Sunday, July 09, 2006

Can Technology Companies Deliver eLearning?

In the last one week, I received calls from at least four companies looking for instructional design (ID) support, ID training, or simply instructional designers. There is nothing strange about these queries, except that these companies are eLearning companies who do not have instructional designers in their team.

Can you imagine this scenario eLearning companies with NO instructional designers? This is like a construction company with NO architects! Today, many technology and software companies are moving into the eLearning market. These companies have sound technical skills but no instructional design skills. They can construct a course, provide features and functionalities, and add jazz if needed. However, they ignore the most important component – learning.

Consequently, the courseware developed is a rehashed version of either a book or web content. It is cheap, fast, but completely “unlearnable”. It is like the houses built with unqualified or no architects – the houses have no light, no ventilation, just pillars and walls!

The poor quality of learning is camouflaged by technology supplements such as features and unwanted functionality. These companies are doing a disservice to eLearning. They are driving down the quality of eLearning. Today, the market is flooded with dumb-blonde courseware. They have pretty graphics, good videos, nice audios, but no concern for learners, their needs, wants, and motivations. Ultimately, learning takes a back seat.

Chaos prevails in a course that is “constructed” but not “designed.” The learner has no clue about the purpose of the course. The content in the course is either a dump of information or a screen decorated with graphics with no clue about whether the visual information helps the learner learn concepts better. The interactivities often look like the Bollywood movie song-and-dance sequences, meant for cigarette breaks and not designed for reinforcement or retention!

In the absence of an instructional designer, the biggest casualty is learning. The quality of such courseware is poor as they do not conform to prevalent eLearning standards. Due to the poor quality of eLearning, organizations are increasingly losing faith in eLearning as an effective learning solution. Corporations do not take eLearning as a serious alternative to corporate training. They still rely on the age old classroom mode as a reliable means of training.

Recently, I reviewed a course from one such company. The first thought that struck me was am I reading someone’s classroom notes? There were fancy buttons on the interface, nice photographs, and lots of audio! Yes, I noticed all this because I was bored of the content, it drawled on and one with “no brainer” MCQs sprinkled in between.

Such courses make eLearning very uninspiring. While technology can supplement eLearning, it cannot be the sole factor driving it. You can have state-of-the-art classrooms but the students will not learn if you have a bad teacher and a badly designed curriculum.

1 comment:

Manish said...


A really interesting post disclosing a lot about the state of elearning industry. Actually, just a few players in India are doing decent elearning development work. Rest all are just enjoying the ride and on the way making some money. Little importance is being paid to the quality and the usefulness to the learner.

Since there isn't much demand for elearning in Indian companies itself, a lot of work is flowing form US and UK. If the trend continues, it not very long time when these clients will realize the difference. frankly speaking, I know of a company that just doesn't care for their customers returning to them for repeat work. They are just surviving on the new customers.