I collect unemployment benefits which means that every two weeks I have to “certify” I’m still unemployed and that I’m still looking for work. This certification takes the form of answering a series of questions either online or over the telephone.
One of the questions I must answer is along the lines of “Did you attend school or training during this period?” Since I’m taking 3 graduate-level courses, 2 weeks ago I answered Yes. And that’s where the problems began.
After back and forth and all types of hassle, what I learned is this – “since you’re taking online courses, you aren’t attending a real school”. What the unemployment department meant is that I wasn’t in a brick and mortar building.
Since I’m taking online courses, I’m not attending a real school. And in a larger sense, that’s the problem, isn’t it?
As learning and development professionals, we spend time and effort to design and create good e-learning. We spend money on the latest e-learning software and then even more time learning to use that software. We network with other e-learning professionals, and we invoke adult learning theories, and e-learning theories and best practices. All of that, and the perception is still “online courses aren’t real school”.
And for those of us in the corporate world, how many times have we heard, “well, let’s just create some e-learning until they can come to the training session/induction/new-hire orientation and ‘really’ learn it”. Once again, the message is that online courses aren’t real school.
How do we change this perception? I have no idea.
What I do know is that we, learning and development professionals, are partly to blame. Every time we’re asked to create that e-learning to tide people over until they can come to an ILT and “really” learn it, we’re perpetuating this belief. Every time we create bad e-learning, we’re helping this thought grow deeper into the psyche of people. “Online courses aren’t real school.”
Every single one of us has made that compromise between what we know is best for our learners and the time-frame or resources allotted to us to do the training. Why do we make that compromise? It benefits no one. Bad e-learning is a waste of time and resources for everyone. When asked to create bad e-learning, say that. Tell people its a waste of money. Be honest. Otherwise you’re just feeding into the “online courses aren’t real school” myth.
Oh, you know they’ll fight back. You’ll hear things like:
- “But at least they’ll be familiar with the concepts when they come to training or class.” Or
- “Something is better than nothing.” Or my favorite,
- “But it’ll be a good reference resource for everyone.”
You know these statements are false – you know it in your gut, and you can pull out mountains of research to prove it. In the words of Nancy Reagan, Just Say No.
Be honest – you know learners won’t be familiar with the concepts because you know bad e-learning doesn’t result in a transfer of knowledge. Say so and pull out research to prove it!
Be honest. You know that using your time and effort to create something that won’t be remembered 5 minutes after completion is much much worse than having nothing. What the organization has lost is your time – how many hours did you spend creating this bad e learning, and what is your hourly rate? That money is gone forever from the organization. The organization has also lost all the work-hours of each person sitting through the horrific course. And if they can’t remember a thing about it in a week, then the company might as well just have paid them to sit and stare at a wall. Say so and pull out research to prove it!
Be honest because you know people don’t access bad e-learning as a reference. If you’ve just put a powerpoint up on your intranet and called it e-learning, how can the learners quickly and easily find the nugget of information they need? How can they easily print it or share it with others? How do they even know where to look for the information? Bad e-learning, by it’s very definition, is un-organized, un-searchable, and un-sharable. It cannot and will not be used for reference, and you must show that! Just ask the person you’re talking to the last time they used an e-learning course as reference material.
All I’m asking is that you fight the good fight when someone asks you to create bad e-learning.
The consequences to your organization can be measured in lost productivity and dollars.
The consequences to our profession are felt each time we hear “online courses aren’t real school”.