Tuesday, October 25

Dead Elephants in the E-Learning Room

As I work with organizations in developing e-learning, I am increasingly aware of dead elephants in the room, large reference points that we have to avoid because we can't wrap our minds around them. Here are some:
  • When you talk about development time, the context is downloadable flash based mini-games. Flash based mini-games, like this one, can be developed in just a few weeks. And yet they still have critical messages, and higher interactivity.
  • When you talk about manuals and online references, even FAQ's, the dead elephant in the room is Wiki's. Fluid, up to date, organic, they grow faster and are more accurate than most published documents. Wikipedia outgrew the Encylopedia Britannica.
  • When you talk about knowledge management, the hidden context is blogs and podcasts.
  • When you talk about interactivity in e-learning, the spector is of computer games. Clicking a few buttons now and then can just never compare with the total engagement of Halo 2.

What are some other dead elephants?


Trace Urdan said...

How about Google and knowledge management. Does an elegant taxonomy of content matter when Google can ferret out and instantly catalogue anything on a network?

Clark Aldrich said...

A celebrity! Hi Trace!


Anonymous said...

At least in a corporate world, I find the need for compliance and carefully crafted resources a barrier to those organic systems like Wiki. In a litigious society we can not afford to rely on non-sanctioned opinions. It is not an unsolvable problem but the push to democratic publishing simply cannot work when there can be only one official answer. For reference systems Wiki's are a non-starter.

Google style knowledge management is exactly what is needed (IMHO) and personally am trying to drive my organization in that direction.

David Wilson said...

An interesting thought Clark ... but why are the elephants avoided? Seems largely to be the wrong frame of reference of the decision maker. Maybe this is cultural risk rather than technical risk!

Some other possible dead elephants:

- E-learning (period!)to KM people
- assessment-centric content rather than content-centric assessment
- LMS as transactor rather than LMS as interface
- social learning rather than personal learning
- learning impact rather than learning objectives


Dave Lee said...

I'll dare say it. Are blogs, wiki's, etc. the dead elephants? Or are the dead elephants the ones saying we need to avoid using powerful learning tools?

DIsplay Name said...


Now the conversation is getting interesting.

Why does nobody talk about the elephant in the room? There is very little investment in learning products that embrace Web 2.0 principles. I think people don't even bother to ask for a learning content repository that feels more like Flickr, and supports tagging rather than taxonomy.

(see http://learning20.blogspot.com/2005/10/tagging-not-taxonomy.html)

There has been no new investment in learning management technologies since the mid 90's. At least not at the level there used to be.

Godfrey Parkin said...

It's easier to ignore an elephant when it's dead. Wikis are very much a living elephant, and will probably transform into an 800-pound gorilla within a year. And become first a dog and then a dead horse some time thereafter.

(All the e-world's a circus, and all the tools and concepts merely animals: they have their exits and their entrances; and one tool in its time plays many parts...)

Godfrey Parkin

Lee Kraus said...

Is Writely a dead elephant in the room?

Godfrey Parkin said...

One very large elephant that nobody wants to talk about is the increasing marginalization (and ultimate demise) of centralized training, and its implications for training departments as we have known them.

DIsplay Name said...

With Google Base perhaps you can allow Google to catalogue your learning content.

It should be some sort of XML feed, rather than requiring the user up FTP upload their data. I'm not sure if it is exposed to the public when uploaded either... but lets ignore the details for now and just think how wonderful something like that might be.

bschlenker said...

In response to Rob and compliance...the organic systems start the collaborative documentation process but don't need to be the final output. Once the document is completed then you can copy and paste it into your overpriced document management system that nobody uses until it's time for an audit. I totally understand that dead elephant but you must think about the process differently. Old school and new school CAN co-exist and create great benefits together.

The other dead elephant is power to the people, user created content. The big cheeses talk about trust and now its time to walk the walk. If you trust them, let them blog, wiki, and podcast...create, rip, mix, and feed their own learning content.

ContraryMan said...

How about educational multimedia in general (including mini-games). Synchronous teaching and video podcasting may have given traditional teaching techniques a new lease of life - online. They are quick and cheap to produce and every teacher or trainer can easily do it. Learners even like them. Great bang for your buck!


Mark Joyce said...

How about the virtual lack of systematic keyboarding instruction in schools? Ask around. Check it out!