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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Interview with Patti Shank, Innovators in E-Learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Patti Shank, a learning programs innovator whose ability to bring clarity to the design and implementation process is extremely useful in a time of rapid technological change, and a context of constantly shifting knowledge needs.

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
    Patti Shank, PhD, CPT.  I got into e-learning before there was an "e." ;-) We just called it using technology to support learning or digitally enhanced learning or something like that. We simply had a need (in health care) to reach people who were busy (clinicians, patients) and started using technology (mostly video, at the time) to reach them. The Internet was just becoming available but it was complex to use and not ready for prime time.

    BTW, I think it's long past time to drop the "e." The technology piece is just part of the solution. It's never the entire solution. It never should have been split out in the first place.

2.  How did you get interested in e-learning?
    When the Internet became more widely available, I started  looking into it. But in some ways, we went backwards before going forward again. The Internet was mostly text at first.

    And we're finally getting to the point where we can move social interaction into place where it should be. Learning from and with each other is a natural part of learning. I'm hoping that purely asynchronous learning will start becoming more hybrid in the near future.
3.  What are the most overlooked issues in developing good learning programs?
    Using good instructional practice is the most overlooked issue! It's sad how much "instructional content" (text, video, audio, etc.) is not sound from a learning perspective. A recent research project I worked on showed that learning sciences may not be as available or easy to read as we think. Practice certainly shows that it doesn't get used as much as we'd hope. (I hope to change that, one person at a time.)

4.  What are key questions to ask when putting together an educational program?

    The key question for organizations is:

    1. What business and human performance outcomes are needed? 

    Here are some others:

    2. How do you know this is a problem? (What are the signs and symptoms?)

    3. What would you consider a "fix" for this problem?
    These are very high level. There are ton of others and I could go on for hours.

5.  What is your latest book? What is it about?
    My last book isn't on learning so might I talk about what's coming out soon? I'm working on how to easily apply learning sciences in everyday instructional content.

    We're taking the most common problems of learning content (text, video, audio, etc.) and showing how to apply learning sciences to those problems. And we're writing it so anyone who writes learning content (teacher, trainer, subject matter expert, etc) can do it.

6.  What are some of the things that you have found out about yourself and life in writing the book?
    We found it's hard to make difficult topics easy. (Duh. We know this!) So it took us a while to figure out a good process. But it's been super rewarding with many eureka moments!

7.  How can the ideas in the book help the individual reader?
    We want the materials to help the average instructional content builder build instructional content that makes it easier to learn. A lot of instructional content doesn't, which we know by the number of frustrated people.

8.  What are the key secondary messages in the book?
    There are some key ideas in the learning sciences that when applied well, make it FAR easier for people to learn.

9. What are your plans for the future?
    Expand on what I am talking about in 5-8. I'll be rebuilding my site ( in the very near future (next 3-4 months) to make this project available to all who need it. We want to make it easy for all people who teach others to make it easier to learn. Simple as that. I feel like it's the culmination of my life's work.

        Thank you!!

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