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My eLearning Hopes for 2017

By Michael Allen, Chairman & CEO, Allen Interactions 

Michael250-1.pngYears seem so short as I’ve reached, um, maturity. And each year is shorter than the previous one. As the years fly by, I always wonder about the accomplishments of each previous year and how the coming year might contrast with it.

During recent years, interesting events and important accomplishments have taken place, such as the concept and realization of Learning Records Stores (LRS), cloud-based delivery, and Responsive Web Design (RWD)—such an unfortunate name for us in elearning, where responsiveness is an important instructional design term. Yet, great elearning designs that truly take advantage of interactive and simulation capabilities remain in the minority.

Indeed, it seems like instructional design just doesn’t get much serious attention anymore. We’re more interested in launching something quickly. It should have some nice graphics. Maybe an avatar. Sigh.

Could 2017 be the year elearning wakes up?

Maybe. We probably haven’t exhausted all the diversions to the most important work of creating meaningful, memorable, and motivational learning experiences. And I’m sure we’ll keep coming up with diversions.

But maybe we have spent enough time and effort to avoid where our attention always needs to be. Maybe we’ve learned an important lesson. Perhaps 2017 will mark the year we woke up, took professional responsibility, and turned toward a better path.

As I look at the number of attendees serious design webinars draw, such as those offered by our own Ethan Edwards and others at Allen Interactions and elsewhere, I’m heartened to know many people who do sincerely want to design e-learning experiences that actually build skills and motivate people to improve their performance.

I say this as I recognize there are many other webinars that also draw large audiences and unfortunately push the notion that simplistic quick-and-easy approaches make it unnecessary to take on the challenges of good instructional design. There are those that even laud the practice of “awarding” badges after learners turn a few pages. Really? Really.

The Serious eLearning Manifesto

Serious elearning creates learning experiences that learners love. Instead of a test of endurance, learners don’t want great elearning experiences to end. They want more and more, because well-designed learning experiences efficiently use the learners’ time to help them. The experiences are enjoyable even as they roll out great benefits.

serious_elearning_manifesto.pngSure, great elearning takes more thought and effort. It isn’t often accomplished by looking up some interactions in a template library and finding something that would probably work. It takes thoughtful iterative design efforts and testing to get it right. But isn’t it better to invest more time in the creation of elearning so learners can spend less time learning more?

While the guidance given in The Serious eLearning Manifesto might appear daunting, incorporation of just a few of the values and principles often makes an elearning experience far more effective that what’s usually churned out. Please take a look and think about what’s shared there.

Fun in the New Year

Finally, I’d like to point out that good design can be lots of fun. Just like a game or puzzle, design is problem-solving. The rewards are great when you “win” by finding a good solution. And the rewards are multiplied many times over by enthusiastic feedback that lets you know how much learners appreciate what you’ve done for them.

So, let’s give gifts to our organizations and learners that keep on giving year after year. We can feel good, do good, and have fun all at the same time. Let’s shake up elearning trends, attend to the real issues, give a brush-off to temptations to take the easy way out, and do something fun, interesting, and beneficial. We can do it!

Happy New Year,

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About Author

Michael Allen
Michael Allen

Michael W. Allen, our founder, has been a pioneer in the e-learning industry since 1975. He was the innovative force behind one of the most successful authoring tools ever created, Authorware, and our recently launched authoring and publishing system, ZebraZapps. Michael Allen has nearly 45 years of professional, academic, and corporate experience in teaching, developing, and marketing interactive learning and performance support systems. He has led teams of doctorate-level specialists in learning research, instructional design, computer-based training, and human engineering. For decades, he has concentrated on defining unique methods of instructional design and development that provide meaningful and memorable learning experiences through “true” cognitive interactivity. He developed the advanced design and development approaches we have used at Allen Interactions for the past two decades, including CCAF-based design and the SAM process for iterative, collaborative development. Michael is a prolific writer, sought-after conference speaker and recognized industry leader. In 2011, he received ASTD’s Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance Award. In 2012 Michael was selected by The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) Advisory Committee as a recipient of the 2012 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He holds M.A and Ph.D. degrees in educational psychology from The Ohio State University and is an adjunct associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Michael Allen was the director of advanced educational systems research and development of Control Data Corporation’s famous PLATO computer-based education system used around the world. He was the founder, and former chairman of Authorware, Inc. and also the primary architect of Authorware Professional, which was based on Allen’s extensive research on creativity and creative problem-solving. It became a groundbreaking authoring tool combining power and ease of use, and ultimately the industry standard. Authorware, Inc. merged with Macromind/Paracomp to become Macromedia, which was later acquired by Adobe.

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