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We're Not Academics, But...

Online Learning is Better and Other Malarkey

"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." ~ Neils Bohr

After many years in this profession, I've seen "experts" make claims, counter claims, marketing pitches and cite research. As a practitioner, it's difficult to know what is really true and effective, and what is not. I've fallen victim to it over the years, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. What's a practitioner like me (or you) to do?

When I see claims like "generational difference matter" or "adapt to personal/learning styles" or "70-20-10", I cringe. When I see references that cite other references that cite back to the original untested claim passed off as research I roll my eyes. When I see well-meaning practitioners claim that online learning is somehow "better" and that we can influence performance by putting learning on a tablet, I pause. As a designer shows me 'drag and drop' is the level of engagement that promotes learning transfer and performance, I shudder. Gamification is where its at! Flip the Classroom! Know your style! Sigh.

Some of this stuff can make us think we're on sold footing, and that we're making good progress, yet the research may provide us evidence to the contrary. What are we to do?

While it's fun to poke holes in other people's claims, it's not all that helpful. We really need to focus on what works, and what doesn't. And, what works may not be all that trendy or widely done. What works? Guided practice. Performance-based learning. Expertise requires lots of deliberate practice. Integrate learning, coaching, and feedback into performance on the job. Front-end analysis on procedural and declarative knowledge essential for performance. Well-designed instructional methods matter, regardless of the media we choose. Prior knowledge may cause us to get stuck, and we need to work to get unstuck.

Sure, I'm not an academic, but I've been accused of playing one from time to time. I believe it's in our interest to focus on what works in our field, and cut out the stuff that undermines that goal. Open a book. Read a real study on performance. Sift through the bias. Learn some statistical methods. Improve your results.


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