One of my early e-learning design mentors once shared with me the “pick any two” principle. We were exploring ways to improve the design processes and learning outcomes from our work. As we explored different approaches, he wrote three words on the whiteboard: faster, cheaper, better. He then said, “When it comes to e-learning design, these are the ultimate goals. In reality, pick any two.” As my journey has continued, I have found that in designing most any learning solution, this principle has held true, at least until the last five years. Once I turned my attention to designing performance support (PS) and shifted my focus beyond traditional learning events and approaches, I found this principle no longer applied.
Before you roll your eyes, the reality is no learning approach is perfect. Every discipline has its challenges, but in my 28 years designing learning, I have never been as excited and impressed with a discipline as I have been with performance support. The embarrassing part is it has been available to our industry since Gloria Gery first published her book, Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS), in 1991. Like many things in life, timing is everything, and PS’ time has arrived. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to achieving the “pick all three” principle.
Faster: PS thrives on reuse. Unlike adding other modalities which involve a new learning curve, new design methods and new authoring tools and software, PS thrives on reusing existing learning assets already created for formal instruction. There is extra work in pulling all of those assets together in a workable approach, and there are also emerging tools and software designed to help with that, but it is a powerful example of the 80/20 rule.
Eighty percent of the work was already done when the formal instruction and support content was originally created. E-learning, student guides, standard operating procedure documents and intranet sites already exist. The problem is not more content. The issue is access and context. PS design involves orchestrating these assets so they are consumable at the moment of need. There will always be missing content that will need to be created, but when the majority of the work has already been done, the journey to deployment is always faster.
Cheaper: The two greatest costs in development are time and resources. Reusing existing assets is saving on two levels. First, you’re doubling your investment on the original design when the content is reused as a PS asset. Second, you’re saving on your development cost by already having a majority of the content created.
The software authoring tools that help us design PS have also come a long way. When Gery first introduced the EPSS movement you almost needed a programming background to create them. Nowadays if the designer has used any of the standard authoring environments, he or she can easily transition to these tools. Plus, with the advances made in extensible markup language, we can now take advantage of content reusability in ways we’ve been dreaming of since the days of reusable learning objects.
Better: If we’re going to take the time to add another approach to our offerings it needs to not only extend our efforts, it needs to make them better. Our industry has tried to align its efforts to business results for more than 20 years, if not longer. Adding PS helps move our efforts closer to the bottom-line than any other learning offering I’ve ever worked with. The key is to align PS to your formal efforts from the start so the entire experience is transparent for the learner.
Our industry is at an exciting crossroads. Our ability to support a true total learning experience is more of a reality today than it has ever been. PS is a powerful way to move to a “pick all three” approach.
Bob Mosher is global chief learning and strategy evangelist for LearningGuide Solutions and has been an influential leader in the IT training space for more than 15 years. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.Filed under: Technology