In trying to shift from a traditional elearning approach to a more enlightened one, a deeper one, you are really talking about viewing things differently, which is non-trivial. And then, even if you know you want to do better, you still need some associated skills. Take, for example, models.
I’ve argued before that models are a better basis for action, for making better decisions. Arbitrary knowledge is hard to recollect, and consequently brittle. We need a coherent foundation upon which to base foundations, and arbitrary information doesn’t help. If I see a ‘click to learn more’, for instance, I have good clue that someone’s presenting arbitrary information. However, as I concluded in the models article, “It‘s not always there, nor even easily inferable.” Which is a problem that I’ve been wrestling with. So here’re my interim thoughts.
Others have counseled that not just any Subject Matter Expert (SME) will do. They may be able to teach material with their stories and experience, and they can certainly do the work, but they may not have a conscious model that’s available to guide novices. So I’ve head that you have to find one capable. If you don’t, and you don’t have good source material, you’re going to have to do the work yourself. You might be able to find one in a helpful place like Wikipedia (and please join us in donating to help keep it going, would you please?), but otherwise you’re going to have to do the hard yards.
Say you’re wrestling with a list of things, like attacks on networks, or impacts on blood pressure. There is a laundry list of them, and there may seem to be no central order. So what do you do? Well, in these cases where I don’t have one, I make one.
For instance, in attacks on networks, it seems that the inherent structure of the network provides an overarching framework for vulnerabilities. Networks can be attacked digitally through password cracking or software vulnerabilities. The data streams could also be hacked either physically connecting to wires or intercepting wireless signals. Socially, you can trick people into doing wrong things too. Similarly with blood pressure, the nature of the system tells us that constricted or less flexible vessels (e.g. from aging) will increase blood pressure. Decreased volume in the system will decrease, etc.
The point is, I’m using the inherent structure to provide a framework that wasn’t given. Is it more than the minimum? Yes. But I’ll argue that if you want the information to be available when necessary, or rather that learners will be able to make the right decisions, this is the most valuable thing you can do. And it might take less effort overall, as you can teach the model and support making good inferences more efficiently than teaching all the use cases.
And is this a sufficient approach? I can’t say that; I haven’t spent enough time on other content. So at this point treat it like a heuristic. However, it gives you something you can at least take to a SME and have them critique and improve it (which is easier than trying to extract a model whole-cloth ;).
Now there might also be the case that there just isn’t an organizing principle (I’m willing to concede that, for now…). Then, you may need simply to ask your learners to do some meaningful processing on the material. Look, if you’re presenting it, then you’re expecting them to remember it. Presenting arbitrary information isn’t going to do that. If they need to remember it, have them process it. Otherwise, why present it at all?
Now, this is only necessary when you’re trying to do formal learning; it might be that you don’t have to get it in folks heads and can put it in the world. Do it if you can. But I believe that what will make a bigger difference for learners, for performers, will be the ability to make better decisions. And, in our increasingly turbulent times that will come from models, not rote information. So please, if you’re doing formal learning, do it right, and get the models you need. Beg, borrow, steal, or make, but get them. Please?
Andy Maikovich says
Well written. I had a client with a network issue that could be affected in numerous ways. “Okay, you see the network went down. What are you going to do?” “I’m going to look at X.” “Good. Looking at X is step one.”
It may take a long time to go through a large (but hopefully not infinite) number of variations, but you have to start somewhere. And if it really does take 100 steps to solve the problem, then it takes a hundred steps (unless you find a smarter SME who can do it in 50).
Andy, right, you need to get a good SME to begin with ;). Using models, I do believe that you don’t need to go through a large number of variations, but a representative sample that exercise the use of the model to make decisions. This exercise of the model across the right span of contexts supports abstraction and transfer, giving the ability to adapt it to the rest of the variations. (And nice to hear from you, hope all’s well!)