Nigerian Shrink-Wrapping : was going to be entitled, On Defining Rapid e-Learning : Part 2
The term ‘rapid e-learning’ was coined about three years ago by consortia consisting of corporate business and education providers, as was e-learning about twelve years ago. A simple definition of ‘rapid e-learning’ is just-in-time training delivered electronically. However, REL is not e-learning and is nothing to do with learning. It is best thought of as packaging. I use the acronym REL here not to lend approval or permanence to the term but to distance it from implying any actual learning. I define it as timely chunked-content packaging that is fast and cheap to produce. The term ‘Nigerian shrink-wrapping’ would suggest more about the commercial vested interests involved.
How does REL relate to conventional e-learning design ? According to Archibald (2005) conventional e-learning design involves the subject content expert, then instructional designer, followed next by a developer who makes the interaction solution, and the e-learning programme is then tested out. However in practice, e-learning design often entails far more steps and more people. In some cases (as in the British Open University), actual students are used to test out the not-yet-piloted programme, to save time, energy and costs. The main point to bear in mind here is that there are people involved, and often many people. Rapid e-learning involves in contrast far fewer people – sometimes only one. In such case, a single person who is a content expert can deploy re-usable software templates onto which content can easily be pasted to produce a finished programme within minutes or hours – rather than months or years. Moreover if the content expert uses pre-made master-board powerpoint or other templates, then end-user or stakeholder preferences and feedback can be put into the programme by the writer in the very early stages of development. Archibald (2005) has accordingly defined REL as “e-learning that can be developed quickly and inexpensively”. Bersin (2005) adds to this by saying that the cost-savings are due in large part by reducing the number of people involved in the production of REL “defined as web-based training that can be created in weeks and is typically authored by subject-matter experts” - a particularly weak and useless definition ; given that all e-learning is created in weeks and authored by subject matter experts – as Bersin clearly states on his next page in Table 1 where he with some originality divides e-learning into three ‘categories’ of REL packaging, conventional e-learning, and infrastructure. Terming the infrastructure as ‘strategic e-learning’ is a red-herring distractor, as is his right-most column % of Projects. An REL ‘Project’ might be a ten-minute typing exercise, while traditional e-learning generally takes months, and infrastructure to switch a traditional university to adopt e-learning may take years. To assert that 36% of all ‘projects’ are REL is excessive freedom-of-expression to try to claim some authority by comparing REL shrink-wrapping to building an open university. His left-centre column is missing a + sign in front of the second 3. I am curious about his choice of phrasing “Most [REL] create tests to measure knowledge absorption” (page 2, paragraph 5). Did I miss something in Education 101 ? or is there something called ‘absorption’ ? Is this osmotic immersion or mechanical by rote memorisation ? Anyway, Bersin does correctly identify REL as multiple-choice quiz in Table 2. (He calls his tables ‘Figures’ but his typing is misinformed.) When he writes of putting “learning professionals into coaching and facilitating roles”, you should read this word ‘professionals’ to mean business persons not teachers. I would hope all teachers are professional and already in coaching and facilitating roles. They are in my world, at least.
This Posting was hoping to review the definitions of an exciting new form of e-learning, but has been side-tracked and sunk by pre-set Readings about shrink-wrapping.
I will review the other literature later.
All Best Wishes
Archibald, D. (2005). Rapid e-learning : A growing trend. Learning Circuits, 1, 1-3. http://www.learning circuits.org/2005/jan2005/archibald.htm
Bersin, J. (2005). Making rapid e-learning work. Chief Learning Officer – online magazine. http://www.clomedia.com/content/templates/clo_article.asp?articleid=1008&zoneid=62