The Highlights Approach to Corporate E-Learning

NOTE: Don’t miss the two Dec. 16 updates to this article on e-learning narrative and teaching decisionmaking online.


My recent posting Corporate E-Learning: Focus on Tasks has attracted a surprising amount of traffic, mainly because Maish R. Nichani blogged it in elearningpost, and added a good idea to my theme.

Nichani wrote: “I would simplify it even further and focus on the decision-making. For example, providing learners the answers to ‘The 10 most important things you need to know about this task’ or ‘The 5 most important decisions related to this task’ will help the them to focus on the execution of the task. These checksheets can also be linked to detailed documents for the learner to dig into if he/she wishes.”

…That definitely could be one approach to packaging corporate e-learning content. I can see some pros and cons about this…

I think the top 10 (or 5) “highlights” approach would be more generally relevant when communicating information that employees need to know (such as the basics and potential impacts of new laws, regulations, or policies), rather than tasks that they must learn to perform.

Again, I think in training it’s important to distinguish between dissemination of information and performance of tasks.

The highlights approach certainly could be used to introduce or set context for task-focused e-learning. However, unless the task is very complex and detailed, or not needed very often, or not very important, I’d be hesitant to take the “highlights” approach to training people how to actually perform tasks.

I think the easiest way to make this distinction is to pay close attention to how the learning objective is written.

For instance, when I write a learning objective, I try to avoid using the verbs “understand” or “know” because these indicate information dumps rather than task learning. If I cannot avoid those verbs, I reconsider whether e-learning is appropriate for communicating that material. It probably would fit better in a reference resource.

That’s just my opinion. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this. Please feel free to comment below.