If you’ve had a chance to read my last blog you may have guessed that I have a general dislike for most formal education. In many countries the way that we teach children is out-dated, ineffective and instils the idea that without good grades you won’t be able to succeed in life. Since grades are primarily based on how well you can memorise facts, something that’s become more and more unnecessary as information becomes more accessible, they actually have very little to say about a person’s skill or ability. It’s widely agreed that the current education model doesn’t work, unfortunately trying to pass any type of education reform in the current school systems is an almost impossible task. This factor alone gives eLearning an advantage that standard teaching models can’t hope to match.
The first series of eLearning content that I was introduced to mirrored something you’d see in a standard education model today. It had large quantities of information crammed into as small of a space as possible that you were expected to memorise with a small scattering of pictures that occasionally matched up with the text you were reading. There was no interaction with the content itself, no interaction with other people doing the content sitting around you and generally no interaction with the “instructor” of the program; if you were lucky there was a table of contents that would let you jump to different sections and honestly, I’d have been surprised if 1 in 10 people actually read through before skipping to the end. It was boring, dull and an all-around lifeless kind of learning that failed spectacularly at what it was trying to accomplish. There were really two main limitations of the medium at this point: The first being the content wrapper, the actual method of developing and coding the content, and the delivery format of the information within the content.
It really was a slow going process for the content to evolve in its initial stages. We had a few good jumps in technology with AICC and a few larger companies in the content creation/provider game with Skillsoft, Element K or Mind Leaders to name a few, but in my mind there’s really one major player that changed the game for not only content, but for content development. The introduction and standardisation of SCORM forced developers to start building towards a specific model and started people thinking about different ways that they could build the content to allow for a more interactive experience. That’s not to say that the content that came out after was particularly good and not many people could code overly effectively, but it was a step in the right direction! The other benefit with having a standard to build towards was that it allowed for the creation of authoring tools like Articulate Storyline and Studio 13 which allowed users to build content with little to no programing experience; it let people who were more focused on finding ways to engage the end user take the helm and built content that could be effective and creative. SCORM also allowed for reporting on how the user interacted to different parts of the content which enables the content creators to make changes to the content if they noticed users weren’t responding properly to some sections. This meant that quick and effective improvements could be done with minimal overhead.
Working initially for a company that designed and built an LMS gave me the opportunity to see a huge quantity of content over the years and I can say with certainty that even today there’s a great deal more bad content out there than there is good. It really wasn’t until I started working at B Online Learning that I really saw really well thought out and designed media; I’m fortunate enough to work with some extremely gifted trainers and content designers who are passionate about what they do. Through content design, webinars and various other tools they’re capable of teaching subjects in a more effective way than almost anything I remember from my high school or post-secondary education and it really helped reinforce why eLearning is such an important part of future education.
It really wasn’t until last year as I followed the launch of World Science U (because I’m a science geek), and other sites like it that I saw the beginning of the next phase of eLearning and one of the major transitions that I’d been waiting, less than patiently, for over a decade. Sites that were making university level courses available to the public, open forums to discuss ideas, ask questions and even online discussions with world renowned scientists; access to knowledge and information regardless of your background, economic status, country of origin or almost any other limitation as long as you have a connection to the internet.
This is similar to what B Online Learning have been doing for 6 years with their Master eLearning Course – providing collaboration between learners and experts to give them the ability to explore learning in new ways. It’s an important step closer to a world where companies can cross train, certify and improve their employees skillsets cheaply and easily, where anyone curious about any subject go online and learn from content built by experts in that field and join communities to express ideas and collaborate with people who share their interests from around the world… and perhaps equally importantly, maybe it’ll help us do away with an education system that favours small groups of people and ostracises the rest, that measures how well we learn without ever bothering to ask if there are better ways to teach.
Bradley is a LearnFlex Business Analyst with B Online Learning and has been working with the Learning Management System for over 6 years in a variety of different capacities. He recently moved from Canada to join our Sydney team. During his previous role as a Database Administrator for LearnFlex he developed an interest in database architecture, data mining and the analysis and optimization of business processes with regards to the integration of new technologies.