Serious eLearning Manifesto

This week the Serious eLearning Manifesto has been put forward by Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn and Will Thalheimer. 

I think it's a great initiative and something we, as the "professionals" should strive for. The supporting principles aren't rocket science really but like most "words of wisdom" open doors, stuff we all know but tend to lose focus of in our day-to-day lives.

What do you think of the Manifesto? Will you sign and endorse it or don't you see the point? How will you uphold these logical yet ambitious values in a world where customers and SME's aren't on the same page?

Chime in!

23 Replies
Bruce Graham

I support it completely, HOWEVER, nothing will happen unless we, as "learning people", start to speak at the right levels to the right people, i.e. "C" level and HR. The principles need to tie into business plans, and also into (for example...) Performance Planning and Job Roles.

Until that happens, I believe this will sadly be just another concept.

We HAVE to start talking to people who are outside our normal comfort zones - it would be great if existing supporters such as ASTD and eLearning Guild start to do this.

Until then, (and I have often posted that absurdity is a great way to learn....), I would like to actively promote the dLearning Manifesto, which you can find at http://www.eqsim.com/blog/?p=413 

Nick n/a

I like it how I can get a Mozilla badge if I sign the manifesto. Does that factor in with real-world consequences?

Other then that any professional will have their own standards they follow. Or that of the company that they work in.

I respect the authors but would be more interested in how this could factor in with benchmarking.

Gordon UBS Lam

Let me start by saying I am a big fan of Michael Allen and Clark Quin, and a HUGE fan of Will Thalheimer. We have been having an active discussion on this manifesto within our organization, and let me share some of the general comments here. I think most of us in the learning space would find little to argue with in the Supporting Principles. Many if not most of these are timeless. But, most of what is in the manifesto, to our eye, is very much aligned with creating formal learning experiences. We would submit we need some new principles about better supporting informal learning and the role of instructional design and learning professionals in this new world; e.g. content curators versus content creators.

Rachel Leigh

Nicholas Ostheimer said:

I like it how I can get a Mozilla badge if I sign the manifesto. Does that factor in with real-world consequences?

Other then that any professional will have their own standards they follow. Or that of the company that they work in.

I respect the authors but would be more interested in how this could factor in with benchmarking.

What do you exactly mean by benchmarking?
Rachel Leigh

Jeff Kortenbosch said:

This week the Serious eLearning Manifesto has been put forward by Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn and Will Thalheimer. 

I think it's a great initiative and something we, as the "professionals" should strive for. The supporting principles aren't rocket science really but like most "words of wisdom" open doors, stuff we all know but tend to lose focus of in our day-to-day lives.

What do you think of the Manifesto? Will you sign and endorse it or don't you see the point? How will you uphold these logical yet ambitious values in a world where customers and SME's aren't on the same page?

Chime in!

I think good elearning is harder than rocket science. : )
Rachel Leigh

I caught most of the manifesto and I heard one of the presenters/experts in it say that an elearning course may not be be right learning solution.  I think most of us (the people in the trenches) get that but what if you do not get to make that decision/call?  That is, the decision has been made by someone else (e.g. your boss or a client) to create an elearning course on so and so and it may or may not be the best learning solution.  How do you handle it? 

Natalia Mueller

I think that even though these have become common to those of us who live in this world, there was a time not that long ago that the left column wasn't a joke at all, but the standard of the time. While we might not personally need this manifesto to develop good courses, the more awareness it gets, the easier it becomes to have those challenging conversations. The decision makers that all too often don't actually know adult learning or course development will be throwing around the "new" buzzwords in no time

Maybe I'll just print it out and put it on my wall... speed up that process a little bit. :)

Nancy Woinoski

Natalia Mueller said:

I think that even though these have become common to those of us who live in this world, there was a time not that long ago that the left column wasn't a joke at all, but the standard of the time. While we might not personally need this manifesto to develop good courses, the more awareness it gets, the easier it becomes to have those challenging conversations. The decision makers that all too often don't actually know adult learning or course development will be throwing around the "new" buzzwords in no time

Maybe I'll just print it out and put it on my wall... speed up that process a little bit.


Natalia do you think that the wording in this manifesto will speak to the powers that be?

Dave Neuweiler

Gordon Lam mentioned, "But, most of what is in the manifesto, to our eye, is very much aligned with creating formal learning experiences."

There's a reason for that. I read the manifesto over the weekend, then pulled Mager's "Making Instruction Work" from the bookshelf (that was published in 1988, with a revised second edition in 1997). I compared the table of contents to the manifesto, and with one minor exception (#12), was able to directly match each Supporting Principle of the manifesto to a topic in the TOC.

The point is that the manifesto prescribes instructional design principles, and these apply to any instruction that's developed, regardless of how the instruction is delivered. That, of course, includes eLearning.

Consider a lesson created according the manifesto's principles, and then developed as eLearning. It absolutely meets its objectives -- nails them -- but is produced as a droll, page-turner with no interactivity at all. Contrast that idea with an eLearning production that is media rich, highly interactive, and mesmerizingly engaging to the users -- but the content miserably fails to meet the objectives.

Which is better? (If you're having trouble getting a handle on this concept, remember that the first self-paced distance learning was probably a book, and I guarantee you that it was a real "page-turner.")

I've always considered that instructional design and eLearning production are two different things, and maybe that's because I learned  these arts separately and decades apart. The design part is getting the content and outcomes in order. The production part is using the media and delivery method to bring it to life. I think that great eLearning, of necessity, depends on both.

Marty King

I like the manifesto but I will draw a different distinction between typical elearning and serious elearning. Most of the courses I develop are information based courses. They are more of a communication and I would describe them as typical elearning. I've developed very few skills based courses which I would describe as seriouse elearning.

I also agree with Bruce that the "C" suite and HR people must take ownership and demand that the organization place the appropriate emphasis on seriouse elearning and not just consider it away of cutting the cost associated with classroom courses.

I agree also with Dave. ID's must understand the instructional design principles but also be skilled at graphic design and engage the learner because the learners have come to expect it in our media rich world.

Natalia Mueller

@Nancy

They probably won't know what some of it means, or at least not what it's really referencing. But I think it can be useful to use as a tool in these much needed conversations the community is talking about. I wouldn't even explain that it's a manifesto or talk about any "movement". Instead I'd use it as a visual aid and just say something like-

Now that eLearning has been around for awhile, there's a lot of support around what makes great courses great and bad courses not so great. Here's a list of the reasons when it's a design problem. Here's what each means. The good news is that we don't need to buy new tools to make this happen. It's just a current way to take what we know about adult learning as it applies to online training and use it to make our courses genuinely effective. Not every course will need all of these things, but I think it's important for us to talk about what each of these elements are and why we want to incorporate more of them into our learning strategy....

I agree that these high level conversations are important, but that's not the only place a list like this is useful.

I really shouldn't have said these are all common knowledge to learning professionals. So many people right in this community are new at this and when you're new, you often only know what you have seen. These lists are a helpful way to identify what makes up some great design. Some designers may not be in a position to approach the C suite or even HR to apply a sweeping change in standards. However, they can begin to recognize what each of these items looks like in both good and bad courses and begin to incorporate the principles in their own design. The more they become familiar with the differences, the more they have the ability to determine where they can really add value to their courses, and just as importantly, WHY they add value. 

OWEN HOLT

Marty King said:

I like the manifesto but I will draw a different distinction between typical elearning and serious elearning. Most of the courses I develop are information based courses. 


That also holds true for classroom. I've observed "information based courses" that were nothing more than glorified document reviews, others that were great presentations, and still others that were very effective activity-centric information based courses.

Nancy Woinoski

@Natalia - What you are saying makes a lot of sense. As a next step it would be great if somebody could rework this manifesto for business people - put it in terms that the C suite would understand - write it from a business perspective. It would also be great if we had some metrics to quantify the stated principles so that we could really sell it.

And designers, it would be nice to see some concrete examples that illustrate how to design for these principles. I've been doing this for a long time and I still struggle with statements like "Meaningful to Learners."

Daniel Brigham

Dig the list, just want to call attention to the fact that performance has to do with content.

If I want to teach, say, a high school freshman how to write persuasively, he/she is gonna need a good deal of content (info related to audience, rhetorical appeals, syntax, etc.), before they can perform the task at hand. Thanks for posting this, Jeff.

Steve Flowers

The manifesto is a really interesting call to action. We see flare-ups in this domain occasionally where groups will speak out against or for one thing or another. I really dig all of the folks that started this one, so maybe it'll have more staying power I've been known to be critical and outspoken about stuff I see as broken in the field. I'm less so now, since I haven't walked in the shoes of other folks. 

Systems of practice and systems of beliefs could be better. But I think we get there through some appreciative inquiry and support from professional communities. I like the manifesto above as a conversation starter. To be more effective than a passive artifact of conversation, one of the things I think might help is to ask folks to "personalize a purpose."  

Laura Kalbag did this with the First Things First 2014 Design Manifesto. See her unfinished purpose statement at the bottom of this post. Owning responsibility for making things better and biting off what we can chew individually is the only way I see sustainable change happening. It's a marathon, not a sprint

Mark Dawdy

Great comments and a good idea, although I agree the practicality of it is what you make of it and how much buy-in you receive from those with whom you work - no matter who the stakeholders are.

But it's refreshing to see someone set a "stake in the ground."

Cathy Moore has her manifesto also, it is a pretty good one and I like her power of expression.  She seems to nail many topics and important issues for what they are, helping to make sense of it.

http://blog.cathy-moore.com/2013/06/learning-development-people-unite/

Always appreciate the discussions here.  I have learned a lot and the more I use Storyline (since a beta user), the more I like it.

Thanks for sharing.

Bud Keegan

Bruce has nailed it.  "Training" is still considered a cost by C suite and not an unprecedented organisational opportunity.  Unfortunately e-learning specifically is still so associated with compliance (and limiting legal liability), that it fails to spark w/senior management.  The compliance aspect has ghettoised e-learning I think (not that I've got any issue with it-- but when your experience is limited to bad compliance-type e-learning, it can sour you on the whole thing).  I've personally seen a wave of learner acceptance crest over the last 5 years, from total aversion to growing acceptance to ever increasing learner expectations.  But management?  Forget it.  They don't engage with it, don't understand it and don't often see the ROI.  

Manifestos are fine but until a real connection is made from learning to the bottom line, it will be a long march (we may even have to wait until this generation of management retires to make real progress on a strategic level-- I hope not tho!).  

Bruce Graham

Thanks Bud.

But remember - it's not just "management". Many training people people are caught in, (and refuse to leave...) the "training ghetto".

Can you read/understand a P&L? If not how can you produce really powerful business training?

Do you understand competency matrices, attrition plans and so on? If not - can you REALLY produce a decent HR course?

Do you produce "Consultant Induction Courses" or courses that "...reduce hire to Bill latency"?

It's always easier to blame others but our industry does not want to help itself sometimes.

Just another 2p worth.....