Eat more e-learning pie

Many e-learning designers get into the field because of a love of learning, a creative itch, or a passion for technology and making things work.  But these are just pieces in the pie that make up what we do as e-learning professionals. Your main three are: Learning & Pedagogy, Creative, and Technology, but let’s not forget the fourth piece of the pie: Business.

In this top tip, we'll pull up a seat at the table and eat some pie.

Our friend Ellen Wagner, Partner and Principal Analyst for Sage Road Solutions, came up with this model, which we affectionately call “the e-learning pie”.

The notion behind the pie is that there are four big slices that make up our profession – each slice representing a critical piece of the profession.  We need all four slices to be complete:

1. Learning & Pedagogy

The first piece is Learning & Pedagogy.  This is a key part of what we do – it’s the adult learning theory, the instructional design, the behavioural and performance change.  These are the teachers, the instructional designers, the people who get very excited about assessments.  They are the ones who think about how to help people do it better, and want to understand how humans think and act and behave.

2. Creative

Next is the Creative slice.  These are the writers, the graphic artists, the video producers, the film directors, the game designers (although maybe game designers go on the Learning & Pedagogy piece…yes, there’s overlap).

Without this creative talent in elearning, we might just end up with lists of learning objectives. And you know what we think about those.

3. Technology

The third piece: Technology.  It’s what put the “e” in eLearning after all. Where would we be without the programmers, the builders, the authoring tool users, the LMS creators?  Not all designers may be technicians, but you need to know what you’re working with and how far you can take it. Technology pulls it all together.

4. Business

Hope you left room for the Business slice of the pie.  Whether you’re in academia or on the corporate side of the industry, there’s always the business aspect to consider – understanding business needs, strategic goals and visions, consultancy, ROI and measurement, project management, client management will help make sure that you’re delivering commercially as well as you are creatively.

Consider the whole pie

Each of these four slices is integral to eLearning – forget one of ‘em and your initiative falls flat.

So what’s pretty crazy is that these four slices of pie represent some really different skill sets and interests. Ever felt a little schizophrenic as a designer? Now you know why.

Those of you who work as a one-person e-learning shop, either on your own or within an organisation, have a bit of a challenge – somehow you need to represent all of these pie slices.  If you can do it all really well – you’re some kind of superhero.  If not then you may be falling flat in some way OR you’re clearly getting help from outside of your organisation to help you fill out those other pie pieces.

Very often, an e-learning initiative is made up of just parts of the pie – maybe it’s just Learning & Pedagogy and Technology,  the 'e' and the 'learning' parts of the equation. But it falls flat because it’s missing the creative touch and a clear connection back to the business objective.

And some pieces might just be the Creative and Technology parts trying to pass as e-learning – but then it’s really something else entirely…

The most successful elearning initiatives pull all of the aspects together: a clear vision of what the audience needs to learn and how best to achieve that outcome; a creative design that looks enticing, creates interest and sustains attention; solid technology that stands up to your delivery needs; and a solid connection back to the overall goals and objectives of your organisation.

Focusing on your own pie

If you’re happy with your part of the pie, by all means, find the right place in the universe for you so that you can focus on that craft and hone your skills.  Keep your own professional development in mind, and focus on what you love. But we think it’s essential that you learn what you need to about the other pieces in order to get better at your own passion.  That said, don’t spread yourself too thin, or you might get watered down-

and nobody likes watery pie.

We can’t be experts in everything.  Five minutes in the social media foray will show you very quickly how much there is to keep on top of:  alternative reality games, virtual worlds, mobile technology, rapid e-learning, SCORM, graphics, ID, tool user, social media itself. Rely on your community and networks to help you out.

We need each other to round out the pie.  Today we can so easily connect with people and resources to learn from who'll gladly share their expertise.  You can connect to people via Twitter who know more about the business of elearning than you, hone your creative craft by reading blogs about writing or video production, read books about instructional design strategies and talk to professors who know the research about what makes adults pay attention.

At Kineo, we’ve created an eLearning Professionals Group on LinkedIn  that’s a great place to connect.  Join us there and fill out your own portfolio. There’s plenty of pie to share.

This article was taken from a presentation given by Cammy Bean, Kineo VP of Learning Design, as part of a closing keynote panel at the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn 2011 in San Jose, CA.