eLearning: Old Wine in New Skins

Young woman taking eLearning course on laptop

I once gave a speech I titled “Old Wine in New Skins.” The concept: If you were a winemaker with a batch of bad-tasting wine and you were trying to change consumers’ impressions, introducing a new label or fancy bottle wouldn’t change the taste. Learning is no different. Yet most training is like bad wine. Traditional training (such as lecturing in a classroom) is neither innovative, nor highly effective. This problem is exacerbated when this method is transferred to an online medium. So now the Power Point slides are put into an eLearning module with audio overdub (Old Wine in New Skins). These “page turners” provide little if any effective learning. The basic idea is that you read, read, read, or listen, listen, listen flipping “pages”, in this case, advancing screen by screen through dry, two-dimensional material, and then you take a test. This is a classic case of old wine in new skins.

Built on Leaning Fallacies: Too much of what passes for eLearning, like page-turners, are built on fallacies people hold about learning. First of all, the information in a page-turner might be highly accurate, but because it’s probably been written by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), something I’ve written about in other blog posts, they haven’t paid attention to instructional design. Information, no matter how good, holds no value if it doesn’t get in. A lot of SMEs also mistake engagement for bells and whistles. They go for a “Wow!” factor by adding a cute graphic or some bright colors. But real engagement means connecting with the information and with the act of learning. People become engaged when they see material as applicable—they can see themselves using what they learn. There’s one more learning fallacy common to page-turners: In most cases, the learner will not even complete the reading, but rather simply take the test multiple times until achieving a passing score. They understand the game before it starts, and passing the test means an end to the eLearning, whether they’ve actually learned anything or not. Going through the motions doesn’t teach you anything.

The Solution: eLearning can be a great way to provide “foundational knowledge”. Our S4 NetQuest M-Pact Learning methodology makes sure retention and application happen. To do this, the material must be seen as relevant. Learners need to be able to move through the material in a non-linear fashion, skipping what they already know, etc. And rather than test memorization by a multiple-choice quiz, it needs to have learners apply what they’ve learned in real world situations.

No more old wine! 

More Information. If you’re interested in discovering more about M-Pact Learning, I provide detailed methods and real-life examples in my new book: M-Pact Learning. The New Competitive Advantage