I love teaching and learning. Why?
Learning challenges you and makes you a better person. Sharing those experiences with others through teaching enables you to grow even more as you build up others. You find out that you needed to share those experiences, to teach, as much as the people learning from you, your students, needed you to share them. When it happens, it’s a wonderful thing, especially when, as time goes on, students come back and share how they were able to be a better person because of the challenges and experiences you shared with them.
People call e-Learning boring, and, looking at the majority of e-Learning on the market today, they have every good reason to do so. Designing interactive, engaging experiences that tell meaningful stories or improve actual performance takes a great deal of thought, effort, and attention to detail. Designing and developing these experiences requires that indefinable spark of life, of creativity, of art that breathes passion and excitement into the learning experience.
Designing and developing these kinds of experiences also requires a knowledge of how the mind works, of the theories and years of research that have gone into disciplines like educational psychology, learning theory, pedagogy, andragogy, human capital development, performance improvement, and plain ol’ teaching and learning.
As if this wasn’t hard enough, now we need to work with others and make sure all the stakeholders are willing to pour themselves into this, to risk themselves, to have something at stake in the project, so that the e-Learning results in a meaningful, memorable, and motivational experience that produces measurable results.
One of my heroes, Michael Allen, in his book Designing Successful e-Learning: Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting, describes this concept superbly.
We are far from possessing the ability to create e-learning programs that oppress minds and suppress voluntary behavior (although we certainly have demonstrated many ways to victimize learners and torture them with boredom). What we’re searching for today are procedures for designing learning applications that can be built within realistic constraints of time and resources and that do interest and enable learners in behaving more effectively.
Clearly, there’s value in having a process to help with the complexity and enormity of the instructional design task, even for the most talented designers. There’s value in experimental studies that show varying outcomes attributable to different instructional designs. And there is value in having considerable experience as a designer. Even with the most prescriptive approaches available today, outcomes will vary with the talent and inventiveness of the designer. Conversely, even great designers can fail to produce effective applications without the aid of a systematic approach, especially when large projects are undertaken. There’s simply too much challenge for most designers to succeed without some aid of process.
Art or science? Perhaps instructional design should be called a craft – a blend of science and art – but regardless of semantics, good instructional design benefits from both. The sciences of human learning and educational psychology identify issues of concern, suggest approaches that have been successful under carefully identified conditions, and provide the means to evaluate the appropriateness of design choices. Creativity is needed to adapt to specific needs and circumstances, fill in the many gaps between substantiated principles, and provide the aesthetics, drama, tension, and humor needed to entice learner participation. Both art and science are invaluable to making learning happening, and it’s apparent when one is missing.
I design and develop e-Learning, and whether I’m doing that for Coast Guard pilots or Disney cast members, I’m going to bring everything I have to bear to meet their needs and make a fantastic learning experience. It is my hope I will be able to work with others who wish to do the same.
My art is the science of bringing out the best in people. Ultimately, that’s why I love teaching and learning, and that’s why I can proudly say I make e-Learning experiences. If you’re wanting to work with someone like me to make amazing e-Learning experiences, don’t hesitate to reach out.