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

2 February 2017

Reordering the Serious eLearning Manifesto

Clark @ 8:09 am

So, as you may know (and if you don’t, you should), almost three years ago now I teamed up with colleagues Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, & Will Thalheimer (all worth knowing about) and put together the Serious eLearning Manifesto.  And I believe it’s a good thing. But it needs an update.

So, we were (and are) frustrated with what was and is happening under the rubric of eLearning.  Michael was intrigued by the concept of Serious Games, and wondered why we didn’t treat elearning seriously as well. (A rant I’ve made before ;). He came up with the idea of a manifesto, and we agreed to work with him on it.  And we finalized a list of 8 ways in which typical elearning differed from what we call Serious eLearning, and 22 research concepts behind it (drawn from work across decades and around the world, we don’t claim to own it). And we put it out there for free (Michael graciously sponsored it through his company with no attribution).

We don’t claim that these are the only ways that good elearning differs from what’s typically seen, of course, we just feel that these are the eight most serious ones that, if followed, have the biggest impact on your learning outcomes.  It wasn’t easy getting the four of us to agree, and we’ve received quite a few suggestions of how it could be expanded or improved, but we’re comfortable that this is a reasonable stance to take.

And it’s gotten a reasonable amount of attention. We had 30+ ‘trustees’ who put their names to it (and many more worthies would have), as well as sponsorship by the appropriate societies.  We’ve been given opportunities to speak and present about it. And we’ve got an ever-growing list of signatories. People recognize that it’s right, even if it hasn’t gotten the traction we’d like (e.g. everyone making a concerted effort to shift to it since it’s release).


When I explain it to others, I realize that I have a trouble with the ordering.  Most of it’s great, but one element somehow slipped out of position, in my mind.  So I’ve made an attempt to remedy that, reordering the list. I’ve made this as similar to the original graphic as possible, except that I’m not using the right fonts. So sue me.

What’s different is that I’ve grouped Real-World Consequences with Authentic Contexts and Realistic Decisions. The consequences naturally follow from realistic decisions made in authentic contexts. Then we can talk about Spaced Practice and Individualized Challenges. The latter of which, by the way, is the only thing that is (mostly) specific to elearning, otherwise it’s applicable to learning in general. The rest is the same.

So this is the version that I’ll be using, going forward.  I still hope you’ll visit the site, sign on, and work towards it. No one expects you to get all the way right away, but it is the right way to go.  If you need help, I’m happy to assist.



  1. I saw this when it came out. The thing I notice about these is that they are nor about elearning. You could make the case for each of them in a non elearning setting.

    Comment by Andy Houghton — 6 February 2017 @ 2:30 am

  2. Solid points made and aligns well with the competency designs that many educational institutions are now putting into place. I would offer that one addition might be to expand, or focus, on deeper and more authentic assessment strategies. Thanks for looking and thinking ahead! – bill

    Comment by William Ryan — 6 February 2017 @ 4:57 am

  3. Good points. Andy, yes, we debated that we do believe these go beyond elearning, but few that our area of credibility was elearning ;). Though individualized challenges is potentially one that’s easier to address technologically rather than via instructor. Bill, thrilled to hear if more institutions are moving to competencies. I think it’s a potential catalyst for important change (as measurement could be for org learning). I think we figured that assessment was in there; that is, if you get the right decisions and consequences. It’s certainly in the 22 principles that follow the 8 values! Thanks for the feedback.

    Comment by Clark — 6 February 2017 @ 8:00 am

  4. If there’s nothing ‘e’ in what you’re doing, then I really don’t understand how you can claim it to be serious elearning. Personally, I think you’re going do the wrong track. I would look for principles which can then be reflected through techniques – at least that would show something of the ‘e’.

    Comment by Andy Houghton — 6 February 2017 @ 8:28 am

  5. Andy, what’s being done in elearning doesn’t reflect what we know about learning. We were embarrassed about the state of the industry, so we were trying to remedy that. We think these principles do reflect practical changes. However, if you want help to understand how the principles play out, you can see this article I wrote for the Litmos blog that points out how the manifesto relates to a demo course I did with a partner: http://www.litmos.com/blog/articles/how-to-design-using-a-course-using-the-elearning-manifesto That may help.

    Comment by Clark — 6 February 2017 @ 8:57 am

  6. Clark – I understand what you’re doing and why. However, if you work at a principle level it will be true no matter what the delivery method is, but in my view – and just as an example – Enable Learners to Learn from Mistakes – is not a principle about learning – it’s a statement about what you do (kinda).

    I think the industry is in the state it is in for three main reasons:
    people who write,talk and create elearning very rarely do any for their own purposes
    many people in elearning actually have little background in teaching/training
    there are no principled approaches (what I would call a principle) in practice – this is about language teaching but very good on looking at principles and techniques http://www.slideshare.net/ahlam7dreams/larsen-freemantechniquesandprinciplesinlanguageteaching

    Comment by Andy Houghton — 6 February 2017 @ 9:25 am

  7. And no one, no one thought to tell me that I’d misspelled feedback? Now remedied!

    Comment by Clark — 22 March 2017 @ 11:48 am

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