Over the years, I’ve looked at a lot of learning technology. And I see a dispiriting trend. There seems to be little learning science of late. What I see are marketing driven decisions, even when there are claims to science! And I think this is a problem.
First, I generally resist the ‘let me show you our product and give us your opinion’. That’s free consulting, and a very rude ask! (Though I’m contemplating it but all they’ll get for free is the number of comments in each category I’ve noted. ;) Still I will investigate things of my volition at times. I end up seeing a lot of technology by checking it out when someone talks about it, or wandering expo halls. And what I see concerns me.
For one, there are too many tools that have suites of features that are oriented towards ‘information dump and knowledge test’. Which we know isn’t going to lead to meaningful learning. Yet when I try to push them to the next level of engagement (cognitive and emotional), they’re uninterested. The response: “this is what our customers say they want”. Which, of course, isn’t what they need.
It gets worse when supposedly more advanced tools are proselytized. I recently sampled one system promoting their advanced memory model. And the free-to-air course on learning science was broken! It failed on a couple of dimensions beyond drilling rote memory about one thing. That’s not a good example to be showing. Yet people who don’t know better might be enthused.
For a quick test, check to see if there’s anyone who understands learning on the executive team of a vendor. You’ll see all the business roles filled. Some might have advisory boards composed of learning folks, but it’s not clear what role they play.
And I get it. Unfortunately, as an industry, we’re not informed consumers. I see continual conceptually fuzzy promotion of ideas, and even societies offering white papers on the latest buzzwords. It’s business, and with business folks in charge (and shareholders to assuage), they’ll do what people want. Yet this isn’t the professionalism we need.
Ok, so this rant doesn’t taint all companies, but it’s too true for many or most. It’s all too easy to look at the typical offerings and point out the fundamental flaws in what they’re doing, if you know how we learn. And you should.
So, I’ll continue on my crusade for us as an industry to lift our game. I hereby offer to assist any learning technology that wants to put it’s money where it’s mouth is to help them understand learning science, build it into their products, and help them promote the benefits. And I likewise offer any organization using learning technology to help them lift their game and be better consumers. I’ve done both before, and am ready to assist others. Because our learners need us to represent their true interests.