Sticky learning* is the primary goal of any learning initiative, regardless of the method used to create it. Good content and well-defined learning objectives and measurements will result in effective e-learning courses that improve business performance and the bottom line.
“Rapid-development” is a hot topic, generating a great amount of discussion about whether it is an acceptable method for creating e-learning.
Proponents assert that rapid-development can significantly streamline the process, reducing the amount of time spent on programming basic interface elements. In addition, a shorter development cycle directly impacts costs. They maintain that getting the course to the audience quicker translates into reaping the benefits of the learning intervention sooner.
Opponents maintain that the learning may not be as effective as courses created using traditional methods. They state (correctly) that subject matter experts may be able to use a rapid-development tool to develop e-learning, but they may not know how to design effective instruction.
I will not purport to have the correct answer in this debate. Instead, I’ll leave you with enough information about rapid-development to engage in a discussion at your local coffee shop.
Many organizations are moving toward courses developed with rapid-development software—especially with reduced workforces that need to do the work in less time, and with smaller budgets. I’ve developed courses using both traditional and rapid-development methods, and have seen that engaging and sticky learning can occur with either method. (Just as poor-quality learning can be imparted with either method.) I believe the crucial, determining factor is to ensure that instructional design expertise is applied during the development process.
Foremost for many companies, adopting rapid-development methods and tools minimizes the development cost of e-learning. It allows companies that previously had no opportunity to afford or benefit from e-learning to quickly and effectively train their workforce. Even small businesses and non-profits can jump in and start reaping the benefits of e-learning.
We all agree that time is money. If you can create a high-quality e-learning course in one month as opposed to four months, wouldn’t it make sense?
We will also agree that time translates into areas other than money. If e-learning is available sooner, rather than later, companies start seeing the benefits of their well-trained employees sooner. The company can continue to focus on running their core business successfully, which is what it’s all about.
This translates into time and money, too. Rapid-development allows your subject matter expert to transfer their knowledge into the development tool. Other team resources can then convert the content into solid instruction and add the bells and whistles.
Bells and Whistles
Perhaps rapid-development tools were lacking in nifty and engaging features in the past. This is no longer true. I’ve seen numerous e-learning courses that would knock the socks off any learner. Eye-catching animations and superb functionality are now commonplace in the rapid-development toolbox.
E-learning methods, tools, and delivery options will continue to evolve. Social media is already changing the scene. Our job as designers and developers is to use our creativity, effective writing skills, and knowledge of human learning behavior to develop compelling and sticky e-learning. If rapid-development can enable us to create cheaper, quicker, and (in some cases) superior courses, then shouldn’t it be strongly considered?
* Sticky learning – my term for learning that will get stuck in the brain like gum to a shoe (only without the mess and frustration)