Three myths about eLearning: text

Text pitfall

As mentioned in the previous article, the second pitfall in eLearning is about using text. Somehow HR and L&D professionals are sure that using text for learning purposes is outdated, and with text, you can't engage learners. The question asked is usually something similar to:

"Are really sure our employees would read learning texts"?

Our short answer is "yes, why we would offer text-based learning otherwise?". As for the long answer it is better to re-structure the question. The real question of HR and L&D professionals may sound as: "We are afraid that learning texts wouldn't grab and keep attention of our employees and they wouldn't learn anything". Their fears are understandable - conservative estimate is that 90% of all eLearning courses are never finished. This question, however, can be divided into several mini-statements: "the learning text fails to grab learners' attention because it is..."

  • ..too complicated,
  • ..too boring,
  • ..not practical,
  • ..not interactive.

Let's try to discuss each of these statements.

Text is too complicated

Employees of our company have gained a plethora of different professional qualifications - in audit (ACCA), management accounting (CIMA), Six Sigma Black Belt (ASU). Distance learning was (and is) at the heart of every programme. Exams were held in special examination centres.

Managers in the UK are often certified with CMI.Every year about 30,000 people try to pass their exams.

HR and L&D professionals have their own professional certification - CIPD.

Every qualification requires efforts and persistence to complete - some employees had to re-sit exams several times. Employees in corporate environment should understand the amount of efforts they subscribe to.

Even the "junk MBA" degrees require some time and a decent amount of work. Yet, in corporate environment HR managers seek for easy way to train their employees.

Quick and easy learning is worthless, as worthless are certificate and diplomas earned this way.

Text is too boring

In the ideal world, employees would share links to learning courses and some of them even would go viral. It rarely happens, so some elements of gamification and other forms of "artificial" engagement are added to learning experiences. However, without inner or outer motivation any form of learning content wouldn't force employees to return to learning.

It is good that boring eLearning courses is replaced with various forms of content. It hasn't changed much in the world of Learning Management Systems (LMS). Otherwise professional community wouldn't discuss the need to "disrupt" the digital learning for the last 10-20 years.

"Entertaining" learning content can grab the attention of learners over a short distance, but can replace motivation to learn for longer periods of time.

The best MOOC courses with the best content, teachers and feedback have a completion rate of less than 4%.

Text is not practical

Any learning material is boring when there is no clear link to application. Nowadays, nobody wants knowledge for the sake of knowledge. We are proud to have developed several very practical learning programmes, but one example stands out here.

We have developed an original workshop on financial analysis for VPs of Investment Operations of a large bank. As an example, a password-protected Excel file was used. After the workshop, all 56 participants returned to their reginal offices. After a while we were asked (to our surprise) to unblock the model we developed to allow employees use the real data of their clients.

It turned out later, all 56 reginal branches of that huge bank used our modest Excel model instead of a specialised software which costed more than € 100,000. That's practical all right!

It is (relatively) easy to make a practical learning programme when it comes to "hard" things: sequence of actions, financial ratios. It is harder to do with "soft" skills which are a huge part of management training. It is only can be done with evaluating employees behaviours - that's 100% practical.

Text is not interactive

We were one of the first companies to develop practical Simulations and Serious Games for corporate sectors. One of the learning games we developed for a leading insurance company in 2008 is still used to train more than 100,000 employees annually. So we have a hands-on experience in these areas. The new forms of learning - games, interactive worlds, VR are excellent tools to practice skills in safe environment. Before that new knowledge should gained. And the best tool to do it still the text.

Learning in the text form can be different - we can restructure a unit of text and make a question - and it would be not a testing, but learning unit.

Question is an interactive form of presenting learning material that turns on our thinking process.

Users learn when they try to answer the questions. They use other forms of text when they fail to provide the correct answer.

Today the question-based learning platforms gain in popularity. We especially like two of them. Elephants don’t forget - the learning is in the form of questions, no learning text is present. Axonify uses gamification, but mostly uses questions to teach something. So question-based learning has future until science find the way to instill knowledge directly to our brains. :)

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