At the recent Learning Solutions 2014 Conference, I discovered the Serious eLearning Manifesto instigated by industry leaders Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn and Will Thalheimer. The manifesto was inspired by a collective belief that the great potential of learning technologies is going unmet. Too many technology-based learning experiences are ineffective and frustrate learners by wasting their time.
Two major factors have contributed to the perceived decline in serious eLearning: the economy and the proliferation of rapid development. During the recession and its slow recovery, organizations reduced spending on training and technology-based learning initiatives. When they did make investments, they often invested in the quick conversion of massive amounts of content into eLearning courses. This usually involved converting content into PowerPoint decks and adding a narration track and quiz, then publishing through a rapid eLearning tool with little attention going to instructional design and learner experience.
Learners were mandated to take these courses, and their disappointed reactions have set eLearning back. In the last year or so, we have seen clients starting to realize that poor eLearning is not necessarily better than nothing. They are seeing the value in an instructional design process that prioritizes performance results over information dumping. This has made us more optimistic about the future.
Even though we’re seeing signs of improvement, I think we owe thanks to the Serious eLearning Manifesto. Their timing is perfect. The economy is improving and the proliferation of technology-based learning is accelerating. More people are being drawn into the field without an instructional design background. The manifesto provides specific and concise guidance that can inspire newcomers to not settle for the easy route. Instead, the manifesto puts the focus on using technology to create an experience that results in improved performance for individuals and organizations. This is exactly where we need to go.