Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hey You Rapid e-Learning Peeps, Slooow Down and Take a Little Drive on the ISD Side of Town


When I read e-Learning Magazine's article by Bob Little, Rapid e-Learning Polarizes Opinion, I was very irked by it.  Especially when I read the following excerpt.
"While purists sneer that e-learning produced via rapid tools may lack quality in terms of adhering to instructional design principles and may just be brain dumps by subject matters experts, if such e-learning materials improve workers' performance, who can criticize their place in the learning and development armoury?"

I will say this, if they are not adhering to instructional design principles, then they are far less likely to improve workers' performance. I have never been a fan of the term rapid e-learning. I believe there are some great rapid development tools, but these still require sound instructional design, which takes time and effort, starting with a needs analysis.

As stated, I am not fond of the term rapid e-Learning, but I do not wish to be negative or come across as bashing efforts made under only good intentions. Here is the reality, not all organizations have the luxary of employing an instructional designer or perhaps enough instructional designers. However, they do wish to offer their staff online training. So, the subject matter experts gets a hold of the new fangled software that says "create e-learning in only a matter of hours" or some such thing. They then do their very best, but because they did not identify the learner's needs and create an effective course design it falls short and does not result in learning or impact behavior.

So, here is what I suggest.

First off, be willing to dedicate more time to the analysis and design phases of your project. Learn as much as you can about instructional design, more specifically e-learning design. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Follow e-learning blogs (the eLearningLearning blog community and eLearningPulse are chock full of great blogs)

  • Attend conferences (there are plenty of great e-learning conferences out there)

  • Join  e-learning and instructional design societies and groups (the eLearning Guild and ASTD both have plenty of books, articles, research, webinars, conferences and more)

  • Network with e-learning designers and ask for advice and reviews of your work (LinkedIn has plenty of e-learning and ID groups and Twitter is perfect for connecting with people in the e-learning world)

The more time you invest in instructional design, the more effective your courses will be and your audience will appreciate it too. And remember, sloooow doooown and spend some time in instructional design!


  1. I like your thoughts on this. You don't need to go to school for it, but it's a good idea to get the basics of ISD down. Once you know it, you can break the rules when you have a good reason to do so, add your creativity and think wildly about eLearning. It doesn't have to constrain you!

  2. Thank you for the comment. "...add your creativity and think wildly about eLearning." I absolutely agree! Once you have a solid design, creativity is especially important to keep learners' attention and to increase learner motivation. For me, I like to use humor (with care not to offend) and sometimes it is often a bit silly, but you can bet learners remember it.


  3. [...] Hey You Rapid e-Learning Peeps, Slooow Down & Take a Little Drive on ISD Side of Town [...]

  4. Thanks for raising the point here. I beg to differ though. I believe that most folks find it difficult to prepare great instruction that meets all requirements the first time. Instruction design is a time consuming, non-linear task. Beauty may appear later, starting is important. I am all for rapid style (see, agile course development methodology, for more details).


    Diipak Gupta,
    Chief eLearning evangelist,
    BigGyan Cloud eLearning

  5. Diipak,

    Thanks for the comments. I can only respond that it is difficult to prepare great instruction, but that is why anyone making attempts in e-learning needs to first have a solid foundation in instructional design. This does not mean one must have a degree, but at least tap into the endless resources on ISD that are available on the web, books, etc.



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