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The Daring Use of Constructive Criticism in Content Curation

Critique

For my multitudinous sins I get to review a lot of eLearning content. I’m responsible for the course supply partnerships at Core Learning; our Course-Source marketplace is one of the longest-standing eLearning supply services.

We provide a one-stop shop for businesses to procure content for their LMS, and we offer “targeted access” to well over 3,500 courses. With a constant churn of new and updated courses, if anyone has a high threshold for eLearning exposure, it's me!

When invited to contribute to our blog, it caught me on a day with a bee in my bonnet. So what I’m going to talk about here, without naming and shaming, are some of (arguably) “less good” aspects of eLearning design that I keep an eye out for whilst evaluating potential course additions.

Whilst that might seem a tad negative, actually having an honest approach to constructive criticism is instrumental to the product improvement process – and (more often than not) results in a much-improved course being resubmitted. We usually get thanked, but I’ve learned to duck a punch too.

A consistent approach to subjective evaluation….

Firstly, I should say that we have developed a process for content evaluation, which we’ve referenced in previous blog posts. This is an integral part of our onboarding process; we review courses using the acronym PrAISE. This stands for Production values, Assessment, Interactivity, Structure, and Expertise. This soring mechanism (we should copyright it!) helps us to achieve a consistent approach to content review; we can then properly understand the strengths and weaknesses of particular courses, compared to similar content on our platform.

So that’s our formal approach. But before I start scoring anything, I’ll arrive at a general first impression. And this is critical because the “first impression stage” can be as far as most buyers will get! Products can fall at this first hurdle. And we always advocate that buyers evaluate our recommended course options before buying, simply because there is so much variation in style, approach etc. Irrespective of how beautifully presented, authoritative, or relevant a course may be, a poor first impression (on one of the key components) can kill the sale/purchase for that particular product.

Things we try to avoid…

Here are a few of my “first impression turn-offs” (neatly aligned to our scoring mechanism).

Production Values

  • Use of “low res” or otherwise naff images.
  • Substandard audio or video (issues might include background noise, jarringly “robotic” screen readers etc).
  • A generally “homemade” vibe (like a PowerPoint or similar).
  • “Borrowed” content, such as another company’s YouTube videos, used to deliver the substance of the course.

Assessment

  • Pointless (pun intended) quiz with overly-easy questions that require little thought.
  • No assessment mechanism or “validation of learning” within a course that clearly would benefit from one.

Interactivity

  • Uncomfortably slow pace (for example, making someone listen to a screen of “slowly-read” text before they can proceed).
  • Little within the course to stimulate the learner to think about how the learning/subject might apply to them, or what they might do differently as a result.
  • Either no interaction or a plainly ineffective/half hearted attempt to get the learner to engage with the content.

Please note that I’m not having a pop at “passive learning” instructional videos learning here – there is of course an entirely valid place for that within the world of learning options.

Structure

  • Big blocks of text on a screen (it is not a book, respect the media!).
  • Over-reliance on PowerPoint-style bulleted pages (= read the bullets, click next, read more bullets etc).
  • Navigation “rabbit holes” that mean there is not a clear path through the course.

Expertise

  • A sense that the course lacks suitable depth or rigour (in the context of its stated audience and purpose).
  • Over-reliance on “the obvious”, such that a learner might feel that the course hasn’t added to their pre-existing knowledge (or perhaps unlikely to stimulate any change in behaviour).

So what is the antithesis of the above? Here are a few examples of products that have scored in the top 20% on our PrAISE framework.

Perhaps you’d like to take a look (free trial available – see below) to see if you agree with me? Gold stars to the following:

MINDSCALING

The Art of Leadership Presence

A fantastic example (and part of a series of management development resources from this US publisher) of a course that delivers high-end management soft skills via a blend of expert presentation, animation, and thought-provoking activities. As well as being nicely presented and paced, the course has genuine gravitas and depth. Crucially this course, together with the others in the same range, delivers genuine “lightbulb moments” that are likely to have a positive impact on personal behaviours and effectiveness, and even seasoned managers (who may sometimes hold a certain level of cynicism when it comes to online development!) are likely to benefit from the fresh perspective.

Mindscaling course screen

iAM LEARNING

Managing Sickness

Part of the (now very substantial) iAM Learning course library, this short course exemplifies iAM Learning’s high production values and studio-quality animation. Don’t be tempted to dismiss the iAM Learning range as “cartoony”; there is a LOT of thought and rigor behind this delivery style, which also applies an inclusive and light-hearted approach to maximise impact throughout. The course blends elements of storytelling and humour to focus the learner’s attention and help the learning to “stick”.  This particular course provides a genuinely useful insight into the causes of absence and the practical steps that should be taken for the benefit of the employee and the organisation as a whole.

iAM Learning course screen

ZANDAX

iSmart Goals and How to Use Them

Part of the ZandaX management and soft skills range, this course is delivered with a nicely-balanced mix of video presentation, learner activities/exercises, and workbooks. In particular, the course takes account of different learning styles and holds attention through different media. There are clearly stated outputs and tactics for applying the learning in real-life settings. This is backed up with scenario-based questions and tasks that help the learner to really think about what they’ve learned and to build behavioural change.

Zandax Course Screen

FREE EVALAUTION

Whenever you need to procure training for your organisation, you can view (in full) any of the courses on our platform. Simply create an account on Course-Source, and you can “instantly enrol” on any of the courses that we supply. There’s no charge and no catch.

We all have our own view as to what constitutes a good product. But that’s the beauty of a marketplace service, and precisely why we provide one; so that you can select the products that meet your criteria and ideals.