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Does The Rapid e-Learning Development Model Exist?

President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

Chances are when a client indicates they want you to follow a “Rapid Development Model” for their project, and they are actually talking corporate “code” for – get it done, fast.

Of course, that’s not what Rapid Development started out as – and it’s not how software development companies use the model, where rapid development is alive and well. Somewhere along the way to eLearning, the essence of Rapid Development – collaboration and iteration to reduce the time and cost of developing a quality product– was lost.

According to Ray Jimenez, Ph.D., Chief Learning Architect at Vignettes Training, rapid development in eLearning is “pretty much a myth.” Jimenez says the term has been co-opted to mean ‘do it faster at lower cost.’

Jimenez believes that software development companies have certain organizational attributes that allow for true rapid development to thrive while most organizations don’t have the cultural structure for rapid development to succeed.

The key for a successful Rapid Development process is to have the SME’s and developers working closely together to create an iterative process. Jimenez says, “In most eLearning projects the SME’s, Subject Matter Experts, just want to write the content and then turn it over to the developers. The collaboration and iterative process are rarely followed.

There is no denying the attractiveness of the Rapid Development Model. What company doesn’t want to embrace a process that promises faster delivery with lower costs?

What Jimenez has observed is that the Rapid Development Model creates an additional learning challenge. Unlike a classroom design, where the amount of information shared with learners is usually restricted because of time restraints, many Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) see eLearning as a way to include all the information that would make the most uninformed person, an instant expert.

However, adults don’t learn that way. Not surprisingly, results from eLearning are often disappointing. Students are not learning what they need to learn and in turn, they are grading the learning experience as boring.

Jimenez believes that meeting a client’s goal for faster, less expensive training doesn’t have to mean a boring product. “When I meet with a client I usually challenge them by asking, ‘if you want it to be rapid, the software can do it rapidly but the problem is what do you want to put into the software? Do you want to improve the quality of the learning environment or the learning material?”

Jimenez says the key is to help SME’s understand that eLearning can’t be the be-all and end-all for a learning experience. At best, the eLearning should focus specifically on the “must-learns.” “There is a science behind this. People don’t learn everything in one program. Ninety percent of learning takes place on the job. Instead of attempting to create an eLearning training that covers 100% of the information, focus on the most important 10%,” explained Jimenez.

With less content to deal with, Jimenez says designers can then think about the learning experience, how the project can surprise and delight the learner and ultimately engage them. Once that happens, true learning can occur.

Jimenez is hopeful. While companies have enjoyed the enormous cost savings that eLearning brings, they are also hearing from employees who are bored to death going through the eLearning modules. As a result, Jimenez sees more companies willing to allocate some of those “saved” dollars to upgrading the production value.