Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Big Question - Rapid or Quality

Clive Sheppard has posted an interesting response to Learning Circuits Big Question for January. As I quite like the point he is making, I'm commenting to that rather than the original question per say. I like the sentiments but think he's (maybe deliberately to state his point) misinterpretting the question.

Rapid e-learning is a marketing label being put on the use of a new form of tools for use by non-elearning specialists for creation of e-learning content. This will tend to be done rapidly as its a more collapsed development model - especially if its the SME doing the development. Or that's the theory anyway - and quite a popular one at this point in time.

But I don't really buy that.

If tools are more rapid, then they should be being used by the professional developers anyway. That's unless they turn out not to be very good, flexible, reliable or expensive. The reality is that these tools often have limitations. The ones that don't are often complex to use and therefore are just a more modern authoring tool.

But the issue for rapid e-learning is not about the tools, it is about the process, and about the expertise of people in the process. A collapsed development model also means collapsing the expertise involved. With SME production that means minimal e-learning or even learning expertise (e.g. instructional design). It also often means limited technology understanding or knowledge of the tools and associated standards. "What do I have to do to get this to create SCORM 2005 conformant content that can be uploaded into the LMS?" is not necessarily a question we would expect a SME to ask.

In many ways, this the essence of the debate; rapid versus professional content production.

Our (Elearnity) view is that rapid is a necessary part of a diversification of e-learning away from a pure e-course model (which was always too limiting) towards a more holistic technology enabled learning model. We also believe that tools for supporting mass internal production need to be more connected or shared in order to be more scalable and manageable. Individual local content production replicates the bad experiences of unmanageable document-based content. Finally, for the "rapid" elements, the whole process must be rapid, not just the development process. Rapid content needs to be able to be quality assured and tested, uploaded deployed and accessable, and maintainable or removable all in a rapid timescale at low cost.



Clive Shepherd said...

We're not far apart. I agree with Elearnity's view that the whole e-course thing is becoming much less relevant and that the rapid development of content 'bites' fits better with a more holistic view of e-/blended learning.

Dave Lee said...

The comments on this post are being tracked and aggregated as part of Learning Circuits Blog's The Big Question for January. Thanks for participating, David!

Dave Lee said...

I really don't think you are that far "off question" from the Big Question. Maybe that's because I agree with you.

I hadn't thought about it this way before reading your post, but what you've made clear to me is that the problem with rapid elearning is it's focus on technology as the solution. Which has almost always resulted in mediocre results because the real issue is what humans do with the technology available to them.

I suggest that your a bit off on the essence of the debate though. It's not rapid v. professional content production. The content production question is one of non-professional v. professional development. Which then circles us back to the question of what is a professional in our field and how do we bring others to value that professionalism.