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.
Guy W. Wallace says
We are, as they say, Opportunity Rich. Which is disheartening. Thanks for your continued crusade!
Thank you for this section:
“For a quick test, check to see if thereâ€™s anyone who understands learning on the executive team of a vendor. Youâ€™ll see all the business roles filled. Some might have advisory boards composed of learning folks, but itâ€™s not clear what role they play.”
I used to be a vendor & have that learning background. Now I am on the “other side” and this is where I go first when reviewing possible vendors – who was involved in the design/development & do they have credibility?
Debbie Carlton says
The last line says it all for me. Learners/individuals are never true stakeholders in any of these solutions….if not THE stakeholder. It is all too easy to build a platform and to blind customers with engaging apps but rarely are there robust proven methodologies underneath which means any algorithmic structures are flawed or dumb.
Guy Boulet says
In the field of learning as in others, we tend to confuse the opinion of “experts” with science. A so-called expert saying that some technology is good is not a scientific proof of the instructional value of that technology.
We also need to be careful of what they promise. When they say, as an example, that gamification will make your training more engaging, they do not promise it will be more efficient or more effective. It will just be more engaging and being engaged in poor instructional material doesn’t make it better.
As learning stakeholders, we must give more thought to science and less to the so-called expertise of vendors.