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Supersonic e-Learning
Is Content King?

By Bob Little / September 2010

TYPE: OPINION
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Over many years (so many that I'd prefer not to count them, so let's say "from the very dawn of the e-learning industry") I have attended innumerable conferences at which learning technologists have stated that delivery technology is irrelevant. What really matters is that the learning materials are designed and developed in line with accepted best practice in instructional design — whichever formula that happens to be at the time.

The problem has always been that, as soon as that sort of statement is made, to general agreement and even acclamation, everyone becomes sidetracked by the latest piece of learning delivery technology. In the last 20 years, this has ranged from CD-ROM XA (does any reader remember that?) to cloud-hosted mobile delivery.

So, is content really king?

In the U.K., we were treated to an interesting insight into this question a few weeks ago when news emerged that Promethean has become the official interactive education technology partner of the Bloodhound SuperSonic Car (SSC) Project.

Bloodhound team members have held the World Land Speed Record for the past 26 years and the current Bloodhound project aims to design and build the first car capable of achieving 1,000mph. The three-year project is led by Richard Noble OBE and Wing Commander Andy Green OBE, who set the current record of 763mph (1,228kmh) in October 1997.

Promethean will be working with the Bloodhound SSC team to support its international education program and engage young people in the science that underpins this challenge. Supported by global technology companies and universities, a key objective for Bloodhound is to inspire young people to pursue education and careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

Promethean will be installing its ActivClassroom technology in Bloodhound's education centers, creating the 'classroom of the future' and will be equipping Bloodhound's education ambassadors with relevant software and educational resources for use in schools.

Over 3,500 primary and secondary schools, 200 further education colleges and 40 higher education institutions in the UK have signed up to the program.

So, impressively, e-learning is going supersonic.

What's intriguing about this story is that it suggests that, when it comes to learning, 'e' or otherwise, content really is king.

After all, people are only going to be interested in the Bloodhound learning materials because they relate to a supersonic car, not because these learning materials are being delivered via "ActivClassroom technology." This is a dose of reality that all 'learning technology freaks' would do well to take to heart.


About the Author
For more than 20 years, Bob Little has specialized in writing about, and commentating on, corporate learning—especially e-learning—and technology-related subjects. His work has been published in the U.K., Europe, the U.S., and Australia. Contact Bob at bob.little@boblittlepr.com.



Comments

  • Wed, 15 Sep 2010
    Post by Lars Hyland

    Bob,

    I agree that design is critical to success. This encompasses more than content though, including consideration of the learner's motivations, environment, the tools they have available and the opportunities they have to put new learning into practice. But if we stick with content for a moment, absolutely it needs to be engaging and relevant to the learner and good design is critical to that. Earlier this year, I devised the IMPACT model that can be used to guide the development of a successful learning experience (more on that here: http://larsislearning.blogspot.com/2010/06/designing-e-learning-for-impact.html). Technology, when used wisely, is a catalyst to improved learning and performance. More than that, we are at a stage where technology is allowing us to challenge some of the more fundamental design principles of what constitutes an effective learning experience. This goes beyond IT and extends into cognitive science and neuroscience research which will provide fresh insight into how we can support the learning process. But your point, Bob, that content is a key factor remains a fundamental concern. If it lacks relevance, is poorly written, makes inappropriate use of media and interactivity, then it is unlikely to deliver the intended results. That old technology maxim still applies - GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out!