Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Do you know your E-learning Buckets?

By Jonathan Shoaf

I've discovered recently I don't like the term e-learning. This is because I recently had to go through the process of understanding what salary you pay someone who is an e-learning developer. It turns out that it varies dramatically depending on who you ask. This is because everyone has a different idea of what e-learning is and what it takes to develop it.

So if you tell me you are an e-learning expert, it means nothing to me. You could be a beginning Captivate user creating a self-paced page turner, you could be a Flash developer melding ActionScript and Javascript to communicate with an LMS, or you could be an instructor maxing out whiteboards and breakout rooms in Adobe Connect to synchronously engage learners. The term e-learning covers a wide swath of teaching and learning using digital media.

E-learning needs to be categorized in different buckets depending on what the needs of the learner are. When I evaluate learning needs in my organization, here are some of the e-learning buckets I think about.

Self-Paced Learning
Self-paced learning content is typically consumed by learners at their own pace and time. It is a great way to get learning out to a large audience and can save time and money over traditional face-to-face learning. It is often the bane of the learning community because everyone has experienced a bad disengaging page turner that puts them to sleep. But when done right it can be a very good option for the learner.

Online Classroom
An online classroom offers many of the same benefits as face-to-face learning but it can be done remotely for a geographically dispersed group. In my experience this is one of the cheapest and quickest e-learning options.

Performance Support Systems
Electronic performance support systems provide just-in-time knowledge to learners who either don't have the time for other learning options. Also known as an EPSS, this type of system is great to house knowledge that is only used in rare cases.

Simulations are a great way to introduce learners to a real work environment where they can learn and experiment without fear of adverse consequences. Simulations can also be used as an EPSS when a learner needs to know something about the system but doesn't have access to a real system to test.

Knowledge Management Systems
Knowledge management is a collection of information for employees to learn from. In the past I've used systems like wikis, Lotus Notes, and SharePoint to serve as knowledge management systems. These systems contain documents or other multimedia that learners can access any time as needed.

Social and Collaborative Learning
Social learning environments are great ways for employees or experts to collaborate with each other and share experiences. Social environments I used a lot include Linked In and Twitter. I have found that organizations have been very slow to adopt these environment internally. I think this is an opportunity for the future.

Multimedia is a critical area for e-learning. It spans over every other bucket. Videos, animations, graphics, and audio can convey knowledge in ways that learners can grasp. In fact, videos can almost stand on their own as an e-learning option for a lot of projects.

What would you add to the e-learning bucket list?

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