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Andrew Jackson

Pacific Blue Solutions


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Analogue Instructional Design in a Digital World


Recently, I spent some time working with an e-learning development team, who by their own admission, had spent years producing nice-looking, but very boring, page-turning e-learning.

I don't want to knock these guys. They knew they were missing a trick and they were keen and eager to do something about it. And there's no question that after working with them for just a couple of days, they are now much better equipped to produce actual learning - that will have the added bonus of looking good.

But it struck me. Here are people totally at home in the digital world, yet for years their instructional design skills (such as they were) had very definitely been of the analogue variety.

This is an extreme version of a scenario, I come across all too often. People acquiring and enhancing their digital skills exponentially, but leaving their instructional design skills (if any) trailing far behind.

Several decades into a brave new world of everything becoming digital, we still seem to be remarkably naive (or hopeful) about software's ability to solve all our learning problems. It's almost as if when we're presented with a piece of software for developing or managing learning, the common sense part of our brain disconnects and we go all gaga.

No need to think. Just follow the steps of the software procedure and all will be well, we seem to think. If only we can get good at using the software, we all delude ourselves, all will be well.

Nowhere is this disconnect more apparent than in the world of e-learning. Yes, you can become a Storyline or Captivate super hero. Yes, you might have mastered variables, layers and states. Yes, you might have found a work around to an obscure software glitch that the developers haven't yet fixed.

But all this blue-caped super-hero-ness comes to nothing if all you are doing is producing sophisticated but vacuous pieces of digital output that your learners would rather not be wasting their time ploughing through.

And I wonder why we are still seduced by the promise of the software. No-one would be daft  enough to believe that being really proficient with a saw, hammer, chisel and screw-driver would be enough to turn you into a master furniture-maker. 

Proficiency in using these tools and nothing else, would probably enable you to cobble together some very rudimentary pieces of furniture. 

But you would only start creating highly functional and attractive furniture after you had mastered some very different (but nevertheless complementary) design skills.

Creating e-learning is no different. Master your chosen authoring tool all you like. It won't turn you into a designer of truly effective e-learning. It will simply make you a highly-proficient software user.

Master the software and apply some digital-world instructional design skills? Well, then there's potential genius in the making. 

As long as software development tools are driving the e-learning conversation, there'll be many a page-turner churned out - to the dismay of your learners. 

To finally deliver on the promise of e-learning, means re-aligning and upgrading your instructional design thinking from analogue to the digital.

Using Storyline for your e-learning development? Find out about aligning your instructional design thinking with your Storyline skills.

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Andrew Jackson


Read more from Andrew Jackson

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