Low Tech Learning, High Impact Outcomes

In probably every field, the experts like to distinguish principles versus tactics.

The tactics are tips, tricks and techniques that get results.

When they work, great – you don’t need to know anything beyond how to use them.

When they don’t work, though?

Sometimes a slight change in context, wording or circumstances can shut a tactic down. They tend to be ephemeral – working only in certain situations and for certain times.

If all you know are tactics, you’re in trouble.

Principles are different.

They explain how the tactics work and allow you to tweak them – or even create new ones.

They tend to rarely change, even as culture and technology change around them.

Amateurs like tactics because they’re easier to learn. And the really na├»ve think that’s all they need. You can spot them on forums and at conferences, asking questions like, “how do I write a best-selling novel” or “what’s the formula for writing sales letters?”

Both of those questions have answers. “Write a chapter a day, at least” and “AIDA” respectively.

But those alone don’t tell you how to write a book or a sales letter. They help, sure, but they are insufficient.

The only real answer is to learn the principles of your craft.

Sure, it’ll take longer, it’ll be harder and you won’t be able to apply what you learn immediately.

Plus, you’ll have to *gasp* think for yourself – figuring out how to apply principles is half the work.

Anyway, why am I talking about this, in an article about low tech learning?

Because if you’re an eLearning developer, there are lots of high tech platforms out there. Community video sharing, AI-driven curation, multimedia feasts for the senses…

All of them add new tools to your repertoire.

New tactics.

If you don’t understand the principles behind eLearning, though, they won’t help you. The fanciest car can’t help the worst driver.

When you understand the principles, you can see how to use these new, high-tech tactics.

You can also work around them.

I’ve created fun, engaging and effective courses using nothing but text-only forums. These looked like stuff from the early web – hideous, not user friendly and definitely low-tech.

And I’ve created them using nothing but PowerPoint. When I say ‘nothing’, I mean not even including an instructor. It was self-paced, with nothing but text and images.

It was fine. In fact, it was easy.

When you understand how adults learn, what motivates them, what’s fun and engaging, what would surprise them, then the tech becomes a nice-to-have.

The only thing that’s essential is you knowing what you’re doing.

Speaking of principles…

12 principles can turn any course (online or otherwise) from hideously boring to sparkling with fun. It doesn’t matter what the topic is or what the medium is. You can use most of them with nothing but text on a screen – and all of them with even the simplest, oldest, free eLearning software.

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