Evaluating eLearning 2.0

Just read Will Thalheimer’s article on Evaluating eLearning 2.0: Getting Our Heads Around the Complexity in Learning Solutions, the eLearning Guild’s online magazine. I’d recommend the full article if you have access to it.

He urges caution in accepting the evangelism that’s around about elearning 2.0. He lists quite a few ways in which it can potentially do harm – for example, learners receive inaccurate content, learners and creators waste productive time creating material. So he thinks it’s all the more important that careful evaluation goes on at the early stages, of the effect on both the learners and the creators of messages in blogs and wikis.

At the same time, he’s not negative about these methods, and suggests that they might lead to increased critical thinking on the part of learners.

His article directly addresses some of the concerns I’ve had and that I’ve heard in my organization when the idea of learner-generated content has been broached:

· We put a lot of effort into stopping subject experts from ‘brain-dumping’ – will this allow them to do that?

· How do we vet this stuff for accuracy? When do we vet it? Who vets it?

He looks at what he calls ‘support for remembering and implementation’ – I think this refers to most of what we call instructional design – and notes that it’s absent from most user-generated content. This makes 2.0 techniques suitable for small chunks of material for immediate use, where remembering and longer term implementation aren’t the aim. Where the information is complex and/or support is critical, these techniques should play only a supporting role to eLearning 1.0 methods.

What Thalheimer always brings to the table is rigour. Here he says ‘yes it’s very new and very complex and looks overwhelming but let’s start somewhere.’

In our organisation, I’m looking at encouraging user-generated content in a limited way – using one-page templates based on instructional design ideas, which (a limited number of ) SMEs can complete; the structure would have to be followed and a word limit observed. It’ll be some time before the first experiments go live, but I’ll report on them. Is this eLearning 1.5?

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