Monday, February 27, 2017

Is eLearning Really on the Decline?

I was reading Karl Kapp's blog post from 1/31 about market reports on the decline of self-paced elearning. I would agree with the comment left by another reader that replied to his story: Can we really say that self-paced elearning is on the decline? Because that's a really grey area and methinks the tools to capture this information aren't honed well enough to make this claim.

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Let's get one thing straight up front: elearning is not going away, though it may be take on a new term at some point. I don't see self-paced elearning declining, though it depend on where it's recorded that will potentially return a "declining" status in market data. While self-paced elearning may be declining in enterprise (indeed, a great many fewer corporations want churn-n-burn, objectives-content-summary-test modules), "elearning" is a broad term. What does seem to be growing, are much more produced and designed learning experiences in the form of games with badges, point systems, etc. But are these not also elearning?

The death, or at least waning importance of, slideshow-based "courseware" elearning is certainly true, though there's still some basic relevance for it for quick data dumps, minor topic update, and reporting purposes. So it is perhaps more apt to say that basic, or what would be considered "bad" or undesigned, elearning is declining.

Kapp closed the blog post by highlighting the continuing and likely growing need for Instructional Design. This is also true. Truly deep and impactful learning game experiences cannot exist without thorough design.

True, but...

But to vindicate "bad" elearning a bit, or at least explain why it came about first and remained relevant for so long, it was like any new tool humanity finds. In the 1990s, society had this thing called computer technology and the Internet that exploded into our daily lives, having spent the first part of the decade creeping onto our desks at work or our dens at home. Once computing power and Internet connectivity were roughly ubiquitous enough for some meaningful democratization, naturally some would ask the question "How can this be used in the employ of education or organizational development?"

Like children fueled by curiosity, lack of experience, and a new tool we've never seen before, we grabbed something and ran with it, sharp end first. This predictably lead to a lot of doing the right thing the wrong way in the early going. Companies have realized, over the last 15 years, that throwing money at these programs could be and in many cases was somewhat wasteful. Just as they realized between 2000 and 2010 that sending people cross-country for in-person training sessions wasn't panning out well.

What Could This Mean?

Today, the focus is shifting to the individual taking on more responsibility to upskill themselves both within and without a job. How that is accomplished is up to each person, and that is where I think the data is potentially skewed to represent a greater decline than exists.

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