If you are here, it is quite likely that you have read the “Serious eLearning Manifesto“. When I first saw a reference to it, I immediately left what I was doing, excited and determined to learn more. Then, disappointment. I can’t, I won’t sign the Manifesto. Here’s why.
Blame is not the answer
The Serious eLearning Manifesto devotes two paragraphs to blaming others. “Most elearning fails to live up to its promise”… “trends evoke a future of only negligible improvement”. Two paragraphs that, while short, constitute a whopping 33% of the manifesto. That’s right: out of six paragraphs, two are blaming the work of others.
I am sure the four “Instigators”, as they call themselves, are seasoned professionals. I am sure they have seen a lot more elearning than I have, including lots of poorly designed elearning. I have seen some of that too. However, I don’t claim to know the constraints and limitations that led to a particular piece of elearning. No matter how much I may know about the industry, I don’t know the specific circumstances that lead to bad examples of elearning.
For anyone interested in learning, we live in truly exciting times. Technology is finally converging with learning in meaningful ways. We have only scratched the surface. Many L&D departments, even some belonging to hi-tech companies, are still suffering from a painful dichotomy that is simply a consequence of this early convergence: L&D staff are either non-tech or tech, learning professionals or elearning professionals, but rarely both. The divide is individual and sometimes organizational, perpetuated by L&D hiring strategies. This causes tensions, inefficiencies, and yes, probably bad elearning. I believe this is transitional, and the profession will evolve to embrace technology while standing on solid adult learning theory and practice. It is circumstantial. I do not believe that “bad elearning” is a trend, particularly one that “evokes a future of only negligible improvement”. So I am not going to blame anyone for being in an L&D department in flux, trying to cope with the changes, let alone for their future work.
It would be easy to fall for the “us vs. them” rhetoric and somehow distance myself from the pack by signing a manifesto that blames bad elearning on others. But I believe that won’t help the profession at this crucial junction. If there is one way we are going to drive substantial improvement in the field of elearning, it’s by sticking together. I won’t start that effort by proclaiming that there is a lot of bad elearning out there. Work together, learn together and win.
Not exclusive to elearning
Moving on to the Supporting Principles. I had a quick look at them and to my disappointment, there is nothing that I would not say of any type of learning experience. Assume for a moment that you haven’t seen the title, and read the Supporting Principles again, with “learning” (no leading “e”) as the general concept in mind. Anything that doesn’t belong? Nothing? Well, yes, that is what I thought too: this is a set of generic learning principles, equally at home in the classroom, in the field, in elearning, in simulations and any other learning experience. Looks like a “learning manifesto” set of principles to me. Don’t get me wrong: there is goodness in every one of those principles. I just don’t see them confined to elearning.
Are these common-sense principles being applied consistently to elearning? No. But the same goes for any other type of learning. Shall we go and blame them too, draft a “Serious Classroom Manifesto”? OK, I think you get my point.
A value proposition
I admire the elegance with which the Agile Manifesto was written. Although proposing a sharp U-turn in terms of how software projects are run, it does so in a gentle, inclusive, respectful way. “While we see the value in this, we value that more”.
But there’s more. The principles behind the Agile Manifesto stand the test of time. They do not hinge on circumstantial evidence that points to bad software development (although it’s out there). And by doing so, by sticking to values and not “trends”, the agile manifesto will outlive many “future trends”.
Politeness, respect, values, timeless principles, no pointing fingers. Is there a learning manifesto written in these terms? I will sign that.