While looking for some notebooks that I simply can’t find, I came across an old copy of the Canadian Journal of Educational Communication I kept as it contains a paper I co-wrote in 1994 with probably the greatest boss I ever had, Dr. Arto Demirjian, and my then thesis director and now dear friend, Steven Shaw.
This paper, entitled “A Case Study: Development of Interactive Multimedia Courseware“, was a very big deal to me. It was a culmination of a venture I had undertaken in a completely foreign domain, which was actually foreign to most people at the time: interactive self-pace learning.
Back then we called it CBT, or computer-based training. I wonder why my title says Interactive Multimedia Courseware… who knows. These CBTs were first produced to be delivered on… diskettes! Yes diskettes, a great technological advance from… floppy disk. Those under 30 or so… ever wondered what that Save icon is? 😉
Now we would call it elearning.
Anyway, it was a magical time for me, as I was given basically anything I wanted to work with:
The biggest bad-ass Mac I could find
Two monitors! …with 256 colors!!!!!
A PC (which I had to care about as my boss wanted it to be… cross-platform!!!!!)
An external hard drive with a few hundred megabytes (NOT gigabytes)
A tape back-up with 8mm cartridges (I think…)
A lab with 7-8 Macs to test with dentistry students
And then some…
It was cool! I also had the first digital camera: a Nikon F3 (I think) with a 80 megabytes hard drive attached underneath it… Can’t remember the resolution but it was top notch for the times (probably 1 MB or so). I also got my hands on one of the first digital projector. Actually it was a digital plaque that with put on the… OVERHEAD PROJECTOR!!!!!
I was in heaven!
Anyway… enough reminiscing.
Here’s a link to that paper… page 189… Maybe you’ll smile when you read it. Too bad it’s in black and white, very low quality for the figures and pictures.
The truth is, it is almost impossible to find comparable apples to compare, because most projects are somewhat unique: it’s never just “apples”… there is always some other fruit, or even some vegetables in the mix… 😉
The notion of elearning levels have been around for many, many years. Their purpose is grand: use a common language to define expectations, and give budget ballparks, right?
But each discussion about elearning levels starts with a clarification of what those levels mean, by discussing it thoroughly with your client. Eventually it requires some examples of what you’ve done to support the budgets you’re asking for… which in the end, you propose a “produce” basket that will be different from the other bidders’.
So it’s like you’re bidding to become this client’s personal chef. You’ll need to understand his likes and dislikes, his preferred dishes and the ones he’s willing to eat in a bind, and of course, how long he’s willing to wait for it, and how much he’s willing to pay.
But come to think of it, talking ingredients may not be the right approach…
Should we talk “cooking”? Ingredients are just ingredients… even the best ones can not be fully appreciated if they weren’t prepared properly, or prepared to there full potential.
Should we talk “Restaurant”? The food itself can be great, but if the plating, service or dining room aren’t right, the expectations are in jeopardy.
Isn’t it about the overall experience? In our case, the learning experience?
Of course elearning levels are part of the overall experience. But they do not address all of it.
The learning experience is created by the successful combination of several things:
In terms of elearning levels, the one thing I find is not addressed properly, if at all, is the engagement part. You might say that it’s part of the learning strategy… to which I’d respond it’s time to looked at it separately. Don’t you think?
Now another question come to mind… should we consider learning experience levels? 🙂
I recently met someone from the local learning industry, and surprisingly, we had not yet crossed paths. Probably because she comes from the entertainment side of the street. As we got deeper in our conversation about what we do, how we do it, who is involved, the tools we use, how long it takes, etc, we realized we needed to align our “fruits”: terminology, approaches, concepts, etc. to be able to understand each other, to talk “apples to apples”.
Squirrel note: Building learning materials, like elearning, requires writing text to be read and scripts to be listened to. Writing is considered a standard, required skill. But it is not given to all to write well, especially for self-pace learning. There seem to be different approaches used for writing in elearning production, which impacts “who” you use to write the text: instructional designers design the elearning and then write it up, instructional designers design the learning and pass it on to someone with a communication/journalism background, or instructional designers design the learning and pass it on to a scriptwriter, trained for the film industry. Many different people to consider, different worlds, different expectations to deal with… 🙂
When scoping a job, we usually start by looking for past experiences to figure out what needs to be done for how much, right? And you probably heard the expression… “we need to compare apples to apples” or “you can’t compare apples to oranges” when you realize that you’re looking at different examples. And come to think of it, there are many kinds of apples: color, texture, taste, etc.
So we need to get to a common ground, talk the same language, use the same reference points. Especially when you are talking with clients. Learning materials (elearning, instructor-led training (ILT), etc.) can be distinguished from many different perspectives, but generally we end up discussing the “look and feel”, the interactivity, the media elements, and more importantly, the engagement factor.
For now I’ll set aside the the “look and feel” and engagement factor, as the former is pretty easy to tackle and the latter is very subjective (at least I think so). So that leaves the interactivity and the media elements, which leads the discussion to “levels” of complexity, to relate it back to effort, cost and time.
For elearning, we’ve all heard of levels 1, 2 and 3. For ILT? I actually don’t know if there is such a classification. There should be. Maybe some of you can join in and point to some… But for now, I’ll focus on elearning.
So for many years now, we’ve discussed elearning levels, usually 1-2-3, which should probably be extended, as the possibilities keep growing. The biggest challenge I find is to integrate interactivity and media. A few years ago Amit Gard posted an interesting perspective compared to a study from The Chapman Alliance about the efforts taken for development of various levels of custom eLearning. I think The Chapman Alliance model is way too generic and encompassing. Maybe the people who came up with it never had to personally scope a project. 🙂
I like Amit’s extended model. Not sure about his breakdown of “course-types”, as I would see at least another type between “presentation” and “scenarios”, to account for designing activities that are not scenario-based (I guess it depends on how he came up with his range of instructional design effort). His model better addresses a situation where you need a highly interactive design, scenario-based with non-linear branching, in a very simple interface, and no media: instructional design effort would be very high, while media design and production very low. But I’d like to see separate curves to distinguish the course-type (instructional design) and the multimedia parts. Maybe two separate graphs need to be created… that you overlay to get the “real” picture?
Another example: Shift Disruptive elearning (which in turn points to EduTech’s wiki page on “interactivity”) presents it from the interactive side with a 4-level classification: passive, limited, moderate and simulation. But there again, they include media design and development into the mix.
There are many different views out there, which makes it difficult to compare – from tomatoes to apples… And then, we need to look at what it takes to create and produce the apple we agree is needed. Ultimately, the right one is the one that you feel most comfortable with, that you can “easily” explain and relate to the person you’re talking to. Of course you also need to consider the group you are part of, your colleagues, the ones that need to have the same “schpeel” in front of clients.
I’m currently working on a model of my own, working from past experiences, considering the major blocks of activities relating to elearning design and development: lead ID, ID, authoring (integration, programming), Lx/Ux*, media design and production, QC and of course PM. If some of you are interested in discussing this further, either from the service provider or buyer sides, please let me know.