If, like me, you’re a Gilbert & Sullivan fan, you might find your thoughts wandering to Reginald Bunthorne, the fleshly poet in the opera ‘Patience’, when you see the notice of next week’s meeting of the eLearning Network (eLN). At the end of Act one in the opera, Bunthorne has decided to raffle himself among the adoring chorus of lovesick maidens, who are lusting, or at least yearning, for him. In promoting the raffle, he sings, ‘put in half a guinea and a husband you may gain. Such an opportunity may not occur again.’
Such an opportunity may not occur again to hear the wisdom and undoubted wit of a host of eminent, extremely competent and expert speakers including Tony Frascina and Phil Green on the subject of the virtues of the very best in instructional design techniques. The eLN meeting – being held in Sheffield – will also be looking at whether the introduction of rapid authoring tools has ‘dumbed down’ the creation of e-learning.
Yet even now, the clock may be ticking and the sands of time running out for what we’ve come to know as ‘conventional’ instructional design within e-learning. From what I’ve been seeing recently – in a relatively small but interesting number of e-learning projects across several industries – an increasing number of organisations commissioning e-learning have been developing the content in-house, using subject matter experts versed in the operation of rapid authoring tools (such as Activate), and then giving the final design of the materials to ‘non-e-learning design houses’, such as website and mobile apps developers.
These trends may be occurring for a number of reasons. They include the pressure on budgets to commission and fund e-learning projects brought about by the economic downturn; the desire to move away from what is now seen as unadventurous, ‘traditional’ e-learning solutions provided for the last ten years or so by professional content developers (such as materials based on templates; materials with predictable interactions, and so on), and the need to not only provide e-learning materials for delivery via a range of mobile devices but also to compete, for users’ attention, with increasingly creative, challenging and visually sophisticated apps and/or games.
Times are changing within the e-learning world and, as King Canute demonstrated all those years ago: ‘time and tide wait for no man’. If they’re not careful, the traditional instructional designers and content development companies may soon only be talking to themselves. Meanwhile, website designers and other graphics specialists will be adding ‘performance support apps and games’ (formerly known as e-learning) to their range of services and talking to lots of in-house subject matter experts who know how to use rapid authoring tools.
It will be regrettable to the purists, maybe – but, of those who’re actually engaged in productive and profitable work, who will care about the finer points of e-learning instructional design then?