First blog post! What’s the difference between poor and excellent eLearning?

This is my first blog post, all about eLearning!

To introduce myself, I am Megan, an eLearning developer from the UK who is passionate about online learning and the learner experience.  I have been creating eLearning for about 7 years. You can read more about me and my interests on my About Me page.

My first blog post it going to be about ‘What’s the difference between poor and excellent eLearning?’

I have created and viewed a lot of eLearning in my time as a developer, and I have seen some pretty awful work, some very exceptional work, and everything in between. So what makes some eLearning excellent, and other eLearning mediocre?

I will use a quote from the late Steve Jobs here who said “Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.’  Despite having little knowledge of baseball, I think I get what he’s saying!

In other words, eLearning is about learning (the hint is in the title).  Learning experiences should be planned and executed in a way that allows the learner to absorb, retain and use the information, and gives them a positive experience of that learning.

Some eLearning doesn’t facilitate learning.

I think it’s fair to conclude that some eLearning is just a serious of graphics and text. The most interaction the user gets is when they click the next button repeatedly to try and get through the task as quickly as possible, particularly if it’s a topic that they have limited interest in.  They then come across an assessment at the end of the eLearning, usually in the form of a ‘quiz’. They attempt it by simply guessing the answers, which they manage fairly well, seeing as the wrong answers are so obvious. Hurray, success, they have completed the boring eLearning. Now they can go back to what they were doing before, which is likely to be of more worth than the hour they just wasted.

The question is, did they learn anything? Possibly, if they haven’t fallen asleep part way through, or skipped half of the content. Was it a positive learning experience? No. Does it facilitate long term memory storage of the information and actual behaviour change? No.

We must pay attention to learning theory. It exists for a reason.

The art of teaching is about imparting knowledge on to others in a way that they will understand and be able to process, turn into a long term memory, and put into practice. eLearning is teaching, without the teacher.  It has to provide the user with another information and activity to enable them to learn without a human facilitator. I passionately feel that eLearning developers or instructional designers should have some teaching experience or at least study various theories of learning before they can really create quality eLearning experiences. Without it, they are in danger of merely presenting information and then assessing the user on it, as described in the bad example of eLearning above.

There are many theories of learning, and I won’t go into them in detail here, as it’s worth at least one dedicated blog entry of it’s own. But any decent eLearning project should always be based around a solid plan for how the user is going to actually learn something by participating in the eLearning.

Excellent use of learning theory + impressive graphic design = Exceptional eLearning

I feel that if you can combine excellent use of learning theory with some impressive, consistent and well presented visuals, you could be on your way to creating exceptional eLearning.  Again, graphic design in eLearning deserves a blog post or two all of it’s own, so I won’t go into details here.

That’s all for now, look out for my next blog post!

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