I also liked your post and have been wondering for some time about how best to reply. I guess I’d like to use a real-world example so here goes.
A very good client of mine had commissioned a piece of e-learning from one of the UK’s oldest and most prodigious development companies. Looking at their website (and no I’m not going to give hints as to which company it is) I learned about their clients and awards and great people. But the e-learning was appalling; there were spelling mistakes, text was displayed across pictures in such a way that it was illegible, some of the navigation didn’t work, and the navigation that did work was so badly designed that a number of people who reviewed the course missed out a whole section because they had no idea how to access it! In fact, it was so bad that my hand-written notes ran into an amazing 18 pages! But each of the issues I saw was very small – in that 0.1% space, however the overall effect was that I was looking at a shoddy piece of work and some badly designed learning. And to think that had those small items been fixed (as they should have been) then the whole learning experience for me and my client would have been totally different. That 0.1% makes a difference!
But then whose fault (sorry, we’re in a no-blame world), whose responsibility was it to address these issues? I’d suggest that both parties had a duty of care to ensure the finished product was fit for purpose. For me, this means that in order to raise the standards then ALL parties need to work together and to challenge each other. I agree that some of the products on offer are a bit ‘rough’ but then so are the buying skills of the customers. It’s a shame but this is the same with every industry I’ve ever know.
A change for the better will however be hard-won. Unlike the consumer market where (for example) Apple have shown what exemplary design and innovation can bring, within the corporate world there is always the need to deliver according to a budget, and these budgets are getting forever tighter. That 0.1% increase can cost a great deal and this is something that companies may not be prepared to pay for.
And for that reason we will (for the foreseeable future) be stuck with the “1.4 Ford Focus, 9 years old, a bit rusty and off white,” albeit that over time we are both hopeful someone will give it a polish!
You're absolutely right when you say "in order to raise the standards then ALL parties need to work together and to challenge each other".
Too often we're order takers, both vendor and L&D. We don't challenge. We don't challenge the client enough, even on small things to earn permission to challenge the bigger thinks. We don't challenge our superiors or stakeholders enough to again, earn that permission. We also don't challenge the vendors enough to come up with something that isn't based on an old boiler plate template.
We give the problem to someone else (vendor, boss, stakeholder, whoever...) and that someone else often lets us down.
Why are we so afraid to challenge?
You raise some excellent points. I can only talk from personal experience however from what I’ve seen challenge only comes from real passion and ownership – from both parties.
As you say, all too often both parties perform a function that’s little more than an order taker. The L&D folk may just need to get the e-learning (for example) done so that the boss gets off their back. What it looks like and how it works are therefore immaterial; what’s important is getting it done.
I’ve also found that the level of knowledge about what makes great learning varies enormously. For that reason people may not challenge on issues for fear of showing ignorance, and maybe they are even taken advantage of for this. Let’s be honest here, how many people that buy learning have a good knowledge of learning design, screen design, workbook layout, adult learning theory and effective question design but to name just a few?
As I said earlier, we get the learning we deserve. People with skills and passion will deliver great learning – each and every time. Those who can’t be bothered won’t. And the sad fact is that organisations seem happy or perhaps unaware, that they have sub-standard learning to help assist “their greatest asset.”
And very coincidently the following article appeared in my Inbox just moment ago and may be of use to readers. It’s called the “Tell-tell signs of a good e-learning partner” http://www.trainingmag.com/article/tell-tale-signs-great-e-learning...