THE QUOTE: “We have been deeply concerned about the state of elearning

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We have been deeply concerned about the state of elearning. We’ve talked about it, lamented it, grumbled to each other, and wondered how things might change. Finally, we have decided to do something. The Serious eLearning Manifesto is the result.” – The Instigators (The Serious eLearning Manifesto)


Like many of you out there, we too are concerned at today’s state of e-learning which follows ‘the same old way of doing things’.

Let’s first take a quick look at a few serious and thought-provoking shout-outs about the present state of e-learning today from some of the leading experts who are also rebels or revolutionists in the domain of learning, in their own ways:

  • What has changed is the technology. We now have a far bigger toolset, though most of the time we don’t use it well and cling to the familiar, top-down, create-it-and-forget-it “course.””Cathy Moore
  • The ‘old guard’ in e-learning finds it difficult to believe that what worked in 1980 does not work in 2014. E-learning still has enormous potential to engage and excite us, yet we still see too much rubbish. The new designers are winning friends for e-learning. If they do not succeed, e-learning in its traditional form could disappear.” – Clive Shepherd
  • The opportunities are huge and exciting; to create a performance ecosystem where the network is vibrant, performance support is ‘to hand’, and when courses are needed they’re deeply engaging, but we’re not seeing this except in isolated pockets. This needs to change!” – Clark Quinn
  • Our industry has stagnated. The models we use haven’t really changed in over 10 years: we still seem to think that information dump and test will lead to learning, that people can hold large amounts of information in their heads perfectly, that we work alone, that efficiency in delivery is all that matters, and that we still have time to prepare, plan, and execute.”– Clark Quinn

We too, at Learnnovators, believe this and the need for a ‘shake-up’ (at the community level) to create an awareness to raise the bar.

In this context, the Serious eLearning Manifesto put together by the four learning experts, Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn, and Will Thalheimer, in the month of March this year, is indeed a great initiative. We feel excited about this brilliant initiative aimed at helping e-learning ‘perform’. This will certainly help serve the purpose of being a wake-up call for us to get started.

Below is a direct and pointed shout-out on this topic from Clark Quinn that we had published recently (through our interview with him):

I might disagree that L&D professionals possess high-level skills around formal learning, too. That’s why the instigators of the Serious eLearning Manifesto banded together; too few people were applying good formal learning principles!

This is the time we decided to get ourselves updated on the latest updates related to this initiative, and set out on a quick journey. Below are the questions we had in mind when we embarked on our journey:

  • How is the Learning and Development (L&D) community around the world seeing the Manifesto? What are the thoughts and suggestions regarding the 22 principles it contains?
  • What are some of the takes on this topic from the learning practitioners?
  • How will the Manifesto evolve in future?


Below are some of the resources on this subject that we would like to share with you.


  • Things have to change…too much e-learning is on the wrong track.” – Michael Allen
  • I wasn’t involved in the writing of the serious manifesto (and am nearly incapable of being serious), so I don’t know what role, if any, my publication had. We’re all saying essentially the same things in different ways, and I think the more people that we have calling for change, the better. I agree that the recommendations don’t apply just to elearning. I think it’s easier to focus on issues with elearning because it’s easier to examine and critique an online course than, for example, an initiative that combines new job aids with changes in processes, a new forum, and some mini-lessons sent out through email. Also, elearning continues to be a bit of a fad and therefore becomes the target of both attention and dubious claims.” – Cathy Moore (in our interview with her)
  • Yes, the principles could apply to all learning, but that is not the theme that brought these people together. There is a degree of despair about the quality of much e-learning and an impulse to do something about it. I was happy to endorse the initiative.” – Clive Shepherd (in our interview with him)
  • Synergistic with the emphasis on moving L&D forward, the point about not doing well what L&D is doing refers to formal learning. And, yes, it’s more than eLearning, but that’s a place we felt we had credibility and could talk with conviction. I believe 21 of the 22 principles indeed address meaningful training as well, but technology adds some unique capabilities, such as adapting performance to the individual (which we addressed) and creating records of individual actions for reflection (which we didn’t). We don’t claim that the set is complete or perfect, we just felt we need to start the conversation.” – Clark Quinn (in our interview with him)

Articles/Blog Posts

  • The dLearning Manifesto: To start with, here is an interesting parody of the Manifesto (by Jonathan Kaye) that takes a lighter look at this initiative and the principles that it stand for.
  • Serious eLearning Manifesto – Why Now?: This article by Towards Maturity discusses why they felt compelled to lend support to the Manifesto as a signatory. This is backed up by the evidences from the research studies that they have been conducting for the past ten years.
  • Gang-of-four’s Serious eLearning manifesto – all a bit melodramatic?: In this post, Donald Clark explains why he feels the Manifesto is a bit melodramatic. It is worth checking out his ideas (which, according to him, are for a more radical approach to ‘change’) supported with examples, since these revolve around some of the most significant learning revolutions taking place in today’s world.
  • A Response to The Serious eLearning Manifesto – Part One: In this article (the first one in a three-part series), Imogen Casebourne of the Epic Learning Group shares her company’s responses to the supporting principles of the Manifesto. The responses also include links to Epic’s knowledgebase articles and whitepapers for additional references.
  • The Serious eLearning Manifesto Survey Results: Here are the highlights of a 1-Question Survey (conducted by Game On! Learning) that focused on the Serious eLearning Manifesto and its supporting principles. Many of the findings as well as the comments (of the survey respondents) are not just interesting but also thought-provoking.
  • A How-To Guide on the Principles of the eLearning Manifesto: “Great, but how do I use these principles” and “How do I convince my boss or client that we should apply them.” This sparked the idea for Kasper Spiro to write a post on each of these principles, with his answer to these two questions on each principle. He has also written a few follow-up posts on this (and plans to do a few more). Be sure to check them out by following the links at the bottom of the post.
  • L&D Manifesto: This Manifesto is an inspiring initiative (a real shout-out) by Cathy Moore that was released last year, which focuses on all aspects of workplace learning, and not just ‘e-learning’, to proclaim the arrival of a new order. Check out our interview with Cathy to see her response to our question on how this (L&D Manifesto) has inspired the making of the Serious eLearning Manifesto.
  • After 50 years of e-Learning, e-nough for Now: Here’s another thought-provoking post that discusses the reasons why the author won’t sign the Manifesto, this one from Jonathan Kettleborough (Managing Director, Corollis Ltd.)
  • Make eLearning Better by Making It Complete: This Learning Solutions Magazine article (by Richard Butler) discusses the impact on training completions: why they are important, how they can be inconclusive, and what you can do to make them more meaningful. It also presents an interesting list of best practices for applying the PIE (Practical, Interactive, Enjoyable) approach to e-learning after reviewing and categorizing the Serious eLearning Manifesto’s supporting principles.
  • Getting Serious About e-Learning: Check out this blog post from Clive Shepherd that carries a clarification about the type of e-learning that the Manifesto refers to, and some of the interesting but thought-provoking comments from the readers.
  • Serious Conversation: A must-read blog post from Clark Quinn that calls for a debate on the Manifesto and its supporting principles to ‘see if, together, we can start figuring out how to lift the floor (not close off the ceiling)’.
  • Elearning Manifesto – an Ideal or Corporate Elitism?: This discussion (started by Jacinta Penn) in the Articulate Storyline LinkedIn group helped trigger some interesting debates on the purpose and role of the Manifesto amongst the Instructional Designer fraternity. As you can see, some of the thoughts presented here are thought-provoking and could evolve into more serious discussions.
  • Practical Applications of the Serious eLearning Manifesto: Here are the details of an upcoming learning summit (the first of its kind) that revolves around the practical application aspects of the Serious eLearning Manifesto. It will be highly useful to check this event by Michael Allen that focuses on the methods to design and develop quality e-learning (while dealing with reasonable project constraints) by implementing the supporting principles of the Manifesto.
  • e-Learning: Are You Serious?: Register for this (past) webinar by Michael Allen for getting a copy of the recording of this event; it’s worth watching this session for the brilliant insights it carries. Make sure to turn off your pop-up blockers to download this (Blackboard Collaborate web-conferencing) session.
  • eLearnChat: Dr. Michael Allen on Serious eLearning: It is worth following this eLearnChat with Michael Allen (CEO, Allen Interactions) in which he discusses his role in the development of the Serious eLearning Manifesto. He also shares his insights on the issues in e-learning development today, and his suggestions to improve the situation.
  • eLearnChat: Clark Quinn on Serious eLearning: This eLearnChat is with Clark Quinn, one of the other instigators of the Manifesto in which he shares his insights on the state of e-learning, and the intended role of the Manifesto.


Today, after our journey, in addition to the many ‘learnings’ as take-aways, we are glad to be making the following two humble contributions (our own bit) to this inspiring initiative:

  1. We have become a proud signatory of the Manifesto thereby pledging to do our best to apply the manifesto’s principles in all our thinking and work. Here is what our endorsement on the Manifesto’s page reads:

We (at Learnnovators) are committed to respect, follow, and promote ‘good’ learning. We endorse the Serious eLearning Manifesto, and agree with and support all the principles it contains, as it aligns perfectly with our philosophy towards e-learning. We believe that it is a great attempt to raise the quality of e-learning. However, we (too) are of the opinion that this initiative shouldn’t be limited to only e-learning, but should encompass all forms of ‘learning’. “2. We have added the following three interviews (from our Crystal Balling series) to the Manifesto’s calendar in order to share their views on the Manifesto with the learning community:

    • Cathy Moore Crystal Balling with Learnnovators (23 July, 2014)
    • Clive Shepherd Crystal Balling with Learnnovators (26 June, 2014)
    • Clark Quinn Crystal Balling with Learnnovators (16 April, 2014)

However, we aspire this to be just the beginning of a long journey, and wish to see the Manifesto evolving into some sort of a learning framework wired together with our best understandings and experiences about how humans really learn. However, for this to happen, the key is having more vibrant ACTIONS (activities such as debates and discussions to share views and best practices) involving all stakeholders, including the industry. Below are a few (pointers to our) suggestions on the principles of the Manifesto that we wish to be part of in future discussions with the learning community.

  • Support for micro-learning
  • Support for ubiquitous way of learning
  • Support for informal (on-the-job) and social (peer) learning
  • Support for spaced learning and distributed practice

What are your thoughts about the Manifesto and its supporting principles? If you’ve already signed the Manifesto, what are your endorsements? What would you like to add to its list of principles?

We would love to hear.

Written by Santhosh Kumar


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