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

19 April 2017

Top 10 Tools for @C4LPT 2017

Clark @ 8:06 AM

Jane Hart is running her annual Top 100 Tools for Learning poll (you can vote too), and here’s my contribution for this year.  These are my personal learning tools, and are ordered according to Harold Jarche’s Seek-Sense-Share models, as ways to find answers, to process them, and to share for feedback:

  1. Google Search is my go-to tool when I come across something I haven’t heard of. I typically will choose the Wikipedia link if there is one, but also will typically open several other links and peruse across them to generate a broader perspective.
  2. I use GoodReader on my iPad to read PDFs and mark up journal submissions.  It’s handy for reading when I travel.
  3. Twitter is one of several ways I keep track of what people are thinking about and looking at. I need to trim my list again, as it’s gotten pretty long, but I keep reminding myself it’s drinking from the firehose, not full consumption!  Of course, I share things there too.
  4. LinkedIn is another tool I use to see what’s happening (and occasionally engage in). I have a group for the Revolution, which largely is me posting things but I do try to stir up conversations.  I also see and occasionally comment on posting by others.
  5. Skype let’s me stay in touch with my ITA colleagues, hence it’s definitely a learning tool. I also use it occasionally to have conversations with folks.
  6. Slack is another tool I use with some groups to stay in touch. People share there, which makes it useful.
  7. OmniGraffle is my diagramming tool, and diagramming is a way I play with representing my understandings. I will put down some concepts in shapes, connect them, and tweak until I think I’ve captured what I believe. I also use it to mindmap keynotes.
  8. Word is a tool I use to play with words as another way to explore my thinking. I use outlines heavily and I haven’t found a better way to switch between outlines and prose. This is where things like articles, chapters, and books come from. At least until I find a better tool (haven’t really got my mind around Scrivener’s organization, though I’ve tried).
  9. WordPress is my blogging tool (what I’m using here), and serves both as a thinking tool (if I write it out, it forces me to process it), but it’s also a share tool (obviously).
  10. Keynote is my presentation tool. It’s where I’ll noodle out ways to share my thinking. My presentations may get rendered to Powerpoint eventually out of necessity, but it’s my creation and preferred presentation tool.

Those are my tools, now what are yours?  Use the link to let Jane know, her collection and analysis of the tools is always interesting.

12 April 2016

Top 10 Tools for Learning 2016

Clark @ 8:11 AM

It’s that time again: Jane Hart is running her 2016 (and 10th!) Top 100 Tools for Learning poll. It’s a valuable service, and points out some interesting things and it’s interesting to see the changes over time.  It’s also a way to see what others are using and maybe find some new ideas.  She’s now asking that you categorize them as Education, Training & Performance Support, and/or Personal Learning & Productivity.  All of mine fall in the latter category, because my performance support tools are productivity tools! So here’re my votes, FWIW:

Google Search is, of course, still my top tool. I’m looking up things several if not many times a day. It’s often a gateway to Wikipedia, which I heavily rely on, but a number of times I find other sources that are equally valuable, such as research or practice sites that have some quality inputs.

Books are still a major way I learn. Yes, I check out books from the library and read them.  I also acquire and read them on my iPad, such as Jane’s great Modern Workplace LearningIn my queue is Jane Bozarth’s Show Your Work. 

Twitter is a go-to. I am pointed to many serendipitously interesting things, and of course I point to things as well. The learning chats I participate in are another way twitter helps.  Tweetdeck is my twitter tool; columns are a must.

Skype is a tool I use for communicating with folks to get things done, but also to have conversations (e.g. with my ITA colleagues), whether chat or voice.

Facebook is also a way I stay in touch with friends and colleagues (those colleagues that I also consider friends; Facebook is more a personal learning tool than a business tool for me).

LinkedIn is a way to stay in touch with people, and in particular the L&D Revolution group is where I want to keep the dialog alive about the opportunity. The articles in LinkedIn are occasionally of interest too, and it’s always an education to see who wants to link ;).

WordPress is my blogging tool (where you’re at right now), and it’s a way I think ‘out loud’ and the feedback I get is a wonderful way to learn.  Things that eventually appear in presentations and writing typically appear here first, and some of the work I do for others manifests here (typically anonymized).

Word is my go-to writing tool, and while I use Pages at times too (e.g. if I’m traveling with my iPad), Word is my industrial strength tool.  Writing forces me to get concrete about my thinking.

Omnigraffle is as always my diagramming tool, and it’s definitely a way I express and refine my thinking.  Obviously, you’ll see my diagrams here, but also in presentations and articles/chapters/books. And, of course, my mindmaps.

Keynote is my presentation creating tool. I sometimes have to export to PowerPoint, but Keynote is where I work natively.  It helps me turn my ideas from diagrams and/or writing into a story to tell with visual support.

So those are my ‘learning’ tools, for now. Some are ‘content’, some are social media, some are personal representational tools, but reading and talking with others and representing my own thinking are  major learning activities for me.


7 July 2015

2015 top 10 tools for learning

Clark @ 7:39 AM

Jane Hart has been widely and wisely known for her top 100 Tools for Learning (you too can register your vote).  As a public service announcement, I list my top 10 tools for learning as well:

  1. Google search: I regularly look up things I hear of and don’t know.  It often leads me to Wikipedia (my preferred source, teachers take note), but regularly (e.g. 99.99% of the time) provides me with links that give me the answer i need.
  2. Twitter: I am pointed to many amazing and interesting things via Twitter.
  3. Skype: the Internet Time Alliance maintains a Skype channel where we regularly discuss issues, and ask and answer each other’s questions.
  4. Facebook: there’s another group that I use like the Skype channel, and of course just what comes in from friends postings is a great source of lateral input.
  5. WordPress: my blogging tool, that provides regular reflection opportunities for me in generating them, and from the feedback others provide via comments.
  6. Microsoft Word: My writing tool for longer posts, articles, and of course books, and writing is a powerful force for organizing my thoughts, and a great way to share them and get feedback.
  7. Omnigraffle: the diagramming tool I use, and diagramming is a great way for me to make sense of things.
  8. Keynote: creating presentations is another way to think through things, and of course a way to share my thoughts and get feedback.
  9. LinkedIn: I share thoughts there and track a few of the groups (not as thoroughly as I wish, of course).
  10. Mail: Apple’s email program, and email is another way I can ask questions or get help.

Not making the top 10 but useful tools include Google Maps for directions, Yelp for eating,  Good Reader as a way to read and annotate PDFs, and Safari, where I’ve bookmarked a number of sites I read every day like news (ABC and Google News), information on technology, and more.

So that’s my list, what’s yours?  I note, after the fact, that many are social media. Which isn’t a surprise, but reinforces just how social learning is!

Share with Jane in one of the methods she provides, and it’s always interesting to see what emerges.

22 July 2014

Top 10 Tools for Learning

Clark @ 8:05 AM

Jane Hart compiles, every year, a list of the top 10 tools for learning.  And, of course, it’s that time again, so here we go. I like what Harold Jarche did about tagging his list with the steps of his Seek-Sense-Share model for Personal Knowledge Mastery, so I’m adding that as well. In no particular order:

1. Word: I write most of my articles and books in Word.  The outline feature is critical for me (and the main reason I haven’t switched to Pages, it’s just not industrial strength) in structuring my thoughts, and writing is one of the ways I think out loud. Sense & Share.

2. WordPress: the other way I write out loud is on my blog (like this), and my blog is powered by WordPress. Share.

3. OmniGraffle: diagramming is the other way I think out loud, and I’m regularly getting my mind around things by diagramming. Sense.

4. Google: the core tool in my searching for answers for things.  Seek.

5. Twitter: a major source of input, pointing to things of interest.  Seek.

6. Facebook: also a source of insight. Seek.

7. Skype: continues to be the way I stay in touch with my ITA colleagues (Seek, Sense, & Share)

8. Mail: email is still a major tool for getting pointers, staying in touch, asking questions, etc. (Seek, Share)

9. Keynote: creating presentations is another way I organize my thoughts to share. Sense & Share.

10. OmniOutliner: another way of organizing my thoughts.  A different tool for the same purpose.  Sense.

What tools do you use?

21 September 2012

Top 10 Tools for Learning

Clark @ 6:22 AM

Among the many things my colleague Jane Hart does for our community is to compile the Top 100 Tools for learning each year.  I think it’s a very interesting exercise, showing how we ourselves learn, and the fact that it’s been going on for a number of years provides interesting insight.  Here are my tools, in no particular order:

WordPress is how I host and write this Learnlets blog, thinking out loud.

Keynote is how I develop and communicate my thinking to audiences (whether I eventually have to port to PPT for webinars or not).

Twitter is how I track what people find interesting.

Facebook is a way to keep in touch with a tighter group of people on broader topics than just learning. I’m not always happy with it, but it works.

Skype is a regular way to communicate with people, using a chat as a backchannel for calls, or keeping open for quick catch ups with colleagues.  An open chat window with my ITA colleagues is part of our learning together.

OmniGraffle is the tool I use to diagram, one of the ways I understand and communicate things.

OmniOutliner often is the way I start thinking about presentations and papers.

Google is my search tool.

Word is still the way I write when I need to go industrial-strength, getting the nod over Pages because of it’s outlining and keyboard shortcuts.

GoodReader on the qPad is the way I read and markup documents that I’m asked to review.

That’s 10, so I guess I can’t mention how I’ve been using Graphic Converter to edit images, or GoToMeeting as the most frequent (tho’ by no means the only) web conferencing environment I’ve been asked to use.

I exhort you to also pass on your list to Jane, and look forward to the results.

3 August 2010

My Top 10 Learning Tools

Clark @ 12:50 PM

My ITA colleague Jane Hart regularly collects the top 100 learning tools via contributions from lots of folks.  It’s a fascinating list, worth looking at. I couldn’t use her submission sheet (some sort of system bug), so I thought I’d make an annotated post.

There are several categories of tools here.  Harold Jarche talks about our personal knowledge management task, and in that, there are the tools I use to capture and share my own thinking (like this), and tools I use to go out and find or follow information.

In the capture and share category, major tools include:

  • WordPress – I blog as a way to reflect and get feedback on my developing thoughts
  • OmniGraffle – I diagram as another way to capture my thinking, trying to map conceptual relationships onto spatial ones

Then, of course, there are the more standard thought capture and share tools:

  • Word – while I like Pages, it’s outlining just does not meet my needs, as I outline as part of my writing process
  • Keynote – while I often have to transfer to PowerPoint, here the Apple product is superior

On the information finding/sharing path, some tools I use include:

  • Google – like everyone else, I’m all over searching
  • Twitter – this has been quite the revelation, seeing pointers and getting support, and of course #lrnchat
  • Feedblitz – this is how I aggregate blogs I track and have them come via email (where I’ll see them)
  • Skype – chats and calls and videochats with folks

Then I use several tools to keep track of information:

  • Evernote – is a place to keep information across my devices (though I use Notes too, when I want it backed up and private)
  • Google Docs – where I collaborate with colleagues on thoughts

The list changes; it’s different than what I put in the last two years, I’m sure, and may be more representative of today versus tomorrow or yesterday.  And it doesn’t really include my mobile tools, where Google’s Maps app becomes quite the help, and Photos to share diagrams, and….  Also, email’s still big, and is not represented Still, it’s a reasonably representative list.

So, what am I missing?

20 August 2008

Top 10 Tools

Clark @ 6:30 AM

Jane Hart’s Top Tools list is a great resource, and she reminded me that my list might need updating.  Fortunately, Jay blogged about his list, which reminded me (some mail didn’t make the transition to the new environment, hence the need for a new list, as well as updating).  My list has some changes:

3. Firefox – my Web tool for searching, browsing, surfing: with the new engine, it’s fast, and has great plugins
4. Twitter – I’m using TwitterFox on Firefox, and Twittelator on my iPhone.  A whole new world…
5. Google – their search engine, their maps, their website tracking,…
7. iTunes – how I connect my iPhone to my Mac, download mobile apps, and more.
8. Mail – part of my move to centralize on Mac apps (iCal, Address Book) to accommodate iPhone; I use email a lot (e.g. RSS feeds from Feedblitz), but Mail’s missing some things I liked in Entourage

You’ll see a few changes precipitated by the iPhone (and some ways of rearranging).  Interestingly my top 10 mobile tools list was just pointed to, and I realize it’s out of date too!  I’m still playing with the iPhone, but the tools I use are:

Mail – email on the go

Twittelator – twittering about

Google Maps – location, location, location

Safari – mobile web browsing at it’s best (which still is only so-so :)

Contacts – who’s who?

Photos – easily loaded all my diagrams and portfolio pictures

I’m anticipating using Flashlight (literally), EccoNote (voice memo), AIM (one IM tool, maybe to get around SMS charges), UrbanSpoon (fun way to find restaurants, tho’ not yet here in WC/East Bay SF), Yelp (reviewed places), SplashID (all those passwords, protected), and FaceBook.

I’m cheap, so I’m mostly downloading free apps.  Recommendations?

11 January 2008

My Top Ten (Mobile) Learning Tools

Clark @ 10:12 AM

Jane Hart runs a great list of Top Learning Tools compiled from top learning professionals, and is updating the list for 2008. She includes performance support as part of her requirements. I had a list last year, but fortunately this year she’s given more structure and I like my new list better. Rather than repeat it, you can find both here.

However, I struggled to figure out how to put my mobile tools in (I cheated and lumped them under PalmOS), so I decided to do that here. Note that I’m still on my old Treo (I won’t go on yet again about how the iPhone isn’t yet ready for primetime :), and hope to switch this year to a new/faster one, or an iPhone, or an Android phone, or… Palm OS, while creaky (a new OS is in the works, but won’t appear ’til ’09), has heaps of apps that let you do most anything. So here’re the ones I find that I use a lot to make me more productive or to learn:

  1. The basic PIM functions: ToDo, Contacts, Calendar, Memos (since it’s my list, I can cheat and cram several under one item :). Makes me way more productive (if I make a promise and it doesn’t get in here, we never had the conversation)
  2. VersaMail: the included email application. It’s not great, but it’s good enough to preclude me spending my money on another one. I’ve got to be in touch. I probably use my phone more for email than to talk! (I’m not a great phone person)
  3. Opera Mini: the built-in browser, Blazer, pales compared to Opera, though Opera’s not as well integrated. Being able to search the web while in conversations or meetings is really useful!
  4. SplashPhoto: I put not only pictures of my family, but also my diagrams, and a portfolio of applications I’ve developed. I can talk about applications, but also talk to the diagrams in problem-solving
  5. SplashID: I need all those passwords, card numbers, logins, etc, with me when I’m on the road (rather than carry the cards or attempt to memorize them), but after almost losing my phone I realized that they’ve got to be secure
  6. Missing Sync: the better synching solution that keeps my desktop and mobile in line, and keeps me together
  7. Google Maps: I use this all the time for directions and to find nearby locations I want to visit
  8. Adobe Reader: I can bring documents along to read or for reference
  9. Documents to Go: I can bring Powerpoints along to practice my talks
  10. Clicker: this application turns my phone into a bluetooth presentation controller, so I can stroll around the room and not have to be tethered to my laptop

I’m not mentioning more personal things like the Bart schedule application that I use to know when to go catch a train. I’ve also just downloaded a Flight Status application that will let me check on flights, so it’s too early to say, but it seems like a potential win. So, what do you use to make yourself a better learner or more productive?

23 December 2014

Quinn-Thalheimer: Tools, ADDIE, and Limitations on Design

Clark @ 8:24 AM

A few months back, the esteemed Dr. Will Thalheimer encouraged me to join him in a blog dialog, and we posted the first one on who L&D had responsibility to.  And while we took the content seriously, I can’t say our approach was similarly.  We decided to continue, and here’s the second in the series, this time trying to look at what might be hindering the opportunity for design to get better.  And again, a serious convo leavened with a somewhat demented touch:


Will, we’ve suffered Fear and Loathing on the Exhibition Floor at the state of the elearning industry before, but I think it’s worth looking at some causes and maybe even some remedies.  What is the root cause of our suffering?  I’ll suggest it’s not massive consumption of heinous chemicals, but instead think that we might want to look to our tools and methods.

For instance, rapid elearning tools make it easy to take PPTs and PDFs, add a quiz, and toss the resulting knowledge test and dump over to the LMS to lead to no impact on the organization.  Oh, the horror!  On the other hand, processes like ADDIE make it easy to take a waterfall approach to elearning, mistakenly trusting that ‘if you include the elements, it is good’ without understanding the nuances of what makes the elements work.  Where do you see the devil in the details?


Clark my friend, you ask tough questions! This one gives me Panic, creeping up my spine like the first rising vibes of an acid frenzy. First, just to be precise—because that’s what us research pedants do—if this fear and loathing stayed in Vegas, it might be okay, but as we’ve commiserated before, it’s also in Orlando, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, San Antonio, Alexandria, and Saratoga Springs. What are the causes of our debauchery? I once made a list—all the leverage points that prompt us to do what we do in the workplace learning-and-performance field.

First, before I harp on the points of darkness, let me twist my head 360 and defend ADDIE. To me, ADDIE is just a project-management tool. It’s an empty baseball dugout. We can add high-schoolers, Poughkeepsie State freshman, or the 2014 Red Sox and we’d create terrible results. Alternatively, we could add World-Series champions to the dugout and create something beautiful and effective. Yes, we often use ADDIE stupidly, as a linear checklist, without truly doing good E-valuation, without really insisting on effectiveness, but this recklessness, I don’t think, is hardwired into the ADDIE framework—except maybe the linear, non-iterative connotation that only a minor-leaguer would value. I’m open to being wrong—iterate me!


Your defense of ADDIE is admirable, but is the fact that it’s misused perhaps reason enough to dismiss it? If your tool makes it easy to lead you astray, like the alluring temptation of a forgetful haze, is it perhaps better to toss it in a bowl and torch it rather than fight it? Wouldn’t the Successive Approximation Method be a better formulation to guide design?

Certainly the user experience field, which parallels ours in many ways and leads in some, has moved to iterative approaches specifically to help align efforts to demonstrably successful approaches. Similarly, I get ‘the fear’ and worry about our tools. Like the demon rum, the temptations to do what is easy with certain tools may serve as a barrier to a more effective application of the inherent capability. While you can do good things with bad tools (and vice versa), perhaps it’s the garden path we too easily tread and end up on the rocks. Not that I have a clear idea (and no, it’s not the ether) of how tools would be configured to more closely support meaningful processing and application, but it’s arguably a collection worth assembling. Like the bats that have suddenly appeared…


I’m in complete agreement that we need to avoid models that send the wrong messages. One thing most people don’t understand about human behavior is that we humans are almost all reactive—only proactive in bits and spurts. For this discussion, this has meaning because many of our models, many of our tools, and many of our traditions generate cues that trigger the wrong thinking and the wrong actions in us workplace learning-and-performance professionals. Let’s get ADDIE out of the way so we can talk about these other treacherous triggers. I will stipulate that ADDIE does tend to send the message that instructional design should take a linear, non-iterative approach. But what’s more salient about ADDIE than linearity and non-iteration is that we ought to engage in Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Those aren’t bad messages to send. It’s worth an empirical test to determine whether ADDIE, if well taught, would automatically trigger linear non-iteration. It just might. Yet, even if it did, would the cost of this poor messaging overshadow the benefit of the beneficial ADDIE triggers? It’s a good debate. And I commend those folks—like our comrade Michael Allen—for pointing out the potential for danger with ADDIE. Clark, I’ll let you expound on rapid authoring tools, but I’m sure we’re in agreement there. They seem to push us to think wrongly about instructional design.


I spent a lot of time looking at design methods across different areas – software engineering, architecture, industrial design, graphic design, the list goes on – as a way to look for the best in design (just as I’ve looked across engagement disciplines, learning approaches, and more; I can be kinda, er, obsessive).   I found that some folks have 3 step models, some 4, some 5. There’s nothing magic about ADDIE as ‘the’ five steps (though having *a* structure is of course a good idea).  I also looked at interface design, which has arguably the most alignment with what elearning design is about, and they’ve avoided some serious side effects by focusing on models that put the important elements up front, so they talk about participatory design, and situated design, and iterative design as the focus, not the content of the steps. They have steps, but the focus is on an evaluative design process. I’d argue that’s your empirical design (that or the fumes are getting to me).  So I think the way you present the model does influence the implementation. If advertising has moved from fear motivation to aspirational motivation (c.f. Sach’s Winning the Story Wars), so too might we want to focus on the inspirations.


Yes, let’s get back to tools. Here’s a pet peeve of mine. None of our authoring tools—as far as I can tell—prompt instructional designers to utilize the spacing effect or subscription learning. Indeed, most of them encourage—through subconscious triggering—a learning-as-an-event mindset.

For our readers who haven’t heard of the spacing effect, it is one of the most robust findings in the learning research. It shows that repetitions that are spaced more widely in time support learners in remembering. Subscription learning is the idea that we can provide learners with learning events of very short duration (less than 5 or 10 minutes), and thread those events over time, preferably utilizing the spacing effect.

Do you see the same thing with these tools—that they push us to see learning as a longer-then-necessary bong hit, when tiny puffs might work better?


Now we’re into some good stuff!  Yes, absolutely; our tools have largely focused on the event model, and made it easy to do simple assessments.  Not simple good assessments, just simple ones. It’s as if they think designers don’t know what they need.  And, as our colleague Cammy Bean’s book The Accidental Instructional Designer’s success shows, they may be right.  Yet I’d rather have a power tool that’s incrementally explorable, but scaffolds good learning than one that ceilings out just when we’re getting to somewhere interesting. Where are the templates for spaced learning, as you aptly point out?  Where are the tools to make two-step assessments (first tell us which is right, then why it’s right, as Tom Reeves has pointed us to)?  Where are more branching scenario tools?  They tend to hover at the top end of some tools, unused. I guess what I’m saying is that the tools aren’t helping us lift our game, and while we shouldn’t blame the tools, tools that pointed the right way would help.  And we need it (and a drink!).


Should we blame the toolmakers then? Or how about blaming ourselves as thought leaders? Perhaps we’ve failed to persuade! Now we’re on to fear and self-loathing…Help me Clark! Or, here’s another idea. How about you and I raise $5 million in venture capital and we’ll build our own tool? Seriously, it’s a sad sign about the state of the workplace learning market that no one has filled the need. Says to me that (1) either the vast cadre of professionals don’t really understand the value, or (2) the capitalists who might fund such a venture don’t think the vast cadre really understand the value, (3) or the vast cadre are so unsuccessful in persuading their own stakeholders that truth about effectiveness doesn’t really matter. When we get our tool built, how about we call it Vastcadre? Help me Clark! Kent you help me Clark? Please get this discussion back on track…What else have you seen that keeps us ineffective?


Gotta hand it to Michael Allen, putting his money where his mouth is, and building ZebraZapps.  Whether that’s the answer is a topic for another day.  Or night.  Or…  so what else keeps us ineffective?  I’ll suggest that we’re focusing on the wrong things.  In addition to our design processes, and our tools, we’re not measuring the right things. If we’re focused on how much it costs per bum in seat per hour, we’re missing the point. We should be measuring the impact of our learning.  It’s about whether we’re decreasing sales times, increasing sales success, solving problems faster, raising customer satisfaction.  If we look at what we’re trying to impact, then we’re going to check to see if our approaches are working, and we’ll get to more effective methods.  We’ve got to cut through the haze and smoke (open up what window, sucker, and let some air into this room), and start focusing with heightened awareness on moving some needles.

So there you have it.  Should we continue our wayward ways?

12 January 2012

Stop creating, selling, and buying garbage!

Clark @ 5:41 AM

I was thinking today (on my plod around the neighborhood) about how come we’re still seeing so much garbage elearning (and frankly, I had a stronger term in mind).  And it occurred to me that their are multitudinous explanations, but it’s got to stop.

One of the causes is unenlightened designers. There are lots of them, for lots of reasons: trainers converted, lack of degree, old-style instruction, myths, templates, the list goes on. You know, it’s not like one dreams of being an instructional designer as a kid.  This is not to touch on their commitment, but even if they did have courses, they’d likely still not be exposed to much about the emotional side, for instance. Good learning design is not something you pick up in a one week course, sadly.  There are heuristics (Cat Moore’s Action mapping, Julie Dirksen’s new book), but the necessary understanding of the importance of the learning design isn’t understood and valued.  And the pressures they face are overwhelming if they did try to change things.

Because their organizations largely view learning as a commodity. It’s seen as a nice to have, not as critical to the business.  It’s about keeping the cost down, instead of looking at the value of improving the organization.  I hear tell of managers telling the learning unit “just do that thing you do” to avoid a conversation about actually looking at whether a course is the right solution, when they do try!  They don’t know how to hire the talent they really need, it’s thin on the ground, and given it’s a commodity, they’re unlikely to be willing to really develop the necessary competencies (even if they knew what they are).

The vendors don’t help. They’ve optimized to develop courses cost-effectively, since that’s what the market wants. When they try to do what really works, they can’t compete on cost with those who are selling nice looking content, with mindless learning design.  They’re in a commodity market, which means that they have to be efficiency oriented.  Few can stake out the ground on learning outcomes, other than an Allen Interactions perhaps (and they’re considered ‘expensive’).

The tools are similarly focused on optimizing the efficiency of translating PDFs and Powerpoints into content with a quiz. It’s tarted up, but there’s little guidance for quality.  When it is, it’s old school: you must have a Bloom’s objective, and you must match the assessment to the objective. That’s fine as far as it goes, but who’s pushing the objectives to line up with business goals?  Who’s supporting aligning the story with the learner? That’s the designer’s job, but they’re not equipped.  And tarted up quiz show templates aren’t the answer.

Finally, the folks buying the learning are equally complicit. Again, they don’t know the important distinctions, so they’re told it’s soundly instructionally designed, and it looks professional, and they buy the cheapest that meets the criteria.  But so much is coming from broken objectives, rote understanding of design, and other ways it can go off the rails, that most of it is a waste of money.

Frankly, the whole design part is commoditized.  If you’re competing on the basis of hourly cost to design, you’re missing the point. Design is critical, and the differences between effective learning and clicky-clicky-bling-bling are subtle.  Everyone gets paying for technology development, but not the learning design.  And it’s wrong.  Look, Apple’s products are fantastic technologically, but they get the premium placing by the quality of the experience, and that’s coming from the design.  It’s the experience and outcome that matters, yet no one’s investing in learning on this basis.

It’s all understandable of course (sort of like the situation with our schools), but it’s not tolerable.  The costs are high:meaningless  jobs, money spent for no impact, it’s just a waste.  And that’s just for courses; how about the times the analysis isn’t done that might indicate some other approach?  Courses cure all ills, right?

I’m not sure what the solution is, other than calling it out, and trying to get a discussion going about what really matters, and how to raise the game. Frankly, the great examples are all too few. As I’ve already pointed out in a previously referred post, the awards really aren’t discriminatory. I think folks like the eLearning Guild are doing a good job with their DevLearn showcase, but it’s finger-in-the-dike stuff.

Ok, I’m on a tear, and usually I’m a genial malcontent.   But maybe it’s time to take off the diplomatic gloves, and start calling out garbage when we see it.  I’m open to other ideas, but I reckon it’s time to do something.

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