Our system recently issued a policy that to drive any vehicles for school purposes, one would have to pass an online Defensive Driving course. I logged on recently to take care of this requirement but also to look at the design factors.
It was very well done instructional design, following the ADDIE formula to a “T”. There were objectives, and a table of contents, and practice, and a cute character to lead us through the content (crash test dummy), it had some Flash animations, and pop up windows with extra information. It was classic, the way it has been taught in all the schools. It had a good mix of media, and generated a pretty color certificate when I was done.
So do I have a beef?
Well, yes. It was so textbook, it was boring and predictable. Despite the Flash animations, clean graphics, the basic navigation was Next button. read. Next Button. Read. Click. Read. Click read. Next. Next. Next.
Content carefully chunked into antiseptic morsels. I got lightheaded.
This is all fine, but I contrast this to how I learn on the job as I need it. For example, recently I accidently discovered a server we have that is used to run some listservs has not been sending out mail since March! (some pretty quite lists, eh? I was hoping to create new ones). I’ve recently lost my part-time programmer how had been doing the admin, so it was time to roll up the unix sleeves, and poke around. I found the log files and saw that no mail was going out via sendmail (I knew that). I experimented sending email from the command line and noted the error messages. I did a Google and found the sendmail site, and drilled down to find some relevant issues related to our Linux server.
Realizing this was beyond my admin skills, I called up a former programmer on iChat, who is in California. He offered to look into it, logged on to the server, and spent some time installing PostFix to replace sendmail, and gave some suggestions to where I’d have to edit some config files.
It works now. There is no next-next-next path to my everyday informal, experimental, iterative learning and I rely in my circle of online experts to help out when they can, or to dig until I can find an answer or an alternative approach. I repeat this almost every day, and my own dynamic form of learning as doing makes learning by lockstep lesson, well, painful.
Well skip to the end of the story.
I glazed through half the content, and reading I had 3 attempts at the post -test, I jumped into it 3 chapters short of the end of the lesson. My school career was full of multiple choice exams I passed not because I knew the content, but because I knew how to dissect multiple choice exams. This one too was easy to pick out the correct answers for content I had not seen, and I scored a 15/15.
I struggle with the single modes of instruction put out there, knowing that there are students that need and thrive in the structure if a tightly designed ID approach, and others who find it is the equivalent of fingernails scraping down the chalkboard (he kids, what is a chalkboard?).
Our systems still aim for one size fits all approaches that miss the mark for learners on the edges. And the edges are not just fringes.
Anyhow, I am now certified for driving official vehicles the next 3 years.