Friday, October 05, 2007

You're So Immature: e-Learning in Some Organizations

Earlier this week I was musing about messes in Messy Learning OK. Messy Training Not OK. This post had some great comments which got me thinking about maturity cycles in e-Learning among organizations.

Karl Kapp commented, "We need to create formal learning events and surround them with messy learning opportunities for people to exchange ideas and try things out but we can add just enough structure and direction to make it possible."

So that's a vision of the future of e-Learning. That's mature e-Learning.

I'm just about to kickoff a new project with a manufacturing organization to produce some custom courses. I'm gonna call them an "immature e-Learning organization." They seem to want page-turners, more or less. Games are scary. No collaboration. Nothing too "messy." When pressed, they respond "That's not in our budget" or "That's not in our plan" or "We don't have the resources for that."

Contrast this to a project Karyn Romeis is working on. She says, "One of the things I am trying to do is to include in my designs the means for learners to interact with one another and with acknowledged experts in the subject at hand." That is forward-thinking; very hip and now; very "mature" e-Learning. It includes some of those messy learning opportunities.

Vendors -- of which I am one -- are often in the position of just answering the mail. By the time a project gets to my door, the organization has often decided upon their approach. Our influence, in these cases, can be minimal. Needless to say, it can be a hard process to educate these clients.

And maybe such clients just aren't ready. Maybe they're immature. Maybe they need to go through the process of creating linear, page-turning e-Learning before they're ready to move into the here and now. Maybe they need to create old-school e-Learning before they can start adding messy to the mix.

Dan Roddy was expressing a similar frustration. He was venting about Kirkpatrick evaluations. What stood out to me in his post was this, "Perhaps, sadly, what it made me think about was just how out of the loop I am when it comes to the whole training cycle. For our clients we are simply a means to an end - nothing more than the design phase of the training - so I never get to learn how the training went down; I never get any learner feedback or statistics."

These are the challenges of being the external vendor.


Anonymous said...

Hi Cammy--if it's any consolation, I used to be an internal instructional designer and management STILL thinks they have all the answers. I struggled a lot with getting my organizations to see that we needed to do things differently.

Your comment on just "answering the mail" for some of your clients opens up a larger problem I have in my work, which is at what point do you stop doing things the way the client wants you to? Where's the line between "the customer's always right" and "you're about to screw this up and I don't want to be part of it"? There have been times when I've actually refused to do work for people because I felt that they had jumped too quickly to solutions that weren't going to work. Later, when it was time to pay the bills, I wondered if I'd made the right decision because I'm sure that my actions didn't change their minds--they just went and found someone who would play ball with them.

Cammy Bean said...

How much influence you can have often depends on where in the supply-chain you fit. Are you seen merely as the course developer? Are you a strategy consultant?

And also the length and depth of your relationship with the client. Is this the first project you've done for them or the tenth?

Michele -- you're stronger than most to turn down work, but I'm sure it's benefited you in the long run to NOT be affiliated with a failed project.