Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Skimming and Learning Design

One of the common themes on my blog is the world we live in with availability of trillions of web pages, millions of people, and thousands of tools, has meant a significant and continuous change in our work literacy.  It also has an impact on Learning Design and Learning Organizations … more on this below.

Read the Whole Thing2009-horizon-cover-320?

A little bit ago I was skimming through a presentation that asked the audience whether people read the whole thing.  (Sorry, but I've forgotten where I saw this and my Better Memory strategies didn't easily find the right source.  Note to self, figure out how this could have worked.) 

Many of us are familiar with the Horizon Report for 2009, The World Is Flat, and Stephen Downes - The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On.  And if you aren't, you should be familiar with these.worldisflat

But, how many of you who are familiar with these have read the whole thing?

In the audience, very few people read the whole thing.  I have not, but I've done a lot of Skim Dive Skim on these.

I've had this discussion before in other forms, and certainly there are a mix - some people who are much deeper readers – some skimmers.  And likely the answer is that it also depends on the topic, length of the item, the timing, and way too many other variables.  So, let's just say that we need to assume varied depth of content consumption.

This also means that a key skill is develop better memory methods that help us individually deal with the fact that we are skimming more stuff and will have an ever increasing need to quickly get back to it.

Implications for Learning Design

If we know that people are likely to consume information in this way, what does it mean for Learning Design.  I've often focused more on issues of Good Writing and Write for Skimming but the reality is that the implication is bigger than that.  No one will sit through long detailed pieces of information.  They quickly tune out or quickly skim through.  Learning Design must accommodate this and I particularly believe that we should Shift from Courseware towards Reference Hybrids – put as little as possible in the courseware and provide well-organized, well-written, easily saved, easily accessed reference material.

Of course, this is assuming that Learning Organizations are still in the position of being a publisher who is pushing content to learners.

When we talk about the Long Tail Learning and Corporate Learning Long Tail and Attention Crisis, the focus is on how to help learners when you cannot possibly get in front of all the information.  Part of this is helping them to learn skills and adopt practices to make them more effective in self-serving their knowledge work and learning.

However, this is also where Learning Organizations can jump in to help by playing an aggregator role.  There's a lot of content that is likely being skimmed or even possibly is not being seen.  There's opportunity to make it more easily found and skimmable.

This is a topic I'm pretty sure I'll be revisiting quite a bit.  After all, this is pretty much the question I'm often asking:

What does Learning Design look like in a world of eLearning 2.0?

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