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In the Decisive Dozen–the list of the twelve most important learning factors–Content Validity is Rule #1. If you're training your learners on bad content, you're doing more harm than good.

The TSA has apparently broken this rule to the tune of One Billion Dollars, spending money to train TSA agents to read body language–when there is no scientific evidence that people can actually detect liars.

This has to be one of the most costly training errors in the history of training and development! Congratulations TSA officials…

If you want to test your own skill at detecting liars, see this nice NY Times interactive.

MOOC's don't have to suck. The 4% to 10% completion rates may be the most obvious problem, but too many MOOC's simply don't use good learning design. They don't give learners enough realistic practice, they don't set work in realistic contexts, they don't space repetitions over time.

But after reading this article from Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, you will see that there is one thing that MOOC's do really well. The get learning content to learners.

Really, go ahead. Read the article…

 

Why is "Exposure" one of the Decisive Dozen learning factors?

Many people have wondered why I included "Exposure" as one of the most important learning factors. Why would exposing learners to learning content rank as so important? Friedman's article makes it clear in one example, but there are billions of learners just waiting for the advantage of learning.

I got the idea of the importance of exposing learners to valid content by noticing in many a scientific experiment that learners in the control group often improved tremendously–even though they were almost always outclassed by those who were in the treatment groups.

By formalizing Exposure as one of the top 12 learning factors, we send the message that while learning design matters, giving learners valid content probably matters more.

And yes, that last sentence is as epically important as it sounds…

It also should give us learning experts a big dose of humility…

 

MOOC's will get better…

Most MOOC's aren't very well designed, but over time, they'll get better.

 

 

I set out over 15 years ago to come up with a short list of the most important learning factors based on scientific research and practical real-world wisdom. I felt at the time, and I believe even more strongly now, that the learning field–particularly the workplace learning-and-performance field–is too strongly tempted to jump from one learning fad to another, while ignoring the learning factors that are most important.

My original goal was to create a list that had no more than seven learning factors. I did extensive reviews of a wide swath of the research on learning, memory, and instruction; often doing comparative effect-size analyses to determine what factors were most important. As the years went by and blurred into the second decade of work, I more and more looked at the research from a practical perspective, hoping to find the factors that were not just the most potent, but also the most leveragable by real-world instructional designers, trainers, teachers, e-learning developers, etc.In the end, I failed to find only seven factors, but found 12 that seem extraordinarily potent and leveragable.

Obviously, to pick the most important learning factors is a difficult endeavor–and one subject to a significant degree of human judgment, of which some of mine is surely faulty. Still, all along the way, I have not lost my strong belief that coming up with a short list of learning factors based on the world’s best scientific research from peer-reviewed refereed journals would be extremely helpful in keeping us focused on the factors that matter the most. At a minimum, I feel the list I have created will help most of us create remarkably more effective learning interventions.

In the current version of my book draft, I say the following:

If you put all 12 of these factors into practice, your learning interventions are
likely to be more effective than 95% of all workplace learning interventions
currently being utilized!!

This is quite a bold statement, I know. But I’m very comfortable in making it. In the book I provide a detailed footnote explaining the evidence behind the statement, and maybe an editor will convince me not to be so bold (maybe push me down to 93%, for example–SMILE), but I really do think that most learning interventions in the workplace learning field are lacking significant effectiveness.

Also in the book, each of the 12 factors has its own chapter, often dozens of pages long, backed up by dozens of research studies, and dozens of practical implications and recommendations. Dozens to the max! Obviously, the short descriptions in the synopsis below cannot even approach doing these topics justice. Still, they may provide you with a good framework to enable you to begin to see your learning designs in a different light.

The Decisive Dozen

Because I have shared the Decisive Dozen with clients and in keynote addresses and conference speeches for the last year or so, I decided that it was time to make the list officially public.

Click here to download a brief synopsis of the Decisive Dozen

I welcome your comments and feedback.

And, of course, for those who can’t wait for the book (I can’t blame you, I’m taking a long time, aren’t I?), I would be delighted to discuss with you how the Decisive Dozen might be helpful in guiding your organization to greater learning effectiveness.

Update: Now you can check out a research review supporting the Decisive Dozen.

Click here to get access to the free research review