Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Everything begins with an e

I remember many years ago running an e-learning centre for the Navy and having vendors come in and show their wares.  Sometimes these were large international organisations from America or Europe coming all the way to New Zealand for a demonstration of their World leading modules, systems or simulators.  I can remember being amazed that despite the high-level learning technologies these organisations were selling that they invariably delivered stilted presentations using Powerpoint at best.  It further amazed me that often they didn't even know their own product particularly well and certainly not from a true user perspective.  Then again, I've been to e-learning conferences and software simulation centres and seen the same thing - it's weird but why in the world of learning technologies do we regularly see the 'talk' but rarely the walk that should accompany it.

I work remotely and not out of a CBD office.  There's a reason for this; principally because it suits me to do so, but actually it's far more efficient for both myself and my company.  It's also a good example of walking the walk; we preach about systems that allow learning, communication and management remotely - about how you can access 24/7 and link up with communities, share resources, collaborate and learn without the requirement of physical proximity provided by an old-fashioned office environment.  I have a car and a motorbike too so I can get to the CBD when needed, but the dog likes it when I stay at home too :)

I've had it with paper and dedicated my office to be paper free other than a single doodle pad that sits by the computer.  I could claim this was trying to save the trees or some noble pursuit but the truth is simply that I lose bits of paper - all that filing and whatnot is not my strong point.  I take notes via a cool and free little tool called Evernote (hey, I even draft this blog in Evernote) which I can access off my laptop, phone and pad anywhere and share with others if I choose to.  It automatically files everything for me which is good as I just noted I wasn't so good at this.  I switched my clunky old widescreen laptop to a Macbook Air not just because it looked sexy (though it does) but because I wanted to be portable and instant enough to show up at meetings and take notes, share stuff that I've got to and give demonstrations when necessary.  I use cloud based storage like Box and Dropbox to share stuff, Totara LMS for learning and the like, a wiki site to share things with my team (yes emailing attachments is not the way).  

What's the drive for all this 'e' stuff.  It's not just because of the fact it's electronic; we're talking about higher efficiency and effectiveness I strongly believe.  The reason why I'm sharing this in The Nth Degree blog today is that it struck me that this is similar to e-learning.  The e is the mechanism but it's not actually the driving force for why e-learning is what it is; we're talking about higher efficiency and effectiveness I strongly believe.  If you read some of my previous entries (please, somebody read them!) you'll see that I'm not just about good looking e-learning, I believe in the collaborative and interactive nature of good e-learning.  I also believe in a blend where the right tool gets used for the right job and I believe in continuous improvement and always searching for new and better ways to do things.

Back to my original point, there's nothing wrong with Powerpoint (or Prezi which I prefer) or any other tools that you use to present; but there's something wrong if your presentation doesn't capture the very essence of what you're presenting.  Presentations should be enthusiastically delivered and supported with showing what you have and demonstrating its capability.

Finally whilst everything begins with an e, so does e-learning, but you should note that neither ends with an e or consists of only e's.  It's the nature and the environment, e-learning should always be primarily about learning (and the same could arguably be said about everything else!).