Setting the Course: Do we still need e-learning courses?

8 Jun

I’ll start with this: I’m an instructional designer (ID) and e-learning guy. When I have less than 60 seconds to explain what I do to the semi-interested, I usually talk about courses. You know–complete the course, do the learning check, and get back to your life. I have been of a mindset lately that courses are a pretty poor way to learn. If you’ve been reading these posts with any frequency you’ll already know that I’m much more interested in the social, informal, and learner-directed activities. I absolutely believe that’s the direction we should be headed.


From: Tom Kuhlmann – The Rapid E-Learning Blog. Thanks, Tom!

I remarked rather flippantly to a colleague the other day, “I’ll be happy if I never have to build another course.” I meant it, in part selfishly (they can be tedious to produce) and in part philosophically. But since then I’ve been thinking: Is there still a place for courses? Those SCORM-compliant nuggets with a beginning and an end, with narratives built-in and easy navigation throughout? I mean, I’ve worked on hundreds of courses in my 20 years in ID, and I am truly proud of several of them.

I think I have to walk back from my flippancy just a bit. After a few days chewing on it, I think courses are part of (but not the whole) solution to a learning need:

  • Where compliance is absolutely (legally) necessary, such as HIPAA, fiduciary laws or the like: If you must have it on file for an auditor that you’ve reviewed something, and there is an expectation that it will change your behavior in some way, a course makes sense.
  • When learning how to use a tool or software application or system, and the course can be as much of an immersive simulation as possible.
  • Where there are no other means to model interpersonal communication, such as a remote sales team, working with volunteers, physician-patient conversations or social workers on home visits. It is best to do these in person, but sometimes that isn’t possible. These should also be as immersive and branching as possible.

That’s really about it. For almost every other need I can think of, I would lean toward creating some other kind of learning experience that includes some combination of research, curation, sharing and coaching. And, when you are creating courses, don’t rest on the ways you’ve been doing. Rethink anew how to best deliver the content to be as useful as possible to the learner. The Serious eLearning Manifesto is a good starting point for each project.


One Response to “Setting the Course: Do we still need e-learning courses?”


  1. e-Liberate! Shall we agree to lose the e? | In the Learning Age - November 25, 2014

    […] I’ve argued on several occasions, learning is our job, and we all are swimmers in the vast digital sea. […]

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