aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Why Tutorials Instead of Documents?

Posted by Ellen on May 1, 2011

One of the standard objections to simply done tutorials (like those you’ll find under the aLearning Fundamentals link on the left) is that they’re essentially page-turners. With minimal interaction, why not just post a document that covers the same content?

I’ll be the first to admit that including more interactions is a great thing, as long as they contribute to the learning outcome. A much more involved scenario with branching would have been ideal for the “Choosing a Learning Management System (LMS)” tutorial we did, but in this case the number of possible variations was daunting. Instead, we focused on the few key decisions that will at least narrow the LMS field and get you started. That’s a course objective that worked well for the length and complexity we wanted from the tutorial.

So why not just convert the decision-making points into a decision-tree graphic and post it?

Let’s be honest here. How interesting would that be?!?

Since the Web became a resource pool, all manner of documents have been tossed into it: white papers, charts, articles, blogs, etc. etc.

How many text-based resources have you downloaded or saved links to with the intention of reading them when you have time? Be honest.

Why haven’t you read them? No, really… why haven’t you read them?

Chances are you’re inundated with stuff to read already: e-mail, tweets, blogs, newsfeeds….

Now transfer that experience to your members.

You’ve got new board members coming into the loop, and they need some insight into Robert’s Rules of Order. You send everyone a copy of the revised Rules (an easier to read, modern version) — but how often do your volunteer leaders read that book?!?

If you’re being honest, you would admit that not many do. And those who do, scan it on the flight just before that critical meeting.

Now imagine you can just send them a link to a series of online tutorials — free, easy to access — that are set up in a sort of comic-book format, touching on the primary things your officers and meeting leaders need to know.

Think I’m delusional that your members won’t prefer the online version (assuming they have easy online access)?

How many of you know kids who will read a comic book before they’ll read a narrative text?

Have you seen the number of graphic novels that major bookstores are now carrying?!?

Yes, I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. You can find such tutorials here at aLearning🙂 Just follow the aLearning Fundamentals link on the left and go to the General Topics area, where you’ll find links to tutorials on Robert’s Rules of Order covering (or click the direct link at the end of this post):

  • Meetings
  • Robert’s Rules for Officers
  • Motions
  • Coming Soon — Voting and Elections

I’ve been a nay-sayer of elearning page-turners and still am. But when we can repurpose needed content and present it in a way that’s more interesting than paragraph after paragraph of explanation, why not?

We can’t cover everything in a tutorial that’s included in a book, but that’s not the point, either. We should cover the most essential content, and — for the nice to know and more detailed specifics — refer learners to quality resources.

Which is why you should still provide a readable copy of Robert’s Rules of Order. But instead of using it as your primary teaching tool, use the book as a reference manual.

Here’s an example…

When I taught college freshman composition courses, I required all students to purchase a grammar book. But instead of memorizing out-of-context grammar rules, they learned how to navigate the grammar book: how to find the correct way to use punctuation, structure a sentence, etc.

I told them they were learning the Einstein way. It’s said that Einstein didn’t know his own phone number. When asked how such a genius couldn’t know something so basic he said he didn’t want to clutter his mind with information he could readily find elsewhere. Phone numbers? That’s what phone books are for.

Why hold all that grammar in your head when you can consult a grammar book?

Why read all the ins and outs of Robert’s Rules of Order when you can access a tutorial, then follow up with the book once you know what you’re looking for? Those (along with the handy-dandy job aid that tells you which motions take precedence, when they need a second, and if debate or voting or reconsideration is allowed) work in combination to provide effective need-to-know-NOW instruction.

Why make your members read books (even short ones!), long articles, white papers or other documents if you can bring them to life with a tutorial that covers the same ground in a more engaging way?

So while I’ll always advocate that we need to create environments for active learning, sometimes there’s a place for simple tutorials that make certain content more relevant and interesting.

Give it a test run. Share the links to aLearning Fundamentals’ Robert’s Rules of Order tutorials. Access is always free, and registration is never requested — so no information is ever collected.

Then ask yourself: wasn’t that more fun than reading the book?

Easy Access Links:

Robert’s Rules of Order Tutorials [http://www.ellenbooks.com/general.html]

aLearning Tutorials [http://www.ellenbooks.com/alearning.html]

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