I regularly rail against cookie-cutter learning design, boring elearning, etc. I like to blame it on designers who don’t know the depths of learning behind the elements of design, and perhaps also on managers who don’t work to ensure that the learning objectives are tied closely to meaningful business outcome. And I think that’s true, but of course there’s another culprit as well: clients who just ask for the same old thing!
I regularly work with a couple of partners who use me when there’s a need to go to the ‘next level’, whether it’s to mobile, pushing the engagement envelope, or working more strategically (that’s one of the way I help clients, too). However, too often they’re just asked to turn content into courses, and the clients don’t care that the learning objectives in that content are too low-level, too knowledge-focused, completely abstract or de-contextualized, and generally not meaningful. Now, my partners generally push back a bit, trying to help the client realize the value of a deeper design, but many times the client doesn’t want to put any more money in, doesn’t want to think about it, they just want that course up with a quiz (even with a pre-test!, *shudder*). And my partners will go along, because creating elearning is their business and they can’t just turn away work.
And I’ve heard that from in-h0use departments as well. As one of the attendees at my strategic elearning workshop a couple of months ago said, the managers from other business units say “just do that stuff you do” and don’t want any deeper thought into it. They want it fast, based upon the content, and apparently don’t care that it isn’t going to lead to any meaningful change. Or don’t know the difference. Hey, they learned that way, so it must be OK, right?
However, I think we owe it to the learners, to those clients, and to ourselves to start educating those clients, internal or external, about good learning. You’ve got to know it yourself first, of course, but once you’re doing it anyway, there’s really no extra overhead at the first level. But you want to start pushing back: “what’s the behavior that needs to change/”, or “what decisions do they need to be able to make that they can’t make correctly now?” And, we need to ask “how will you know that it’s changed? What are the metrics that you’re trying to impact?” Once you’ve got them thinking about measurable change, you have the opportunity to start talking about meaningful impact and good design to achieve outcomes.
Frankly, you can’t complain about relevance to the organization if you’re not fighting to achieve better outcomes, ones that matter. So, educate yourselves, improve your processes, and then fight to be doing more meaningful stuff. Hey, we’re supposed to be about learning, and marketing our services is really about good customer education! Get them educated, and get to be doing more meaningful and consequently rewarding design.