I See Dumb People (in the eLearning industry)

We (Richard Smith, PIXELearning’s Sales Director and I) attended the E-Learning Guild’s Annual Gathering in Orlando last week (w/c 14th April) where we exhibited and where I delivered two talks.


On the first day I took a break from the back to back conference calls and 1000’s of ‘important’ emails to find Richard being lectured to by a vendor of a very well known freeware eLearning system.


This vendor had just been shown one of our Immersive Learning sims and was now busy educating Richard on how we should rebuild it. This learned gentleman had decided that a simulation like this (aimed at older teens and new hires) was to complex and should be broken down into small ‘byte sized chunks’. He then uttered the words; “…this is modern instructional design theory”.


Apparently modern day learners are too stupid and simple-minded to grasp complex systems and concepts. Instead of trying to help people learn (for example) how business concepts such as marketing, sales, finance and operations are intricately related and affect each other in many ways (a.k.a. ‘real life’), ‘modern instructional design theory’ dictates that we should have instead….


Stripped out each screen (“like this one you have here about marketing promotions”), removed the choices, actions and consequences, added in ‘definitions of terms’, then turned it into a 2 minute ‘flash video’ and, the best bit, “bolted on a short quiz to check understanding”.


Get the frack out of here!


Is this truly “modern instructional design theory” or is, perhaps, the gentleman in question confusing modern object-orientated software engineering processes with “Gardner’s theory of multiple ways to patronise people”? OK, I made the last bit up (and apologies to Howard Gardner) but are you for real Mister?


It is attitudes like this that propelled me to abandon ‘conventional eLearning design practice’ and go off in search of something a little more engaging, rewarding and…erm….effective!  It is the same exact reason that enlightened Learning and Development professionals at organisations like KPMG, Fifth Third Bank, Global Lead, HP, Shell and Comcast have engaged PIXELearning to create complex simulations and serious games.


My message to ‘Mr Modern ID theory’; stop basing learning design decisions around ‘standards’ like SCORM (Stupidly Complex Over Reviled Monolith) and try finding out what your learning audience actually needs and actually wants!


You might be surprised.