In search of elearning nourishment

How best to respond to “We’d like just nuggets, please”?

Am I right to feel a little uneasy when a customer or potential customer (I can’t bring myself to use the ugly term ‘prospect’) says that all they want is ‘just nuggets’?

In the back of my mind there’s a kindly relative asking “Just nuggets, Dear? Really? That doesn’t sound like a nourishing meal to me! “

“Are you sure you’re eating properly?”

In this blog post I want to consider the question of whether we may be selling learners short by serving up ‘just nuggets’.

Is asking for nuggets an admission of defeat before we’ve even started? Isn’t this defeatism based on the assumption — and possibly painful experience — that online learning turns out to be what we call ‘e-telling’, a seemingly endless succession of screens full of stuff with no apparent relevance or consequence to the ‘learner’? For sure, if elearning is doomed to be that excruciating experience, then it is our obligation to keep the pain to a minimum.

This question of the value of nuggets takes us directly, or so I believe, to the question of what makes elearning valuable. Is the client looking to change behaviour, to get the learners to become more compliant or to perform better or is the aim of the exercise to tick a box labelled “We told them, so if they don’t change, it’s demonstrably their fault”? OK, so this is a caricature, but not so very far from the truth in, mercifully, only a few cases.

But elearning doesn’t have to be the kind of experience that defeatism assumes to be the norm. Jordan Ellenberg, begins his excellent book How Not To Be Wrong’ (a title I find irresistible) with the provocative question that every maths teacher fears: “When am I going to use this?” Even though as elearning instructional designers for elearning, we’re not face-to-face with our learners, we should bear that question in mind at all times and work with the subject matter experts, endeavouring to make the end product both relevant and applicable.

At Saffron, we consider ourselves as an extension of each customer’s Learning and Development department, working to ensure that each course enhances not just the learners’ knowledge (or mental repository of facts) but their ability to make better choices in their day-to-day working lives.

I have grave doubts that we could ever achieve this aim with just nuggets any more than I want to collaborate on something indigestible. The happy medium for which we should all be striving is a simple, but nourishing elearning course.