Using Technology based platforms to support learning – does it work?
Increasingly the use of technology to support or in some cases to deliver learning is on the increase.
While reading a post on one of the forums this morning I came across a debate about the willingness for “trainers” to adopt technology to support or deliver learning.
The author of the piece (Martin Addison from VideoArts) cited the following:
Trainers don’t have the stomach for more preparation
Here, the allegation is that trainers have, over time, developed programmes that have been proven as effective and, with some tweaking, they can re-use these time after time – and adding technology to the mix would mean they’d have to start over. I think it is grossly unfair to suggest that trainers are not adopting technology because it would involve too much work. The vast majority of trainers work hard to fully prepare their programmes and to tailor their provision to the needs of their audience, so this accusation doesn’t hold water. It’s ‘survival of the fittest’ out there and there’s simply no room in the market for trainers who are unprofessional or ineffective.
Trainers have had their fingers burned before
Here, the allegation is that trainers are sceptical of the merits of technological innovations because they’ve seen – or may have invested in – other promising technologies that did not live up to expectations. This is an understandable human reaction. In the last recession, for example, e-learning was heralded as a panacea that would provide the blueprint for future learning. We were told no one would ever train in a classroom again. Of course, such predictions proved false. But few trainers have completely turned their backs on e-learning as a result. Many agree that today’s e-learning courses are a vastly different proposition. In other words, e-learning has been forgiven. This time around, it’s proving a worthy addition to the training mix.
Trainers are worried about the reliability of the technology
Here, the allegation is that trainers don’t want to be vulnerable to perceived threats such as an unstable internet connection or a crashing computer. I fully understand that a trainer may be reluctant to test out a new approach because they feel their job is on the line and they’re not willing to take a chance on something that might not work. However today’s computers and broadband connections are a lot more dependable. Technology has also created alternative options. For example, rather than streaming video via an internet connection, you can download it direct to your laptop, negating the need for you to rely on an internet connection at all.
- Reliability, time to prepare
- Perceived value
Certainly these are all valid reasons for carefully considering the vehicle to be used – but there is a bigger issue, one which the Learning and development world has skirted around for some time…. As an industry we have been drawn to the “shiny new..” thing or fad (fad surfing), or often change for change sake, but this misses the real point.
There are a lot of good logical, cognitive and economic reasons that have been given. I for one love technology, but it does have a time and place.
Some years ago I attended a conference on E-learning where Professor Heinz Wolff presented, he raised some interesting points that many of us forget…
- Humans learn by one or 2 ways – trial & error of copying – well we don’t have time in business for trial and error so…
- While we understand HOW the human brain works more, decade by decade, it has hardly evolved in the last 40,000 years or so
- What makes Humans different from other animals is our pose-able thumb, and the association we have when building learning – we use a mix of cognitive and ‘muscle memory’. Where is the muscle memory element in most (current) e-learning?
- We are a social & emotional species, we remember more when a memory is emotionally ‘hooked’
Take these things into account and it is no wonder that many people struggle to learn via e-learning – as designers we can include interaction, but we often miss out on the emotional elements. There is little or nothing we can do as far as muscle memory goes, as for most systems the input mechanism is fixed (keyboard & mouse) and these moves are identical for all interactions with the technology.
Sure in groups (face to face or online) we can discuss an experience we share – and this may well include DVD or Youtube productions, this meets the social and potentially the emotional elements, but still misses out on the muscle memory or kinaesthetic factors.
The challenge therefore is to correctly blend the appropriate technologies based on the form of learning required – there is no magic single solution. Sure technology will make it easier, but along with that comes the challenge of learning professionals to adapt the technology for pragmatic solutions