visiting this past weekend and we sat down and listed to your album and they were hooked! Great stuff!

    As a pointer, take a look at “Little Kids Rock!” It is such a cool project. Keep pushing and keep trying new stuff … it pays off!

  6. Pingback: abtown » Blog Archive » A Plea for Some eLearning Help

  7. Pingback: Our eLearning Platform « Cole Camplese: Learning and Innovation

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.