The Learning Buffet

on April 5, 2011

I’m fresh out of a client meeting, where the head of learning and training across the table from me stated, “We need to re-organize our curriculum. It’s all over the place.” I nodded my head in agreement. This is not the first time I’ve heard this plea.

eLearning has been around for nearly two decades now. There are suppliers too numerous to count, and each one has a different approach to layout, learning methodology, and design.

I’m not sure about you, but when I have an electronics need in my home (alarm clock, microwave, tv, etc.), I don’t look at the same manufacturer every time. I look for the manufacturer who give me the most value for my dollar and produce the best product in its class.

But this is not how we ought to treat learning. There are certainly content experts with a world of experience in various topics like diversity, customer service, etc. But they’re not necessarily great designers of learning. I would also guess they can’t program an LMS-compliant eLearning module accessible by every employee, everywhere.

What inevitably occurs is that we shop at the eLearning buffet. We grab a little of this, and a little of that, and when we place the contents in front of the learner, there’s certainly variety, but is there any consistency? Do employees know why these initiatives are important? Do they understand how they are all connected? Do they see their relevance to the strategy? Do they understand how they can bring it all to life every day?

These questions are critical in ensuring that each employee does not just sample a chaotic plateful of disorganized, poorly assembled eLearning courses and classroom training that make no sense. Spend the extra time to ensure that the learner understands the importance of the learning meal they are about to consume.

I’m guessing it will taste much better than the buffet.

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  • Jennifer Fong

    What a great piece! The problem of the cafteria or buffet approach to learning is prevalent in K-12 education and higher ed as well, particularly in elearning or other educational technologies. With this approach in the education system learning is wide but not deep, our students know a little bit in a wide array of content areas, but much of that knowledge is only surface level thinking. This is a particular problem because we then do not develop students who are critical thinkers. It also limits creativity as students learn “one way” to solve a problem rather than developing diverse strategies.
    Additionally, as you wrote, the cafeteria approach leads to inconsistency and in the area of elearning and other educational technologies; the tendency to use the latest technology or gadget just because it’s available rather than in a mindful, purposeful way that enhances the learning process. Again, thanks for writing a great, timely piece!


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