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What's happening in the world of digital learning?

  • Ashleigh Hull

Escape Plans: When Bad Elearning Turns You Into Houdini

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Does learning have to be so boring?

We've all been there with compliance training. Someone sits us down in front of a video or PowerPoint or employee handbook, and even before we get started we're wishing we were somewhere else. Halfway through we're dreaming up escape plans that involve getting a wrecking ball or a rampaging herd of elephants to crash through the wall and cause a distraction. (Or is that just me?) And by the end, by the time we can finally stumble away from the hellhole and into the light again, we've spent more time thinking about how much we don't want to be there than we have actually taking in information. A week later we couldn't tell you a thing we'd learned.

Elearning is something I am gradually becoming passionate about. When I started my job here, I didn't even really know what the term meant. But by what I can only assume is a process of osmosis, I find myself starting to understand and even care. I care about elearning being engaging, and relevant, and fun. I care about how it teaches and how it helps people to retain what they learn. I care about it being the opposite of boring.

And so do these guys. In March last year, Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn and Will Thalheimer put their heads together and released the Serious eLearning Manifesto - a declaration about 'creating uniquely valuable learning experiences'.

Here are the values and characteristics of Serious eLearning:

Brilliant, right?

Not new things. Not new ideas. But they are so important, and so easy to forget the value of.

They're based on 22 supporting principles, which again aren't new things - but they're the kind of things that can be easy to wander from unless someone points us back in the right direction. Just to give you a taster, my top 3 principles:

  • Provide realistic practice

  • Adapt to learner needs

  • Use interactivity to prompt deep engagement

  • Enable learners to learn from mistakes

Alright, yes, that's four. I couldn't choose.

Serious fun.

Let's talk about money laundering.

Not as a viable career option, but because it illustrates what I'm getting at here.

People in the legal and financial markets are engaged in regular compliance training for anti-money laundering, mainly using elearning and online assessments. You wouldn't know it, but the goal of this training isn't actually the memorisation of facts and policies. It's to manage risk, to identify problems - to prevent money laundering!

The current learning involves doing exactly the same tests year after year. People can do them with their eyes shut. People can get other people to do the test for them. It's a pretty useless system. Passing a test like this isn't going to make you any better at catching someone who's laundering money. You'll know what the law is, and that's about it.

Surely it makes more sense to design a course that focuses on real-world scenarios and makes people aware of risks. Surely it makes more sense to create an environment where people have to think, to react. Why not make a game? Why not give people challenges and evaluate their decisions? You don't need to ask them about the law. If they know the law, they'll make the right decisions.

This is what I mean by learning that's engaging; relevant; the opposite of boring. It can be so easy to stick with old methods simply because they're what you've always used, even if they make people consider tunnelling through the floor to get out. But what I think, and what the Manifesto declares, is that learning doesn't have to be like this. There is a brighter way.

Magnificent learning, anyone?

Perhaps you also care about elearning. I'd assume that's why you're on this blog. Why not give us a call and chat through your elearning possibilities? You'll find yourself in like-minded company, I assure you. Transition is all about creating learning that's valuable. Learning that's good.

Learning that makes you want to stay in the room and engage with it, rather than summon a flock of eagles to get you out.

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