Saturday, August 16, 2008

Can eLearning Help Change Behaviour?


As part of judging entries for the Brandon Hall Awards this year, I encountered an elearning module that attempted to teach the company’s sales people its new service orientation and its service oriented products. The elearning module was very well made, full of videos (actually it was practically a ‘video-based-training’ disguised as elearning) with very well written script and extremely professional production quality. The script and production quality was so good that I would have been proud of the product if it had been made by my team.

I went through the modules as a learner, something I hadn’t done in a while. I was probably the right audience, not in terms of being part of that company, but perhaps with about the same experience as the intended audience. So after being impressed with the first few video clippings I got down to actually attempting learning from it. And man was I unhappy going through the training. The training included lots of case studies and ‘role plays’ (the wrong and right way to sell videos). As an intended audience, I felt bad and felt the training was demeaning my intelligence and showed what I might be doing right now (remember I was trying to be in the actual learner’s shoes) in very bad light. Something like this might work in a controlled classroom environment where a trained instructor would be able to provoke me and respond to my reactions to the content being taught, and I might also have a healthy debate with others in the class. However using the elearning module, I felt the module was preaching to the choir and insulting the learner’s intelligence. Since it had no facilitation of a trainer and there were no other peers to learn from or debate with, I felt very bad about the content.

Which makes me wonder – can self-paced asynchronous elearning be a good tool for attempting to change behaviour? Is elearning better suited for certain types of audiences when attempting to do this? Are there some content areas that should just be dealt with in a classroom? Or perhaps is there a better way to teach behaviour change using elearning?

4 comments:

Ken Allen on January 8, 2010 at 12:48 PM said...

Submitted on 2008/08/17 at 6:46am

Kia ora Manish!

I guess it all depends on what you mean by ‘behaviour’.

There are those who will say that learning, no matter how it occurs, influences behaviour (I’d tend to be among that lot). It’s what behavioural aspect that is expected to change that’s important. And what learning is passed on through thee that is likely to achieve this.

Some decades ago, when so-called computer assisted instruction was all the thing, I attended a demonstration of some learning software. I was a computer trainer. I wished to find out how to build software that could teach people how to use computers. One of the exemplars shown as a demo was on how to dig a ditch. (!)

When it comes to teaching and learning ‘behaviour’, I think it is important to choose the learning context to match the situation. So it’s important to be specific enough for the learning context to be meaningfully chosen.

Ka kite

Manish Mohan on January 8, 2010 at 12:48 PM said...

Submitted on 2008/08/17 at 3:28pm

Kia ora Ken. Good to hear from you again.

I do agree learning influences behaviour. However there are some inherently skill based learning (say how to use MS Word) and there are some that inherently attempt at changing behaviour (say sexual harassment, preventing that is :-)). I was wondering if there are certain types of behavioural training that are better suited to be taught (ingrained) through direct facilitation. I am wondering if stand alone elearning does a good job in all situations. Can standalone elearning provide the learning context, however specific, in these situations?

Taruna Goel on January 8, 2010 at 12:48 PM said...

Submitted on 2008/08/19 at 12:18pm
I have added a post in response to Manish’s blog on “Can eLearning Help Change Behavior?”
I realized I had much to share and a comment box would not do justice to it.

Ken Allen on January 8, 2010 at 12:49 PM said...

Submitted on 2008/08/19 at 2:53pm

T?n? koe Manish!

I think you have picked up on exactly the point I made in my first comment, perhaps without realising it.

I believe that context is important, but I also believe that context that best matches the situation is probably more important. Choosing the right tool to do the job is what one might say in the materials workshop.

It may not be obvious how to do this (whether to choose, say, counselling F2F instead of online). It may also be very difficult to fairly compare two such methods from an experimental point of view, simply because of the many other factors in play. There are also many factors that govern behaviour.

A behaviour that is well studied with teenagers is their sheer lack of awareness of the consequences of things they do when they’re online and while not being directly observed. This was brought to my attention when I recently attended the NetSafe Conference in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Whether this behavioural aspect is something that can be changed through intervention online is not well studied. This would require some type of online intervention which may, of course, be difficult to achieve. But I suspect that online teaching, so that a change in behaviour is brought about, may not necessarily be successful through online interaction alone.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

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