Monday, July 17, 2006

Size isn't everything

I was reading an interesting post from the E-Learning Queen this afternoon and it (as with other engaging reads) got me thinking...in this case, thinking about the relative merits of size when planning learning content.

Back in my days in the big green machine, lessons and learning objectives were kept pretty manageable. Of course, they had to be...consider the sheer volume of information, for example, that someone on Basic Training has to contend with? So it stands to reason that you have to keep the content focused, with clear and simple objectives...the soldier can then truly learn in a near-continuous fashion and keep up with the cultural transformation they must undergo when they sign on to serve.

So we leap forward to the challenge of corporate e-learning. Barbara Daley has discussed the complexities of blending learning, context and corporate practice. But for me the issue remains "how much"? As in "how much" do we want/need them to learn? More importantly, is the learner actually involved in that decision somehow? Both Daley and the late Cyril O. Houle observed that corporate learning programs (notably Professional Development) were poorly planned and implemented...and 'ignoring the learner' is, in my experience, high on the list of mistakes that organizations make when considering learning.

So where does that leave the learning planner or curriculum designer? Well, if they take a page from the thinkings of Wayne Hodgins, they might feel a little less confused. At the ELEARN conference in Vancouver, he spoke about the Learning Society...in particular, the importance of learning in context and in time. That concept also got me thinking.

"If learning is supposed to be timely...or even 'right now', then you have to think small. Make the learning objective focused and simple and straightforward."

Its all well and good to develop these rich, complex and involved learning programs, but unless we really think hard about how to make those valuable little morsels of learning available to the learner when they need them, we do the learner yet another disservice.

Of course, that statement leads to the inevitable "how small is small?" discussion. But that's for another blog entry.

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