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Facebook – a platform for elearning 2.0

The first generation of elearning sucked. Blinded by the flexibility of technology a lot of crappy courses were developed. The economics seemed irresistible – almost no delivery cost, endless scale, deep libraries and unmatched flexibility. The business case looked good. And so we were greed by great announcements from the HR department of a “new generation” of support for staff’s self-development.

Except – it didn’t really work. I did a study once before a rollout of a new elearning offering was planned. A test access was given to 30 people. Within 3 months they could test and evaluate. Results: no one finished a course. Rating on a scale from 1-5: 2.1 (5 being great). Why?

I think elearning 1.0 was too static. Initially it was text-based, later audio came along, then video. Most case studies were lame. Most exercises trivial. There were a lot of multiple-choice options in there. I took a course in a subject I was somewhat proficient in. I couldn’t pass most multiple-choice things, because they were asking for a definition which I really didn’t care about. (It reminded me of growing up bi-lingual. I had to take English classes in school which I already knew. I sucked at grammar even though I could speak better than the teachers. I was good at practice, not good at theory). Now, there is a case for theory, but come on– what knowledge workers need to know can very rarely be boiled down to multiple-choice formats.

There was one great online-course I did. Peter Drucker’s stuff on Corpedia (disappeared by now). It was basically a series of insights by Peter Drucker and then very open questions for self-reflection (plus that great Austrian accent of Peter). That course was engaging and actually really helpful. But it lived from Peter Drucker’s insights and brilliance, as well as the restrained from that “testing” nonsense.

Here comes Facebook. Great learning is about great theory and great interaction. No better tool than Facebook for that. Here is a scheme I have seen recently that I benefited more than even from the Drucker course. This was the steps in the course:

1. kick-off call – everyone was invited to an opening call with the goals and methods used.

2. lecture – provided with itunes U, it was an mp3 (or video) with about an hours worth of lecture

3. reflection – a hidden group in facebook with a new question posted every week on the lecture. People had 250 words to answer (kiss).

4. interaction – we had 2-3 days to respond to other posts

5. summary – the teacher read all posts and comments and did a video-summary. This was posted in the Facebook group as well.

6. project – at the end of the 4 weeks, we did a learning project. Create something and do some kind of transfer.

7. final call – a final phone conference to tie things up.

In addition, there was one book to read, as well as two supporting books for who wanted to go deeper. Also, where possible people were encouraged to meet in person to discuss their insights (which we did and benefited from a lot).

Great new learning. Why? Interaction. Real, meaningful interaction. That is what elarning 1.0 lacked. Of course, it doesn’t scale as well and it limits the flexibility. But it seems that elarning is finally moving on and getting some real development. Most tools are free. No need for elaborate platforms. I’m interested in seeing how this plays out in the future.

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