quality vs. speed – we’ve created a monster!

17 01 2007

over on learning circuits blog the january big question is about instructional design and the trade offs between wanting to build the best possible learning experiences and the continual pressure coming from rapid e-learning efforts. 

while i’m a tad slow off the starting line for this month’s big question, it’s been nice to have a chance to read through all of the great posts already written in response.  as I was trying to solve the technical snafus that blogger, cocoment, and mysyndicaat threw at me, i did have the chance to check out what everyone else was saying.

one of the things i have enjoyed about the big question in it’s first few months on lcb is the diversity of thought and opinion being expressed side by side.  this month has been no exception.  so the bulk of my answer will stitch together some of the thoughts I agreed with from the other replies.   sort of a frankenstein’s post if you will.

i’m with geetha krishnan who questions whether quality is really a variable.  i like his definition of quality:

quality in e-learning is something that delivers what the learning objectives necessitate, what the content merits, and what the learner needs.  it is about the nature of the learner’s experience with the learning product.

tom haskins uses cool charts and graphs to make the argument that the best scenario is when there there is a concensus in favor of usability amongst stakeholders of a project.

along the same lines, anil mammen has a great statement about the focus of learning materials development:

Whatever be the instructional challenge, the focus should be to find
the most appropriate learning solution that can be rolled out in
“reasonable time” (when the content is still relevant, when things have
to be addressed quickly, before costly mistakes are made…)

karyn romeis takes the argument that quailty is quality when she says:

Even when the schedule is tight, the end product must WORK. It must
deliver the goods, or it has been time (and therefore money) wasted.  

she argues that when confronted with a schedule that is too tight perhaps learning professionals need aggressiveness training to help them push back for more time. 

david wilson turns the debate in discussing the role of technologies in shortening time on task which has a positive impact on development.  the downside of rapid technologies is to take the wrong people out of the process

A collapsed development model also means collapsing the expertise
involved. With SME production that means minimal e-learning or even
learning expertise (e.g. instructional design). It also often means
limited technology understanding or knowledge of the tools and
associated standards.

to this point, my frankenstein’s post has a tremendous amount of strong advice and direction for us to consider on future projects.  it seems we are very focused on solving the problem within the project management framework.  but i really don’t think it ultimately is the answer as it stands now.  no, my creation needs something more than more than refined project management skills.   igor, bring me the brain!

as have some of those i’ve quoted above, clive shepherd feels there is a need to think outside our bigger-better mindset.

Don’t worry about creating sophisticated interactive multimedia
materials – create a ‘spark’ in the form of a short thought piece, case
history, quotation, picture or whatever and then allow learners to
reflect on this collaboratively with their peers using forums, blogs,
wikis or chat facilities. Much quicker and much more likely to have an

to my mind clark quinn sews the key knot in my creation.

The point is that we need to be looking at a broader space of solutions
than just elearning courses. If we move to a performance focus, we’ll
see that there are times where just an update of how things have
changed is sufficient, or we only need to change the references or job
aids, and sometimes we have a need for a major change to skill set.

stitching all of these pieces parts into one coherent creation is quite a daunting task.  i’ve argued that what is required is an entirely new mindset to our creative efforts.  karyn hinted at one primary change – we need to be more willing to push back.  more importantly, if we get further out in front of the problem, more willing to be proactive  in building new consensus with our stakeholders we can avoid those schedule cutting, scope increasing problems.  we can find higher quality solutions, with less expense and in less time.

i’m not convinced that we have reached anything close to our potential when it comes to  leveraging available assets, technology and process improvements.   as clark argues, we simply can’t expect different results if we keep doing the same things over and over, but just a bit faster and a bit cheaper.   Yes, what i’m proposing is risky, but then again, the stakeholders and learners are at the gates with torches and pitchforks in hand.  what do we have to lose?

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3 responses

17 01 2007

Quality vs. Speed

The Learning Circuits Blog “Big Question” of January focuses on speed vs. quality in the instructional design process. A favorite statement of a former colleague, when approached for video development, was: You can have it fast, good, or cheap. Pick…

24 01 2007
Karyn Romeis

Erm…I don’t mean to nitpick, but I think you’ll find I said “assertiveness training” was required which is an altogether different prospect from aggression… 🙂

29 01 2007
dave lee

Karyn: You’ve got me there. Indeed, aggression and assertiveness are two different approaches – assertiveness being the long term winning choice. Thanks for the correction!

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