Rapid eLearning Tools – Are they the best thing to happen to our industry or the worst?

If any of you have been producing elearning for some time (I have been creating it for over a decade) you probably got used to doing things the hard way. That is to say, from scratch. Developing a course required knowledge of some type of complicated software and the actual creation of the course probably took months. And because of this, most companies had employees whose sole responsibility was creating these courses.

Well we are now at the dawn of a new era. Within the last few years, a new kind of authoring tool has been introduced into the market: the rapid development tool. These tools enable authors to create slick, professional looking elearning much faster than was ever imaginable. Authors can add complicated interactions and quizzes with only a few clicks of the mouse. These tools have made it so easy to create elearning that anyone who can use PowerPoint can create an online course.

Here is where the problems come in…

Because these tools make courses so easy to create, corporations have fallen into the trap of letting anyone create them. Never created a course before? No problem! Never storyboarded a course before? No problem! Never even heard of instructional design before? No problem. Just get it done and we’ll get it into production.

Can you see the problem here? Just because you have the ability to create a slick looking online course doesn’t mean it is effective. Too many people with absolutely no experience in elearning or instructional design have been put in charge of creating elearning courses. It’s not their fault; they are just doing what is asked of them. And I can’t totally put the blame on the employers because, in these tough economic times, people are looking to cut costs in any way imaginable. And I’m not blaming the rapid development tools either. In the right hands, they can be an invaluable asset.

So what am I trying to say? I’m glad you asked.

I’m simply trying to draw attention to the fact that effective elearning should be left to the professionals. And just because you made a flashy, professional “looking” course, doesn’t mean it will be an effective training tool. Elearning development is a very specialized skill; it should not be overlooked simply because it costs more. In the long run, whatever you pay an elearning developer will be far exceeded by the amount you save in employee retention. Well trained employees equal productive employees.

In conclusion, I am excited about these rapid development tools. They have made my job a lot easier. I just caution anyone who is using these tools to remember this: put in the hands of amateurs, these tools can cause far more harm than good.

For more information about adult learning, instructional design or elearning, visit www.learntoelearn.com.

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