As someone who strives to create engaging, interactive e-learning, I have to admit, I said "no kidding!" when management-issues.com posted a piece entitled E-learning is a boring distraction.
The reason? They're right! A lot of e-learning out there is boring. Yes, plenty of high quality training is being produced, but unless the learner has a legitimate interest in the material being presented, there's a fair chance many online presentations will seem boring.
Admittedly, it used to be an oxymoron to have the phrases "e-learning" and "quality training" in the same sentence, unless they were separated by the phrase "is not."
In what one might call the early days of e-learning, those of us creating it were often happy just to be a part of it. Thrilled, actually. E-learning was the future, and there it was, happening before our very eyes. We had people sitting down at their computers and learning whenever they wanted. It didn't have to be pretty, it just had to work. And we were happy when it worked.
I suppose it was comparable to the early days of the automobile. The first ones weren't much to look at, but they moved people from point A to point B, and that's all that mattered.
In the early days of e-learning, a PowerPoint presentation online with some audio tossed in got the job done. The necessary information was disseminated and it was a whole lot faster and cheaper than hiring a video production staff, actors, and a slew of high-priced IT technogeeks to make it all come together.
Some preferred seeing people on their monitors rather than PowerPoint, so we also had videos of people drawing diagrams and formulas on a white board while they lectured. But even then, most of what we got was shot with a single camera.
But have you ever watched a video that had just one consistent camera angle with no edits or cuts whatsoever? Fifty minutes of that gets old pretty fast.
Thankfully, technology and techniques for creating e-learning has come a long way since then, so one would think those old-fashioned production methods are in the past. Not always true. Unfortunately, some companies are still putting together walls of text in online PowerPoint presentations and calling it e-learning.
Interestingly, the E-learning is a Boring Distraction article presents statistics from a survey of 1,000 managers. What I read surprised me.
Despite all the strides made in e-learning, only six out of 10 of managers see e-learning as a powerful resource; just a third realize e-learning is a "constant resource," available 24/7 and a mere quarter recognize the cost-effectiveness of e-learning.
Wow. Those numbers tell me that those of us in the Human Resource Development field (HRD) aren't doing a very good job of educating management in the benefits of e-learning.
Compare it to us HRD-types humming along in the back room with our power drills and circular saws while management chugs away on the production floor with hand drills and coping saws (pun intended).
But I have to say, many in HRD have been shouting out the benefits of e-learning for a long time, so if we're going to look at who's responsible, it can't all fall on HRD's shoulders. The fact is that many managers are looking right past the very tools that can make their jobs easier.
But why? Why don't managers take advantage of the cost-effective and time-efficient e-learning tools before them? Thankfully, more data from the manager's survey is available to address that.
Almost half are constantly distracted by day-to-day management. One in five say that e-learning fails to grab their interest and almost a third say they lack the motivation to complete a course on their own.
These reasons carry validity, but allow me to continue with my tools analogy.
Half of managers won't stop repairing the problems with their hand tools to learn how to use the power tools.
One in five say that the instructions for the power tools aren't interesting to them.
A third say they don't have what it takes to finish reading the instructions if they have to read by themselves.
Based on these numbers, it's probably fair to say that several things need to happen.
First, e-learning developers need to be sure they're creating interactive content that engages learners and draws them in. Not always an easy task, but certainly doable.
Second, a fair amount of managers out there need to admit they're experiencing myopia and get a little help for how they're looking at things. A little fresh thinking and a boost in self-discipline (or accountability) can take what used to be a boring distraction and turn it into a high-voltage, powerful asset.