New research shows that while people tend to avoid saying hello to strangers, when they do say hello, they are happier for it. Read this nice article in the New York Times which describes the research.

I add this article to this blog on learning, because it reminded me that we in the learning field often put too much trust on our learners. The bottom line is that learners often don't know how best to learn.

This means that we shouldn't willy-nilly design our learning to enable our learners to do anything they want to. Sometimes this can be beneficial because it gives learners a sense of autonomy and it can help them get information they need–but more often than not, it enables learners to make bad decisions about their own learning.

The article also reminded me about research on creativity which shows that domain spanners–people who spend time interacting with others outside their main area of interest are often more creative because they draw from other spheres of thought. It's interesting that we are shy talking to strangers, even though doing so will not only make us happier, but it may enrich us ways we can't imagine.

Philip Guo, doing research on EdX courses, found that videos that lasted more than about 6-9 minutes started to lose learner attention.

His conclusion: "The take-home message for instructors is that, to maximize student engagement, they should work with instructional designers and video producers to break up their lectures into small, bite-sized pieces."

Another reason for a subscription-learning approach.

I started using subscription-learning nuggets in the mid 1990’s when I ran a leadership-development product line for the Strategic Management Group. I did a little experiment in teaching some of my courses on change management. What I did was simply send a series of emails in the month after my courses ended. My learners loved them. They said stuff like this: “Well Will, I didn’t read every email you sent, but I did read some of them—and I got a lot out of them. They reminded me what we learned and nudged me to put stuff into practice.”

Since those early efforts, I’ve created subscription-learning threads for clients and for my Work-Learning Research learners. Fortunately, I’ve learned a few things over the years—so I make fewer rookie mistakes now. First, instructional-design still counts. Subscription learning still must have great content. It must still engage. It should follow research-based principles to support remembering.

While more and more sophisticated subscription-learning tools are available, let me highlight the fact that subscription learning can be done in a low-budget way with tools everyone is already familiar with.

For example, even in a regular email, we can prompt learners to engage meaningful decision-making scenarios, providing them with retrieval practice opportunities, feedback, spacing, etc. Second, emails can be sent in a coordinated fashion from email-marketing autoresponders. I use iContact, but most email marketing tools have this capability. For example, I can write 20 emails that are carefully crafted to get across a short set of learning points. I can schedule these emails to maximize the use of spaced repetitions. Once a person signs up for a thread, they automatically get the emails—I don’t have to do a thing.

Note that even though these budget-conscious methods can be effective, they do lack a clear feedback loop that more sophisticated subscription-learning authoring tools can provide. If you want to ensure engagement or require completion of learning segments, you’ll need a dedicated subscription-learning authoring tool. But if you want to get the benefits of subscription learning on a shoestring, it's definitely doable. Or, if you want to experiment, you can start by using the delayed-send feature of your email program.

I created a list of eLearning Paradigms to talk about subscription learning, but I think the list could stand on its own–and I'd like comments to see what I've missed.

Our Thinking on eLearning is Still Evolving 500px

Elearning is still a relatively young field, having its start in the 1960's during the advent of the computer age and gradually gaining a critical mass after the internet became a mass phenomenon. Because it's a young field, we are still learning how to think about elearning. With each new paradigm, we think more deeply, more fully about what elearning is–and can be. Below is my categorization of the most important elearning paradigms as of 2014.

eLearning Paradigms 2014

  • Content Presenter (enables content to be presented to learners)
  • Comprehension Tester (enables learners' knowledge to be tested–and feedback provided)
  • Practice Provider (enables learners' decision-making to be tested–and feedback provided)
  • Performance Supporter (enables performers to be prompted toward action)
  • Reminder (enables learners or performers to be reminded to learn and/or take action)
  • Social Augmentation Provider (enables learners to learn from and with each other)
  • Gamification Provider (provides motivational incentives and behavioral prompts to action)
  • Mobile Learning Provider (provides learning and/or performance support through mobile technology)
  • Data Utilizer (enables data collection and data-based interventions)
  • Video Provider (enables video to be utilized in various ways)
  • Learning Organizer (provides organizational structure around learning opportunities)
  • Personalizer (enables content or prompting to be individualized or tailored)
  • Learning-Delivery Augmenter (enables easy delivery of content or prompting) 
  • Context-Based Triggerer (enables content or prompting to be delivered depending on context)
  • Cost Saver (enables learning to be delivered at a lower cost)

I'm sure that I'm missing some elearning paradigms. You might have noticed that I'm only listing elearning memes that have a positive connotation. I am not mentioning such things as boring, trivial, poorly-designed. Also, some of the list may not be true, or may not always be true. For example, I've recently read research that shows that elearning is not often a cost saver. The bottom line, however, is that the list above represents a good number of the ways in which we tend to think about elearning.

Here's the thing: The paradigms listed above represent the dominant mental models we use when we think about elearning. As Thomas Kuhn wrote many years ago, paradigms are a double-edge sword. On the one hand, they help us think. On the other hand, they put boundaries on what we think. For us in the learning field, we get both benefits and costs from our elearning paradigms. They help us consider ways that we might design or utilize elearning. On the darker side, they constrict our thinking. One of the reasons we created the eLearningManifesto was to get the field to think beyond some of its weaker paradigms.

What are your thoughts on the dominant elearning paradigms?

If you want to learn more about subscription learning–offered as an additional paradigm for elearning, you can do that at SubscriptionLearning.com.

To put it simply, subscription learning is a radical new paradigm in elearning. It enables us to think about elearning in new ways–in ways that challenge our old mental models of elearning.

Elearning is still a relatively young field, having its start in the 1960’s during the advent of the computer age and gradually gaining a critical mass after the internet became a mass phenomenon. Because it’s a young field, we are still learning how to think about elearning. With each new paradigm, we think more deeply, more fully about what elearning is–and can be. Below is my categorization of the most important elearning paradigms as of 2014.

eLearning Paradigms 2014

  • Content Presenter (enables content to be presented to learners)
  • Comprehension Tester (enables learners’ knowledge to be tested–and feedback provided)
  • Practice Provider (enables learners’ decision-making to be tested–and feedback provided)
  • Performance Supporter (enables performers to be prompted toward action)
  • Reminder (enables learners or performers to be reminded to learn and/or take action)
  • Social Augmentation Provider (enables learners to learn from and with each other)
  • Gamification Provider (provides motivational incentives and behavioral prompts to action)
  • Mobile Learning Provider (provides learning and/or performance support through mobile technology)
  • Data Utilizer (enables data collection and data-based interventions)
  • Video Provider (enables video to be utilized in various ways)
  • Learning Organizer (provides organizational structure around learning opportunities)
  • Personalizer (enables content or prompting to be individualized or tailored)
  • Learning-Delivery Augmenter (enables easy delivery of content or prompting)
  • Context-Based Triggerer (enables content or prompting to be delivered depending on context)
  • Cost Saver (enables learning to be delivered at a lower cost)

I’m sure that I’m missing some elearning paradigms. You might have noticed that I’m only listing elearning memes that have a positive connotation. I am not mentioning such things as boring, trivial, poorly-designed. Also, some of the list may not be true, or may not always be true. For example, I’ve recently read research that shows that elearning is not often a cost saver. The bottom line, however, is that the list above represents a good number of the ways in which we tend to think about elearning.

Here’s the thing: The paradigms listed above represent the dominant mental models we use when we think about elearning. As Thomas Kuhn wrote many years ago, paradigms are a double-edge sword. On the one hand, they help us think. On the other hand, they put boundaries on what we think. For us in the learning field, we get both benefits and costs from our elearning paradigms. They help us consider ways that we might design or utilize elearning. On the darker side, they constrict our thinking. One of the reasons we created the eLearningManifesto was to get the field to think beyond some of its weaker paradigms.

Our Thinking on eLearning is Still Evolving 500px

The Subscription-Learning Meme

I am pushing the idea of subscription learning not just because it is aligned with the learning research on the spacing effect, but also because it gives us a completely new way of thinking about elearning. It opens elearning to new possibilities.

Where we often think of elearning content delivery as requiring relatively long events of 30 minutes or more, subscription learning lets us think of much shorter events spaced over time. Where we often think of performance support as being delivered through a single-focus system at a time of known need, subscription learning can prompt a series of thoughts or actions even when learners don’t know they need to know. Where we think that learners have to seek their own learning nuggets, subscription learning can push learning to learners to better support learning as a process.

For folks going to the ISPI Conference in Indianapolis next week, here are my session titles.

For details, specific timing, and slides, click here.

 

SUNDAY
Speed Mentoring

TUESDAY
Special Session
The Serious eLearning Manifesto:
An Effort to Help eLearning Live Up to its Promise

WEDNESDAY MID MORNING
General Session (RTP)
The Decisive Dozen–Research-Supported Learning Factors

WEDNESDAY LATE MORNING THRU LUNCH
Pit Stop & Refuel: Roundtable & Lunch Discussion 
Insight Learning: Helping Employees Have Creative Insights