We Need Learning and We Need It Now!

We Need Learning and We Need It Now!

On this month’s Learning Circuit Big Question, Tony Karrer asks the learning & development community how they respond to the “I want it now!” demand from stakeholders. Karrer summarizes the dilemma:

"The other day I walked into an executive’s office and they had a site up about "Rapid Instructional Design." I spent quite a bit of time in discussion with this executive. It is a real tough balance of providing instructionally sound courses/events and providing it is an time frame acceptable by stakeholders."

Jay Cross immediately responded that this must be an April Fool’s prank! After all, diagnosing a learning need takes time, and creating the architecture and content to facilitate that learning takes even more time.

But sometimes you do need it now. And saying “No, it’s just not possible” to a CEO is not the kind of attitude that gets you branded as an indispensable member of the management team.

The world moves at a fast pace, and sometimes your organization will not have the luxury of waiting for well-designed and well-executed courses. Sometimes good enough will just have to be good enough.

So if they really do need it now, what - as learning leaders - can we do about it?

How to Make It Happen Now

For those times when there just isn’t time for an in-depth assessment and design process, I propose three really rapid elearning development approaches:

  1. Video. Perhaps you can find an existing YouTube video that covers the topic you are covering. If not, whip out your iPhone or camera and set up an interview with the subject matter expert. Use iMovie or another free editing app to create a short, simple video explaining the need. All of the screencasts made with Screenr (check out Kevin Thorn’s for an example) are great examples of quick, off-the-cuff, engaging elearning.
  2. Shop off-the-shelf. Check the OpenSesame catalog for courses on your topic of interest. From the Khan Academy’s math courses to safety training from Convergence to sales skills from ej4, we’ve got a broad variety of interesting courses that may fill your need.
  3. Social network. If you have experts in your organization, consider leveraging their knowledge through social networks to create a discussion that will increase skill levels throughout your organization. Since 70-80% of our learning is informal and unstructured, make it your business to accelerate this process by becoming your organization’s chief networker.

For complex needs, none of these solutions is perfect. But at the least, they could make good temporary solutions while planning your next steps or creating a more detailed knowledge base or course.

The key here is communication. Be clear about the trade-offs between high quality projects and time spent. Give decision makers a menu of options, and make your recommendation. Remember that the CEO isn’t an instructional designer, and never will be. She or he has to hear the conversation in terms she or he understands in order to make informed decisions.

So next time Veruca Salt says she wants her candy now, you’ll be prepared with a few options. Just don’t give in to the temptation to toss your boss in with the bad eggs.