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Fiona Pollock

Zostera Ltd

Learning Consultant & Coach

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Eye movement sensors for e-learning: a step too far?

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Earlier this week I read about the new MindFlash Focus Assist technology. This new feature uses the camera on the iPad to monitor the learners eye movements. If it senses that the learner has looked away for more than a few seconds, it will pause the learning programme. (You can read about it here: http://buswk.co/173yjKv)

As I read the article, I found myself wondering if this is really necessarily – is this the next step “forward” in e-learning?  And if so, what does the need for such technology tell us about the effectiveness of e-learning programmes?

MindFlash say that the purpose of the feature is to provide trainers with data on the programme content.  If a pattern is identified whereby many learners are disengaging with the material, then trainer’s can be alerted to this and can make the necessary alterations to the content.  And I get that in theory.  But is that really how it is going to be used and more importantly, is that how it’s going to be perceived by the learners themselves?

Research shows that mandatory (or forced) training leads to decreased levels of motivation in an individual and that it is perceived as too controlling.  There is an argument that although adult learners ideally should be self-directed, for a proportion of people this self-direction only kicks in when there is an element of ‘force’ or direction (this notion forms the basis of Forced Learning Theory), but even so won’t learners feel that this ‘Big Brother’-esque feature takes mandatory learning to a new extreme?

In my experience, the mandatory programmes are the ones which tend to be ‘skipped through’ by learners, with people feeding back that they “know the information already” and that having to undertake the learning is just a tick box exercise.  If this feature becomes commonplace in e-learning programmes, I think the resentment for such training will just increase, causing the learner to be further demotivated.

Wouldn’t it be better for an effective TNA/LNA to be carried out to identify exactly who needs what learning.  If someone’s knowledge just needs to be verified periodically (such as is the case with some H&S training), wouldn’t it make more sense for the leaner to undertake an assessment only and if they fail that, they have to re-do the actual learning?

Alternatively, the adoption of ‘digital badges’ (http://openbadges.org/about/) would allow learners to demonstrate to their employer skills and knowledge that they have attained elsewhere.

Not only would both these approaches save businesses time and money (as people wouldn’t be ‘repeating’ learning) but it would lead to learners being more engaged in the learning they DID have to undertake as they would see the value of it.

Do you welcome the addition of this kind of tool to your training kitbag or do you think it’s a step too far?

Author Profile Picture
Fiona Pollock

Learning Consultant & Coach

Read more from Fiona Pollock
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