Friday, January 19, 2007

learning development: fast, cheap or good?

For the last twenty some years I have been involved in the development of learning materials for training and educational purposes. Whether serving the demand s of a corporate client or an academic client the same mantra is heard - can you do it fast, good and cheap? I always tell them to pick one.

I wonder if any other profession is continually asked (even demanded) to offer their services fast, good and cheap. And how many other professions have a plethora of tools and methodologies - like rapid e-learning - that "promise" to deliver good results fast and cheaply?
I'll be visiting the dentist later today - perhaps I'll ask her.
Now the Learning Circuits Blog has posed the January Big Question to the ed tech blogosphere -What are the trade offs between quality learning programs and rapid e-learning and how do you decide?

My career has been to act primarily as an advocate for the learner - corporate and academic. I seek to design appropriate and effective learning materials that meet the learning needs of the real client - the student or employee.

This role often puts me in conflict with the demands of the secondary client - he/she who foots the bill. It's a tense stand off - and I am always in a negotiation mode. "yes, we can do it cheaply, but we can't meet all the objectives." "Fast? OK, - are your subject matter experts available when we need them? Can you review the materials and get back to us on schedule?"

Good? Well that depends on your definition of good. If good means fast and cheap - I can meet it - but I don't want my name associated with it and I can't vouch for how effective it will be, and heck, I won't do it. If good means identify the performance problem, develop an effective solution and measure the results - well that takes time. And if the results say we must reevaluate our expectations or design -well that will take more time and money. well spent money and time in pursuit of an end goal."

But wait a second - I think I can offer you my cut rate service - at least I can give you some consulting advice - on how to achieve that mantra -fast, good and cheap - all in one package!

Let's look at the development process and see where the trade offs are possible:
1. Don't do a proper needs analysis - assume the problem is already well defined. We might be on the wrong track here and build something irrelevant - but heck we can still go ahead!

2. Don't do an environmental analysis - treat all learners the same, don't recognize learning styles, learning readiness, language or cultural considerations, or time or resource restraints.
Don't worry that some learners have grade 10 reading level, English is their second language, they have never used and have no access to computers, and they have to learn on their lunch hour. Hey - the learning will be there if they want it bad enough!

3. Cut the team size and skill set. Just give some instructional guidelines to the subject matter expert and have him/her create the course in their spare time. Get rid of the instructional designer. Or keep the ID but give them more to do - course authoring, graphics design, programming, even teaching! Great idea - diminish the worth of instructional design and the quality will remain the same or be enhanced!

4. Cut out pilot testing, prototype development and formative evaluation - just do it, results be damned! Sure it might save time and money and enhance quality. But we want it cheap and fast!
And we want to do it the same way every time!

5. Best of all - do incomplete and and inappropriate evaluation of the process and the results - a smile sheet is all we need - or better yet, just count the number of people signed up for the course. That way we will never know if it was a quality effort or not - and we can keep cutting corners over and over again. If we don't evaluate, we will never have negative results!

6. Now that is a truly rapid e-learning model!

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