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The medium has betrayed the message

I thought I’d repost this little bit of fun as it still amuses me. (First posted 4th April 2013)

With February being designated Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) month our team has been asked to undertake an hours’ worth of continuing professional development (CPD) by engaging in some online learning. I did mine last week, which should give you some indication of the time pressures where I work.  I am now the proud bearer of the Empower: Sexuality & Gender Identity in Education, Learning & Training certificate issued by Pinnacle Training Solutions Ltd.

What does this have to do with this blog I hear you ask? Well it’s not the subject that matters for the purpose of this article. Although a colleague did point out that every day should be LGBT day rather than just February. It’s the online training aspect that struck me strongly enough to put keyboard to screen.

I hear and read a lot about virtual learning environments (VLE). Mostly it’s positive. VLE’s are going to offer universality to learning. VLE’s offer democratic access to education. VLE’s could help organisations meet their targets by offering a single course to 1,000’s at a time! Back in the early 90’s I was working on a project with a university piloting online learning materials around the subject of semiotics (of all things) so there is nothing new in the concept of a shared repository of e-learning.

It is not often that I am on the student side of the screen. Not often enough it seems. The LGBT course was an experience that has got our team talking about the experience more than the content. As it turns out we all have close relatives who are gay and none of us recognised any of the attitudes or examples presented as part of the course.

The set-up of the course consists of what feels like a 100 slides contextualising the course and explaining why it’s important to know this stuff in a post 16 learning and training environment. Then there are four sections to be completed in one sitting. There are no progress bars or slide numbers so about half way through one is wondering when will it ever end.  There are irrelevant pictures of happy young people all looking like a 51ststate version of Beverly Hills, 90210 interspersed with jolly cartoons depicting confrontation.  When one gets to the questions and answers part be wary. Right or wrong one cannot move on to the next question without first clicking onto the patronising feedback button.

My personal favourite question concerned a value judgement. What do you think of… and four options. If one picks the “incorrect” option one is rewarded with a big red cross. How can any of the options be deemed wrong if the question is couched in terms like “what do you think…?” If one picks a wrong option has one committed a thought crime against LGBT people, indeed within our group, a thought crime against our relatives!

VLE’s can be challenging, entertaining, engaging, etc. What this particular example demonstrates is how to tick the correct boxes to get a certificate. This is not about learning, it’s about parrot response and although the introduction slides recommend that the completion of the e-learning would constitute an hour’s worth of development I motion that completion of this particular e-learning course constitutes an hour of time to download a certificate just to say that one has one.

It is a real shame that the medium has betrayed the message. Marshall McLuhan will be spinning in his grave.

If you would like to try the course I was talking about here is a link to it.

Promoting sexual orientation and gender identity
equality for everyone in post-16 learning and training