A response to Mark Walsh
Among the headline-grabbing claims made by Mark Walsh in his trainingzone article published on 19 February are that e-learning “isn’t really learning” and “it doesn’t really work”. Absurd? I think so. Extreme? Certainly, but it soon transpires that that’s what Mark was setting out to do.
Later in the article, he modifies the red-top sensationalism of his headlines and makes the caveat that “much of what I have said is also not fair to all e-learning providers”, and even concludes “perhaps blended learning solutions are the future - bringing together the best of e-learning and traditional training?”
What Mark (or his editor) has done is single out some of the worst practice in e-learning and use it to attack all e-learning. As he concedes himself, he could have done a similar hatchet job on classroom-based training (or any other approach to learning, for that matter).
Mark claims that e-learning can’t train people to do things. He correctly spots that e-learning is good at helping people acquire knowledge, but its limitations in transferring that to behavioural change at work are equally true of every kind of off-the-job learning. I would argue (and did so in my book Delivering E-Learning) that e-learning is one of the best of such approaches when it comes to transfer of learning.
The problem with Mark’s sort of critique of e-learning is that it sets out to attack, rather than to understand. In its rush to dismiss, it ignores the interactivity of cleverly-designed e-learning, it’s huge advantages over old-style open and distance learning, the speed of delivery and unprecedented scalability of e-learning; ignores its capacity to be carried into the workplace via smartphones or handhelds, ignores the power of digital simulations to practice real work scenarios safely and securely, ignores the new approaches to learning digital technology has opened up, and much more; worst of all, it ignores the countless success stories from e-learning implementations all over the world. In short, it ignores the fact that e-learning demonstrably does work.
Mark needs to set aside his prejudice and attention-seeking, and look again at what’s to be learned from e-learning.
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