QUOTE: “The future belongs to those who not only have the courage to shout,

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The future belongs to those who not only have the courage to shout, “The emperor has no clothes!” but also the wisdom to channel the forces that actually bring about genuine change.” — Gene Levinson


We are in the age of learning revolution or innovation. Understandably, it has a natural impact on corporate e-learning as well. In today’s scenario, with our renewed understanding of how people ‘learn’ (mostly informal, social, and less formal), this gains considerable significance.

Like many of you out there, we too believe that, in today’s learning landscape we need ‘learning rebels’ and ‘learning provocateurs’, and not ‘learning conformists’. Because we are going through a time of major learning transformation, a radical thinking that will help us get started on the transformation has become quite critical. What we need is creative thinking that will churn out innovative solutions that will address the unique challenges of today’s creative economy (challenges that are very different from the ones posed by the industrial economy we have been addressing so far). The need of the hour is a revolution for:

  • Breaking the rules
  • Thinking out-of-the-box
  • Questioning/Challenging the status quo

Looking back, we find that we have been consciously striving to practice learning innovation. As you may know, we have also been lucky to have wonderful opportunities to interact with some of the most rebellious minds in learning by means of our ‘Crystal Balling with Learnnovators‘ interview series through which they have been sharing their insights and foresights on the learning revolution we are witnessing today.


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

  • Learning & Development needs a makeover… It’s time for a change.” – Clark Quinn
  • Instructional designers need to run, not walk, away from classroom-thinking and get to the point of providing short, quick business focused learning points that are easily accessible when and where our learners need them. This means leveraging new technologies to deliver non-traditional instruction.” —Karl Kapp
  • Lousy eLearning needs to become a thing of the past. Creating quality solutions that help people and solve the problems people have—that is the real challenge for everyone.” – Cammy Bean
  • Before you can help your organization become social, you need to “walk the social talk” yourself.” –Jane Hart
  • Being a Learning Rebel is about passionately wanting to drive change.” ― Shannon Tipton in her post here.
  • Not many organizations truly have a learning strategy. What they have is a training strategy, and training is no longer enough on its own to support the changing needs of today’s workforce.” ― Anthony Altieri in his post here.
  • All this is really old school stuff. No social learning, no informal learning, nothing about connecting learning to the business. 35% does not even use an authoring tool at all. Are they still using pen and paper? I knew that the Instructional Design community is not the most innovative community, but I was unpleasantly surprised with these outcomes.” – Kasper Spiro in his post here.
  • 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
  • We learn so much from random pieces of information shared daily on the Web – and yet so many think all learning has to be “designed”.” ― Jane Hart
  • Keep training but what we DO during training is to practice what we want our learners to DO when they get back to their jobs.” — Gary Wise in his post here.
  • 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
  • A twitter follower stated a good point though, saying that there is a disarray in e-learning and for the most part, I think he is right.” – Craig Weiss in his LinkedIn post here.
  • We can no longer just discuss ideas without thinking about coordinating the ideas from a blueprint to a model of application.” – Ken Turner in his post here.
  • Is it any wonder that organizations are confused about what we do, when we can’t even get consistent with something as simple as a job title? We are the only position I can think of that has so many random names for themselves.” – Shannon Tipton in her post  here.
  • …I also recognise another side of games that can in fact impede learning. They may be downright inappropriate for several reasons…” – Ryan Tracey in his post here.
  • Just as it makes little sense to get rid of the instructional designers, it makes little sense to get rid of the instructors. Instead, let’s get smarter about instruction.” – Ryan Tracey in his post here.
  • We work in organizations that believe harmful myths. We’re pressured to work as if the myths are true, and we can’t or don’t take the time we need to keep our knowledge up to date and combat the myths.” – Cathy Moore in her post here.
  • Design thinking certainly isn’t taught in most instructional design programs, if any. And it’s the black box of the ADDIE model.” – Connie Malamed in her post here.
  • “Most researcher’s biggest blind spot is that they just can’t communicate without the use of jargon and big words that overwhelm the working-memory capacity of those they are attempting to reach.” – Dr. Will Thalheimer.


Here are a few thought-provoking shout-outs from great minds we were able to interact with through our ‘Crystal Balling with Learnnovators‘ interview series:

  • Gone are the days of trying to memorize and remember everything. It’s not about that anymore. Now it’s about, “how quickly can I access/find the correct information.” – Andrew Scivally
  • Education isn’t necessarily broken. What we need to do is, look at education and make sure that it’s reflecting the new economy, and that of the country’s future.” – Jaime Casap
  • The traditional classroom was designed and constructed to keep distractions out, to keep kids focused in the classroom. That doesn’t necessarily make sense with this generation. So we need to look at how this generation thinks about information… how they educate themselves… how they learn.” – Jaime Casap
  • When students or employees are permitted to play, wonderful aspects of innovation and creativity manifest, arguably defining the culture (and people) as entrepreneurial.” – Dan Pontefract
  • We compromise too much when we tell instructional designers to become developers and we tell developers to become instructional designers.” – Joe Ganci
  • We have been deeply concerned about the state of e-learning. 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.” – Michael Allen
  • The first thing I need to do, and I’m finding this to be a major challenge, is to get the e-learning community to set higher standards, insist on meeting them, and defend themselves as professionals.” – Michael Allen
  • It continues to frustrate me that I can’t get more people to commit to making a better use of learner time. It’s not that difficult.” – Michael Allen
  • Many people responsible for instructional design today just aren’t ready to take on this complex task. This is the primary reason we see so much “tell-and-test” or “text-and-next.” It’s often not their fault; they’ve just been given the assignment by someone who doesn’t appreciate the fact that instructional design is a professional undertaking requiring a good deal of knowledge, skill, and talent.” – Michael Allen
  • Observing that formal learning often gives way to informal just confirms for me how awful most formal learning is.” – Michael Allen
  • I do expect instructional design to be automated eventually. In many ways, I expect computers to eventually become smarter than humans.” – Michael Allen
  • Unfortunately the current approach in L&D is to assume things about learners (rather than to actually analyze what their jobs are like) and to deliver the “solution” as a one-time, one-size-fits-all course.” –Cathy Moore
  • We need to stop being order takers and instead analyze the performance problem and identify all the ways to solve that problem, many of which likely include providing just-in-time support, often online.” — Cathy Moore
  • 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!” – Clark Quinn
  • Most L&D really seems stuck in the Industrial Age, but we’re working in the Information Age.” – Clark Quinn
  • The research isn’t heartening. We’re still seeing an avoidance of social learning, the continual use of courses as the only solution, and consequently organizations that can’t adapt fast enough.” – Clark Quinn
  • L&D is one of the most conservative professions.” – Clive Shepherd
  • As such, we are probably going to find that these eLearning trends, such as gamification and learning analytics, will bring new people to the industry. On the other hand, great caution is needed. There is no room for bleary and vague picture about these trends or for opportunists.” – Christopher Pappas
  • I think a crucial point for new designers to realize is that training is not the solution to every problem.” – Connie Malamed
  • One training event is not sufficient for people to transfer learning to new situations.” – Connie Malamed
  • If you read the research on how much people forget after training, it’s depressing. Do a search for the ‘Forgetting Curve’. Once we know something like this, we need to change our approach and educate others.” – Connie Malamed
  • There’s a ‘conspiracy of convenience’ between many learning & development managers and business managers, which serves as a barrier to effective L&D operations.” – Charles Jennings
  • With the rise and rise of social media, it’s almost inevitable that the ‘20’ will become more important as a channel for learning.” – Charles Jennings
  • Break up longer courses into shorter interventions, and recognize that you need to hand over navigational control to the learner. One of the skills in creating e-learning courses was the story-telling dimension. This changes with mobile. You can no longer control the narrative in the same way.” – Geoff Stead
  • You can see an evident shift from formal curriculum-based learning to informal just-in-time learning, and this is just the beginning!” – Pooja Jaisingh
  • Learning doesn’t just happen during business hours in the office or in the classroom. It happens everywhere through a number of different channels.” – Eric Schuermann
  • MOOCs and other online instruction is still the old “broadcast model” where everyone gets the same content whether they need it or not. When systems start to provide the content I need differently from the content you need, we will have taken a giant step forward.” – Karl Kapp
  • …many courses aren’t designed for learning and the organization’s expectation is only to track completion.” – Tom Kuhlmann
  • The real challenge is making that content available to those who want to access it. In many organizations the courses are locked behind firewalls or LMS and the learner has limited access to them.” – Tom Kuhlmann
  • I think we mostly know how to track informal learning with Tin Can now, but there is still a long way to go in making useful information out of all that data.” – Mike Rustici


We also have been contemplating on some of the major innovations needed in e-learning internally at our end. Below are a few thoughts from our posts:

  • We wish to see design thinking being considered a ‘responsibility’ of learning designers.
  • We believe that today’s L&D teams play a key role in helping their own organizations embrace social learning. Their role includes fostering and supporting internal learning communities to promote informal and social learning by enacting the role of ‘learning
from being mere ‘training
  • We look forward to witnessing major breakthroughs in automated content generation, freeing us from the mundane tasks involved in the development process, and thereby allowing us to focus on the more innovative aspects of learning design.
  • MOOCs would evolve into one of the most effective delivery models for education. What is, however, required is that they have to be designed on engaging learning strategies and components that satisfy today’s learners.
  • We look forward to seeing more authoring tools that support design, develop and deliver smart embedded performance support solutions that could complement well with the formal learning efforts.
  • Mobile learning and embedded performance support solutions will enjoy more robust growth compared to traditional e-learning interventions this year and beyond.
  • Performance consulting can’t be limited to L&D practitioners (or an L&D solutions mindset) not just because of the lack of skillsets that they presently possess for handling the bigger role of performance consultants, but because this (role) demands a holistic view and knowledge of different functions of business.
  • Though most learning designers possess high levels of skills around the traditional training (formal learning) area, their skill levels fall short around the informal or social learning areas. This is mainly because designing informal and social learning experiences for workplaces demands a diverse and unique set of qualities.
  • Many of the successful organizations that we see around us today attribute their success to employees who are empowered to learn and innovate at great speeds.
  • “‘Walking the Social Talk’ is the solution for any organisation to be ‘enlightened’. However, we are of the opinion that this should be extended to all stakeholders impacted by learning (including the organisation, management, Learning & Development (L&D), learning tools/platform, employees, and maybe even customers and vendors).
  • The best learning programs are designed backwards.
  • Keep in mind that your learners are adults, and that they would want to take control of the pace at which they learn. In any case, isn’t that what you are designing for – so that learners can pull your content when they need it, instead of having it pushed to them?


Finally, here are a few thoughts we have been contemplating internally:

  • These days, we hear and talk a lot about ‘Personalized Learning’ for children. We tend to agree with many experts (including Sir Ken Robinson) on the significance of working towards personalizing education (and not standardizing it the way it is being done for ages). However, ironically, when it comes to adult learning, we are still churning out ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ self-paced courses. Why?
  • All great ‘learnings’ have been embedded within wonderful stories, throughout history…All great learning designers have been good storytellers, always. However, storytelling is still not considered an integral part of a learning designers’ skillset today. Why?
  • We are intrigued by experts who feel that many significant aspects of learning and instructional design will be automated in the near future. However, we believe that these (aspects) will be the ones that are driven by pure intelligence. Those that are powered by creativity and innovation cannot be easily replaced by machines. For, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives, but the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself. What’s required to be relevant is a commitment towards learning innovation.
  • We agree with Sugata Mitra when he wonders how we can test students for their real world skills without allowing them to use Internet in the examination hall. Is the scenario any different in our present day e-learning (testing) programs? Why can’t we allow our learners access to Internet (or to the course content) while they take the assessments in our learning programs?
  • Most of today’s e-learning programs are products of an age that has already ended. What justification do we have for following this format even today in this age of informal and social learning?

If most workplace learning happens on-the-job, is shared more, and is least structured, it is high time learning designers become creative and innovative in re-skilling themselves in order to be relevant to take up the roles that could help address areas other than structured learning.

To conclude, we are excited and determined to continue working with the community towards bringing in a learning revolution (by constantly experimenting with creative, innovative and disruptive practices) especially in the e-learning space. We are committed to bringing about a learning innovation, and on this score, agree with John Cage when he says that we are not frightened by new ideas but by the old ones.

What are your thoughts on the significance of an e-learning revolution? Do you have any radical thoughts you wish to share? Who, according to you, are the other radical thinkers in e-learning? What are the other provocative shout-outs you wish to share in this space?

We would love to hear from you.

Written by Santhosh Kumar

(Vice President, Learnnovators)


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