Another eLearning Devcon has come and gone, and if you missed it you missed a great conference with great speakers...as well as gorgeous weather and scenery in Salt Lake City, Utah.
I attended many sessions (from mLearning, to 508 compliance, to HTML5, etc), but it seemed to me that it all came back to one topic, and that was putting learning into context so that learners could understand and easily retrieve the learned knowledge later so that it could be implemented.
When it comes to learning, the issue these days is not so much that we don't have the technology or the know-how to make some really cool stuff. The issue is how to use that technology in meaningful ways to create actual learning--not just flashy, technology-packed modules of fluff.
In Jason Bickle's session Design Approaches for Adapting Content for mLearning, Bickle started out with a warning: Don't go mobile just because it's the next thing to do. Make sure it makes sense in the context of your organization (more on that here).
Other presenters had differing ideas for using new technology in eLearning.
In his session Using Photographic Techniques in Your eLearning Courses, Trond Kristiansen touched on some interesting uses of photos (to create stop-motion video, time-lapse photos and 360 degree tours of places and objects) which really got me thinking about all the practical uses of these techniques, if put in the right context. There are lots of learning situations where these methods would be overkill, but in the ones where it is not (like the medical field), the possibilities are exciting (more on that in a future article).
In Gary Robinson's session Can eLearning Interfere With The Human Learning Process? Robinson advised us to make sure that our learning courses aided learners in the following: selection process, organization process, integration and trigger retrieval. In other words, you should present content so that with minimal effort on the learner's part, it is clear exactly what information is pertinent and the information is organized in small enough chunks for digestion. Additionally, each topic should be integrated so that it's clear why all of the information is together. The lesson then needs to be presented in a manner that will help the learner retrieve the information at a later date.
Robinson gave a great example of trigger retrieval in the form of eLearning that relied on a baseball diamond game to test learner knowledge on the average age of depression on-set. It may have been a fun game to test learning, but since baseball had nothing to do with the content, was it helping the overall learning process?
Robinson made the point that brains can have weird triggers. Instead of drilling home the point about age of depression on-set, adding the baseball game to the lesson might cause the brain to relate the information to baseball.
Robinson suggested an alternative approach: simply use stock photos of people of different ages so that the learner associates the information with images of people of the corresponding ages.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you seen (or created) impressive eLearning that really tied everything together and allowed learners to easily pull information from their knowledge banks later? Have you seen some things that looked cool but really didn't enhance the learning at all? I'd love to hear your success (and horror) stories. Leave them in the comments below.
More from ELDC 2011: