Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

10 January 2007

January’s ‘big’ question

Clark @ 9:41 AM

Ok, so the Learning Circuits Blog has their January Big Question out. I wonder where they get these? Are they solicited from questions real users have? That’d be cool. The reason I ask is this one seems like a no-brainer…

The question is: What are the trade offs between quality learning programs and rapid e-learning and how do you decide?

Actually, the short answer to the latter is which one will cost you less ;). If we think that by informing our learners of the reasoning and the change they’ll be able to make the change, we don’t need a full course. If we think that we’ll need to inform our learners of the change and then given them considerable practice to address reliable misconceptions in execution and hone their abilities before they won’t make mistakes that cost dollars and lives, we’ll need quality learning.

Which, of course, informs you of the tradeoffs. Quality learning costs more, but delivers reliable change. Rapid learning costs less, and works if you have compliant or expert learners who only need an information update to change their behaviors.

The point is that we need to be looking at a broader space of solutions than just elearning courses. If we move to a performance focus, we’ll see that there are times where just an update of how things have changed is sufficient, or we only need to change the references or job aids, and sometimes we have a need for a major change to skill set.


  1. The comments on this post are being tracked and aggregated as part of Learning Circuits Blog’s The Big Question for January. Thanks for participating, Clark!

    Comment by Dave Lee — 10 January 2007 @ 10:35 AM

  2. Clark:
    I agree that we can make better decisions once we move to a performance focus. But I have to disagree with your assumption that rapid learning (and development) is necessarily of inferior quality.

    One, by a corner stone tenet of project management if you are at a zero sum game situation you can still hold to quality (scope) and time, if you can add resources. At a company I’ve worked with, I saw a project’s budget jump 10 fold when key executives finally understood the threat to quality and time.

    Two, in order to assume that we are at a true zero sum game situation you would have to maintain that needs analysis, design, development and implementation have been squeezed dry of any waste in time or effort. You’d have to maintain that all learning professionals have perfect knowledge of all options available. As you point out, we’d also have all possible solutions freely available for our use. I believe that we’ve proven over the past decade that we can do alot more, with alot less if we accept that as our challenge.

    Comment by Dave Lee — 10 January 2007 @ 10:55 AM

  3. We (Dave Lee and I) make them up. Ideas are welcome.

    Comment by Tony Karrer — 11 January 2007 @ 3:11 PM

  4. Dave, actually, adding resources to a late project only makes it later, according to The Mythical Man Month an almost mythical book with great lessons learned. Which isn’t really what you were saying, but adding resources doesn’t necessarily mean you can then deliver it fast AND good (good fast cheap, pick any 2). So it’s not *really* a zero-sum game.

    That said, you’re right that I did rather assume the classic “narrate an expert’s powerpoint” as my definition of rapid elearning. But I also think that there are times when all you need is information, and yes it should be properly designed, and it can be quick and meet the need. I was distinguishing between that case and when there’s a major skill shift needed, and that’s the case where you’d have a harder time convincing me it can be designed and developed quickly.

    But this is one on which I’m willing to be wrong ;).

    Comment by Clark — 12 January 2007 @ 4:06 PM

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