Cutting the crusts off eLearning

I have a confession to make. I cut the crusts off my children’s sandwiches. Why? Because crusts are a dry, tasteless barrier to the purpose of the sandwich as a peanut-butter delivery device.

I was brought up in the ‘waste not, want not’ generation whose catch-cry was:

‘Eat your crusts!’
‘Because there are starving children in Africa.’
‘Fine, post them my crusts!’

If you leave the crusts on, children (and adults) will eat around them leaving chunks of uneaten filling. By carefully and sparingly removing the crusts, one can actually minimise waste and maximise access to the good stuff.

I take a similar approach to eLearning.

Back in the day, corporate ‘learning’ was herding people into a darkened room and submitting them to ‘death by PowerPoint’ (chock-full of detailed and mostly irrelevant information) then prodding them with a stick and sending them into the world with their head spinning and eyelids drooping.
Nowadays in the world of eLearning, our aim is to make the learning relevant and engaging by targeting what people need to do. However, we also ask what they need to know, and if we’re not careful that’s when the information dumpers can unleash the full extent of their irrelevant knowledge, and when you wake up your eLearning has turned into ‘death by module’. The key is to ask ‘what do they need to know in order to do their job?’
For example, to effectively cut the crusts off a sandwich, you may need to know how to use a bread knife. That’s peanut butter — the good stuff. You do not need to know the history of sandwiches (or knives) through the ages — that’s just crust.

Compliance learning is a great breeding ground for crusty learning. One of the first things that a new recruit has to do is complete a bunch of modules with imaginative titles such as ‘The F-ing Boring Act (FBA) 2004’.

One of my favourite compliance quiz questions is ‘What year was the FBA passed into legislation?’ Answer: No one cares. It doesn’t matter. It’s crust. What is compliance really about anyway? It’s about doing your job in a way that won’t cause you or your place of work to be fined, fired or shut down. That’s kind of important then, eh? So cut all the crusty BS and get to the filling. What do I need to do, and what do I need to know to able to do that?

‘But some people like crusts.’ OK fine — post the crusts to them, or in the case of a module, link out to the FBA and they can read it to their heart’s content. No need to bore the crap out of everyone else though.
You shouldn’t have to chew through dry, tasteless crust to get to the filling; it should all be peanut-buttery goodness.

Mmmmmmm peanut-buttery goodness.




Written by Russell McLeod
Russell is one of Inspire Group’s legendary Instructional Designers! He makes learning simple and beautiful. He also believes in Lunch Pudding which is a marvelous idea as why wouldn’t you just always eat pudding whenever you can!

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