I noticed a little late that the “Big Question” on the Learning Circuits blog this month is “Choosing Tools?” Although it is now August, I thought I’d still take a bit of time to chime in. Specifically, the Learning Circuits post states:
As compared to ten years ago when there were roughly four major authoring tools, today there are a large number of different tools and different approaches to creating content. You can use standard authoring tools, rapid development tools, LCMS, simulation development tools, HTML editors, Wikis, and many others including a vast array of media creation solutions. And to make matters more difficult seems to be a constant flood of new tools. We literally have 100s of choices.
…and then asks readers and bloggers to consider the following:
- How does the eLearning design process need to change to accommodate such a wide variety of tools?
- How does the tool selection process need to change?
- What should learning professionals do to stay up-to-speed? Do they need to learn new tools constantly? Can they stick with a few tools?
- Will this trend continue? If so, then what does that imply for us?
Because I am not a designer, I don’t feel qualified to speak to changes in the design process that the wide array of tools may demand—unless I come at the list in reverse. Given the nature of social production it seems almost certain that the proliferation of tools will continue into the foreseeable future. Big, broad innovations like Wikis, blogs, and video-sharing technologies will spawn any number of permutations. E-learning designers will continue to face the same level of information overload that any knowledge professional is vulnerable to in the current age.
To learn new tools constantly would be at the very least unproductive and at the extreme maddeningly impossible. The same phenomenon that has come into play in other areas of knowledge management will come into play here—as evidenced by the blogging going on around this topic: aggregation, filtering, and the emergence of trusted authorities will take place over time. The challenge for design professionals—and for those in all parts of organizations pursuing online learning or other efforts requiring learning development tools—is to use the developing information exchange around development tools to inform strategy but not to dictate strategy.
This last point suggests that strategy is more important to learning development than ever. With a clear, measurable learning strategy based upon a clear, measurable organizational strategy in place, the process of considering authoring tools becomes significantly less complex. A Wiki is likely to support certain types of outcomes significantly better than a blog, a static Web page, or an on-demand learning module will. (I also strongly advocate the development of use cases in determining the type of user experience you are aiming to achieve.)
Back to the first question in the list, I am sure that changes in process will be necessary to accommodate different authoring tools. No organization, however, wants to undergo constant process re-engineering. If we accept the trend, allow the trend to inform but not dictate our strategy, use a clear understanding of strategy to drive tool selection, it should be possible to identify and institute a manageable set of processes that take advantage of new development tool opportunities without driving designers crazy.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.