Serious eLearning Manifesto – why now?

by | Mar 23, 2014 | Articles

Towards Maturity responds to the Serious eLearning Manifesto (#elearningmanifesto) & outlines why we need to be constantly reminded about great e-learning design.

‘In today’s economic climate, business challenges include speed of change, quality, customer retention, revenue growth and cost reduction. Originally the marketing hype claimed that e-learning would meet these critical needs and more, yet a few years on many expectations have not been met with research showing that up to 60% of e-learning implementations failing’.

This was the opening paragraph of Towards Maturity’s first study – Linking Learning to Business – released over a decade ago on the 31st of January 2004.

2014 – What has changed?

Not a lot! Just over a week ago on 13th of March 2014, the Serious eLearning Manifesto was launched with the statement ‘We believe that learning technology offers the possibility for creating uniquely valuable learning experiences. We also believe, with a sense of sadness and profound frustration, that most elearning fails to live up to its promise. We further believe that current trends evoke a future of only negligible improvement in elearning design—unless something radical is done to bend the curve.

So, on the surface, it appears that little progress has been made and more needs to be done. The instigators of the ‘new’ manifesto (four highly respected learning technology thought leaders) have put their heads together with over 30 industry specialists around the globe to urge us to get serious about e-learning design. Together they have identified 22 principles of effective elearning design (very similar to the principles outlined in the UK’s e-learning Network’s effective e-learning campaign launched in 2012).

Towards Maturity were not involved in the design of the manifesto (although several individuals from our Supporter and Ambassador Network were) but when we read the 22 supporting principles that it outlines, we felt compelled to lend our support as a signatory.

All the independent evidence we’ve gathered in our research with both nearly 3,000 L&D professionals and over 10,000 Learners in the last ten years points to why this manifesto is the right call to action at the right time. Here’s why:

e-Learning is here to stay  (at least for now)

The e-learning course is still the mainstay of most online learning strategies. Our latest study shows that 90% of organisations are using e-learning courses in conjunction with their LMS systems and this shows no sign of decline any time soon. Combined with the fact that L&D expectations of technology supported learning are at an all time high, we need to be constantly reminded about great design in new ways.

Taking action in the areas outlined by the manifesto makes a real difference

The Serious eLearning Manifesto echoes some of the core themes outlined in TM’s very first study with successful organisations ten years ago. Alignment to business needs, designing to improve performance and engage learners, supporting application in the workplace, evaluating effectiveness – these principles really make the difference for successful online learning programmes both then and now.

We’ve been tracking the extent to which organisations apply these overarching principles to both their design of online learning and their learning strategy overall, tracking adoption in businesses using the Towards Maturity Index. When we compare top learning companies (those in the top quartile of the TMI) with those in the bottom quartile of the TMI we find that they are more than 3x more likely to report that:

  • Staff put what they learn into practice quickly
  • Productivity has improved
  • Time to proven competency has reduced

In short this stuff works!

We understand what we need to do but we are not doing it!

There is nothing really new in the Serious eLearning manifesto but I am not sure that is the point. The point is we need to do more than just talk about what good looks like, we need to take action. And we need to take it now.

For example our 2013-14 Benchmark shows that 69% of L&D professionals are bringing e-learning development in-house but only half agree they have skills to do it. The manifesto creates a usable check list for organisations looking to apply great learning principles to e-learning design – lets use it and apply it rather than debate it.

We owe it to our learners

In our latest report from our Learning Landscape study we found that 51% of 2,000 learners in the private sector said that e-learning courses were a very useful or essential element in learning what they needed to know. (So, some organisations are clearly getting this right!). Learners have not turned their back on the medium, in fact 88% say that they are really keen to be able to learn at their own pace.

However, their number one barrier to engaging with online content is not time but uninspiring content (reported by 35%).

We owe it to our learners to constantly review how we design e-learning. They are busy, they are now hungry for excellence and if they don’t find it in our programmes, they will look elsewhere.

Towards Maturity welcomes the Serious eLearning Manifesto

Towards Maturity welcomes the manifesto as it sets out actions that we can follow & reminds us of what we are not doing. There are plenty of opportunities to learn how to do this well in our own organisations (see below) but we need to move beyond talking about what is great to actually doing what we know from a decade of research actually works!

For more information check out:

Compare your L&D strategy with the Towards Maturity Learning Health Check

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