Thursday, May 10, 2007

Marrying Rapid e-Learning and Informal Learning

It is an interesting conversation to marry formal and informal learning and rapid e-learning.

I agree with Patrick Dunn that rapid e-learning is largely misused. I think there are at least two ways to look at rapid e-learning: first, as a production process - where the concern is to "compress" content into the shortest, cheapest, and fastest delivery; second, granularity of content to focus on rapid "application points."

In "3-Minute e-Learning" (2006), I stressed that we oftentimes forget the learner in the rush to compress content, time, and cost. Rapid e-learning should mean rapid application of learning on the job. And to accomplish this, there is a need to differentiate the types of content from those that are "useful now and immediate to do a task" from those that are "references and can be learned or accessed later." My experience tells me that only 5-25% of content are "must learn to perform now", while others "can be learned or accessed later."

In practical terms how does this impact rapid e-learning approaches? We should only apply high quality media, interaction, engaging design, and complex software on the 5-25% content. While we use simple and less expensive tools for references like PDF, Word, PPT, etc. This approach drastically cut development time and cost and makes the content help learners to find the "application points", rapidly.

Focusing on "application points" also helps facilitate informal learning (Jane Hart). In informal learning, contributors, collaborators, and catalysts, need to "seed" conversations with ideas that are rapidly useful to the community members.

The sad thing, to my mind, is that many software vendors or proponents of rapid e-learning using only the "production/compression" approaches are just mimicking a very old paradigm of linear learning without thought on how to fundamentally re-organize content.

The good news is that the increasing use of informal learning (without training structures) will train many of us to use content that we can share and use "rapidly" to achieve results.