Monday, August 1

Invite or Seduce?

Dan Klein, the former VP of PeopleSoft's Education Department, once told me that "We need to invite the learner into the learning." His statement reminded me of another one I heard at a TechLearn conference years before. A brilliant and dreadlocked speaker named Jared said "We must learn to seduce the learner into the learning."

So I've had this debate for years with more people than I can remember: Invite or seduce.

Invite is direct. It says that "Here's an interesting learning experience that we'd like to invite you to" or "Please attend this elearning program since you have expressed an interest, and we think you will find it useful." This is inviting versus the "My supervisor/manager/boss told me to take this course" or "This course was part of my annual review to make me smarter", which I call coercing.

Seduction is more subtle. I think about the Sickle Cell Anemia program developed by Roger Schank that I was seduced into. The opening screen is a video of a woman asking the person passing by for "Help!" It's an appeal to the viewer's altruism and 'seduces' you into finding out why she needs help. Turns out a relative has just been diagnosed with Sickle Cell and she needs help figuring out what to do. You can go to the Doctor, Library, Class or Relative With Sickle Cell. Either way you learn a lot about the disease by the time you go back and answer her questions.

I suspect that both are difficult to do well. Invite presupposes that you know what the student wants to learn. Seduce assumes that you can be clever enough to get someone to learn something they might not otherwise spend the time learning, even if they were invited. Seduction seems to be the more powerful of the two.

So which is it? Or there's no real difference. Or "Who cares! No one does it anyway!" Weigh in readers and be heard. Do the learners need to be invited or seduced into the learning?

We did a quick Flash Poll to get people's thoughts on what the best way to interest learners in a subject is: an invitation or seducing them. As you can see from the results below, seduction is a clear winner!

Invite or seduce poll

If you didn't get a chance to vote in the Flash Poll, drop us a note as a comment to this post. Or give your thoughts on the results of the poll.


David Grebow said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan said...

I was invited, not seduced, to take the poll; yet had I been seduced, I would feel rather jaded ;-)

The question makes a rather gross presumption that there is a single way to motivate learners, and I have rather strong objections to such singularities.

My honest answer there is an appropriate time and place for both approaches (and others), yet neither one resonates with me as a strategy I would put into my design process... I think it is most important that the learning that being offered is done so in a matter that amkes it personally or professionally important/relevant to me-- the relevance to my own goals and need is key, not the strength of an invitation or the allure of a seduction.

Clark Aldrich said...

I think we should institute a "no gross presumptions" rule on this blog!

(oh wait, that would eliminate everything I say)

I do wonder though, if seduction requires customization.

Ben Watson said...

I think the 3 options are dictate, invite or seduce. Forcing people to learn (dictate) rarely works for online learning while invitations seem to lack the necessary pull while seduction seems the best bet to grab a learner unaware. Seduction is about giving the learner subtle choices and letting him choose to engage.

A lot has changed for learning online especially with regard to improvements within the learning event itself (i.e. adding simulations, animation, audio, video, better understanding of how people learn online etc.) but I still feel that we are weak when it comes to initially engaging people before entering the learning event.

Fortunately we are now starting to focus on the entire learning process versus the individual learning events with an eye on what happens before/during/after each learning event (whereas for a long time vendors just focused on the 'during' component). With vendors introducing web services into their solutions you are now starting to see data on what is happening inside a learning event being exposed externally. Things like
- RSS for content syndication (i.e. showing that there has been 3 new posts to the discussion forum of the course you took last month on oyur perosnalized intranet homepage)
- presence awareness ('there are 5 people in the course right now, click here to see who')
- rating and ranking (this course is rated number one by your peers, view their comments)

All of these may appeal to different types of people in different ways but are proving effective in getting people 'through the door' and then it is up to the learning event. It is about giving people reminders in different ways in different places at different times that learning that is relevant to them is available. For example a reminder that a 3min tutorial on how to fill out your expense report is best put on the page where you fill out or download the report template. (or better yet seduce them by saying 'get your expense report approved faster by making less errors - spend 5min finding out how'

So seduction is now more feasible than ever as a valuable way of motivating people as part of an overall marketing/engagement plan.

"24 people from your department took the ABC course this week - should you? Click here to find out more."

Of course the more we blur learning and work together (aka Jay Cross' workflow learning model) the less we will have to seduce people to take learning that is related to their current job as it will occur more naturally by being relevant versus having to be forced.

But the issue of how to grow employees for promotion is where seduction may be even more useful for it is easier to map learning to your current job role as the requirements are known but exposing an employee to what is available for career advancement and helping him chose is far more trickier.

I may be in accounting today but after taking the course on sales I found I really enjoyed it and want to move in that direction in the future.

In the end I don't know what I don't know so any method that helps me cut through the clutter will motivate me more than a link to a catalog of courses.

David Grebow said...

Okay, I'm surprised. I would have thought "Invited" would be leading. Looks like "Seduction" is ahead. Now I'm trying to walk that fine line between seduction and manipulation.

Or is it Occam's Razor I mistook for the tightrope?

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