Did you ever read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People? Written in 1937, and still in print 15,000,000 copies later, How to… was the first people-skills book. “Deal with people so that they feel important and appreciated” is Carnegie’s timeless formula. “*Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
I contend that much of what passes for eLearning would benefit mightily from Carnegie’s advice.
Fifty years after Carnegie, Stan Davis coined the term mass customization to describe the ability to provide individualized services and goods with the efficiency of mass production. Mass customization was supposed to be one of the foundations of eLearning, but somehow it slipped through the cracks as vendors raced for quick fixes and quarterly revenue.
Looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, I think first-generation eLearning ran off the tracks because investors thought the learning revolution would be a repeat of the industrial revolution. What VC wouldn’t fight for a piece of that action?
The industrial revolution succeeded because of the specialization of labor and the substitution of machines for labor; it took most of the people out of the equation. eLearning attempted to do the same thing. In the early days, eLearning was justified by the savings in instructor salaries and airplane tickets when learning migrated from the classroom to the desktop.
Of course, people aren’t bales of cotton and learning is social, so most of the early eLearning programs went down in flames.
Imagine if I operated a store that treated customers the way early eLearning treats learners. You bought an expensive item last week and come back into the store. No one acknowledges you or says hello. No one calls you by name. They’re already forgotten you were here before. They have no memory of your purchase. There isn’t much merchandise on the shelves and you’re not allowed to try anything on before you buy it. We never follow up. You want a personal shopper? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. That’s a good one.
Most eLearning is like this. Is it any wonder people don’t buy it?
Lance Dublin and I interviewed dozens of companies while researching our book, Implementing eLearning. Why were so many people dropping out of eLearning? They told us:
If eLearning were personalized, these irritants would evaporate. (Well, perhaps not #4.)
Even my online bookstore remembers who I am and suggests new things for me to look at based on my previous selections and those of people like me. It’s always learning how to serve me better. It lets me go at my own pace, providing lots of directions so I’ll stay interested. I’ve yet to see an LMS that learns as well as Amazon does.
71 people responded to a short poll about the value of personalized learning. I’ll provide a summary here; I’ve posted the details on the web.
Most people think personalized learning is important. Less than half do anything about it. I sense lots of unrealized potential to be gained by “dealing with learners so that they will feel important and appreciated.”
30 Poppy Lane
Berkeley, California 94708
1.510.528.3105 (office & cell)
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