Once upon a time there was a former association education director with a background in instructional design and online learning development. She and her husband (a former college instructor and electronics trainer) volunteered to serve on a committee to help the group update its wi-fi system and Web site by creating a password-protected gateway that could be monitored for excessive bandwidth use.
Eager to learn and participate, the couple sat in on a brief orientation about how the wi-fi network was set up but before they could fully engage in the task at hand, politics intervened. The committee chair (and holder of most knowledge about the system) was suddenly cut out of the loop by the group’s president, who brought in a relative to take on the task.
To make a long story short, the couple — still willing to help, though a little more cautious about how they might go about it — poured over various texts and how-to manuals, purchasing a few with their own money to study up on networking, system hacking, databases, and database languages.
So much to learn! So little time!
Pouring over the books and talking with each other was helping them get a foothold in the subjects, and their mentor helped as much as he could. Not only was he retired and on the move, he was understandably less motivated after being abruptly ejected from his seat as chair on the committee.
What the couple really wanted, but couldn’t find, was a series of quick but solid online tutorials on the topics they needed to learn.
Informal learning was all well and good, but they would have been learning so much more efficiently if a basic course could have helped point them to the best starting block, led them through the fundamentals, and pointed them down the road, so the questions they would have asked their mentor could have been more helpful for all of them.
Alas. No courses. Someone, somewhere, had decided that all that was needed was a network of contacts and a set of questions. Our learning, it was presumed, would occur in the give-and-take of that social environment. Supplemented with a few chapters in the books, maybe.
Isn’t this what we’re hearing around us? That the course is dead, that social networking is all we need? MariAn at Designing Impact seems to think so.
I disagree. I’ve been saying this for some time — and will continue to say it — that sometimes a course is EXACTLY what you need.
Sometimes you have to get some basic understanding into your brain before you can even form the questions you’d ask an expert.
Sometimes the experts get tired of answering the same basic questions over and over.
Sometimes a book just isn’t enough. Maybe it’s just me, but although techies are great at some things, writing generally isn’t one of them.
Sometimes what you really need is a course.