Monday, January 15, 2007

Speed is not the antithesis of quality

Response to LCB’s Big Question for January

Training is a lot less fuzzy compared to education. Every training programme, if it has to make sense, ought to have a clear performance goal. If a training programme fails to achieve this goal, it should be considered a failure, irrespective of whether the programme was designed using a rapid e-learning tool or not.

In this context, a quality product means a product that enables a learner to achieve this goal (which in turn could mean long term retention and the ability to use the knowledge gained). Therefore, we must realize that the term "quality" (in the sense of “superior”) has no meaning unless defined against clear parameters. Suppose, you go through an e-learning product and say, “Hey, that’s an excellent programme,” what does it really mean? It simply means that the product meets most of the criteria that you have (ill) defined for what constitutes an excellent program.

Sometimes, the training goal could be as simple as making some relevant information (the knowledge of which is essential to performing the job) available to users in a structured, easy-to-digest manner—-which can be pulled up as and when needed in a google kind of way. Sometimes, it could be more complex, such as enabling marketing mangers to come up with an innovative marketing strategy based on available data. Whatever be the instructional challenge, the focus should be to find the most appropriate learning solution that can be rolled out in “reasonable time” (when the content is still relevant, when things have to be addressed quickly, before costly mistakes are made…)

Quality in e-learning need not be about 3D animation or fancy games. It’s about learning and performance. If 3D animation can help achieve this goal better, then that’s the way to go. But that doesn’t mean that things that are done “rapidly” will always be of poor quality. If a rapid e-learning tool can help one develop a simulation in less time compared to not using a tool, why shouldn’t one use this tool? Just look at where we are posting our responses. A blog is, among other things, also a rapid publishing tool. Can it be held responsible for the quality of our writing?
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