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Michael Allen’s Guide to e-Learning reviewed


Title: Michael Allen's Guide to e-Learning
Author: Michael Allen
Publisher: Wiley
Price: £20.95
ISBN: 0471203025

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This is described as a ‘how-to’ book for both instructional designers and executives responsible for corporate eLearning programmes.

The author, Michael Allen, is founder and former chairman of Authorware Inc. (now Macromedia Inc) and has been involved in the design and development of eLearning and the use of multi-media in learning for a number of years.

Not another book on eLearning I said to myself, and in fact the first page asks the question ‘Should you buy this book?’ The answer the book gives, of course, is Yes! But I do agree and if I was looking for a recent book on eLearning development I would probably choose this one. Why? For both the content and style of the book.

Allen feels the two crucial areas that impact on the effectiveness of eLearning are:

  • Management – for support, criteria and vision, and
  • Design - for interactivity, content and motivation
  • Hence the book is divided into 2 parts:

    1. Business Perspectives – considering the value of good eLearning and what to look for when buying, commissioning or developing eLearning programmes
    2. Design - exploring in greater depth the design issues raised in part 1.

    The book is around 300 pages, all in black and white, but I found it easy to read being written in a friendly, almost chatty style, as though the author was explaining things personally to you. In fact, once I received the book I was personally keen to get started and keep on reading to find out what Allen had to say about the subject.

    The text is interspersed with the use of simple diagrams to aid understanding and screen shots to demonstrate examples of good design. However, buyers of the book can request a free CD-Rom (to be sent to them from Minneapolis USA) which contains ‘live examples.’ This review does not include the CD.

    The topics are well covered and informative, but I am afraid some of the example screen shots of programmes made me cringe with their cartoon characters. The book is, of course, American but don’t let that put you off, the content is excellent.

    One topic of particular interest is on learner motivation, a crucial aspect on any learning programme but even more so with eLearning and the problem of isolation. With apologies to Einstein, Allen explains using the formula:

    E = m c

    With E = eLearning, m = motivation and c = content.

    He then takes you through ways to enhance learner motivation, from setting the initial objectives to interaction and assessments.

    This book as the title suggests is a guide to building interactive, fun and effective learning programmes for any company, and if that is what you are looking to do, I would recommend this book to you.

    Reviewed by Renee Raper MSc FCIPD FITOL
    Director of Learning Channel
    August 2003


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