Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Response to Manish’s blog on Can eLearning Help Change Behavior?


This post is written by Taruna Goel.

This is 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.

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All learning/training is meant to change behavior. That said there are various media available to deliver the required training.

While most content may be a good candidate for either elearning or facilitated instruction, I think a case in point is psychomotor skills. To learn how to ride a bike, you need to ride it! No amount of elearning can prepare you for the ditches, puddles, and the falls!

A few years ago, I would have said, yes, 'sensitive' issues such as harassment are best facilitated. But maybe not today. There are enough opportunities to build collaboration, question and answer, and discussion forums to support people in learning about such areas through elearning too.

There is a bit of research that I did and here is what I found:

1) http://www.learningcircuits.org/2002/jan2002/anderson.html - By Terri Anderson

A very good article about what makes a better candidate for elearning and some of the key questions to ask before we decide to use this medium.

In summary:


  • …..there are still some instructional content areas that may not be suitable for e-learning.

  • Attitudinal skills and psychomotor skills are content areas in which e-learning may support but not entirely replace traditional instructional programs. Attitudinal skills typically require expert modeling and reinforcement that increases the interactivity requirement and the cost of e-learning programs. Psychomotor skills, in particular, require hands-on practice and interactive demonstrations for learners to achieve mastery.

  • E-learning programs are especially effective at teaching cognitive skills in well-structured domains where conveying information is a critical part of the instructional process. Examples include teaching employees how to use software programs, having employees discriminate between two set choices, or providing instructions for completing a benefits enrollment form. Each of those skills requires understanding and applying a procedure or information with clear right and wrong choices.

  • Poorly structured problems require high-level cognitive skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of unclear or conflicting data. Learners are required to recall, understand, and apply information to unique situations or problems for which there's no clearly defined right or wrong outcome. Examples of ill-structured problems include evaluating the merits of outsourcing work, developing a comprehensive marketing strategy that incorporates diverse data, or evaluating the merits of a strategic business acquisition. Although e-learning may support part of those learning needs, it works best when combined with additional collaborative strategies.

  • Determining whether content is suitable for e-learning requires close inspection of the learning objectives. For example, cognitive skills appropriate for stand alone e-learning programs ask learners to state, understand, identify, and select between two clearly defined alternatives; read information and answer questions about a specific topic; or complete an assignment with clearly defined parameters. However, e-learning programs will need support from additional learning activities if employees are required to analyze, design, predict, evaluate, synthesize, construct, formulate, or develop a procedure or plan.

  • Key questions to consider when evaluating e-learning programs for a specific content area include:

    • What are the learning objectives that the company is trying to achieve?

    • What are the skills the company is trying to teach?

    • Are the skills cognitive, attitudinal, or motor skills?

    • Is the problem well-defined?

    • What instructional methods are required to deliver the content?

    • What type of follow-up, practice, or support is required to achieve mastery?

    • What degree of learning interactivity or collaboration is required?

    • What resources are available or required to achieve the instructional goals?

    • What is the best or most cost-effective venue the company has to deliver this content to the learner?

    • What are the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating e-learning strategies?




2) http://faculty.mercer.edu/codone_s/elearningprimer.PDF - By Susan Codone


A well-organized article about the benefits and limitations of elearning. The key highlight is a table listing the criteria that should be used to identify whether a particular content is suitable for elearning. The table is based on criterion provided by Brandon Hall and the federal Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative. Another point highlights that instructional outcomes highlight the choice of instructional strategy (and therefore medium). David Merrill states that the following instructional strategies are suitable for multimedia development:


  • instruction that provides information about a system or object

  • instruction that provides information on the parts of a system or object

  • instruction that provides conceptual or categorical information

  • procedural knowledge

  • process, principle, or information on how a system works


On another note, this article also has some dope on development timelines for elearning.

Guess, these are enough points to ponder for instructional designers like us!

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