The Rapid Elearning Blog


As I was surfing the web, I came across Nicholas Carr’s recent article in which he asks if “Google is making us stupid.”  It’s an interesting read.  He discusses the impact that the Internet has on our reading habits and ultimately on the development of who we are and our ability to think.

I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose.  That’s rarely the case anymore.


Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, [and] begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I could have written those words!  I’ve also developed this habit of quickly scanning for key points and moving on.  In fact, just this week my wife got a book on parenting and asked if we could read it together.  The Olympics were on and I’m not a big fan of men’s synchronized diving, so I picked up the book and spent about 15 minutes skimming through it.  That was enough for me.  I got the key points and now I’m ready to go discipline my kids in a new way.  In fact, one of their punishments will be to watch men’s synchronized diving.

So what does this have to do with elearning?

It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse…”

Carr’s article raises some issues that could impact how we design our elearning courses.  Our learners are being conditioned to process online content a certain way.  It impacts how they see, retrieve, and process information. If these reports are correct, and we’re developing a new way of reading (or retrieving information), then this needs to be a consideration as we design our elearning courses.

Here are some points I jotted down as I read the article.  Actually, I had to read it a number of times because I kept skimming through it. 🙂

Accommodate the “power browsing.”

Instructional designers need to consider web surfing habits.  Whether it’s right or wrong, people who are online have been developing habits that they bring to the elearning course.  Design courses to accommodate these power browsing habits.  If you don’t, chances are you’ll lose a connection with the learner which will make the course ineffectual.

Steven Krug’s book,  Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, is an excellent starting point.  He has a lot of good before and after examples that are very relevant to how you’d design your online learning experience.

Pull main ideas and critical points into focus.

When people are online, they tend to look at the screen and quickly scan for information.  They’re not changing that habit for your course.  Structure the information so that it is easy to recognize the critical pieces.

I discussed this in a recent post on basic design.  There’s no need to bury important information and force the learner to find it.  Instead make sure the important parts are evident and then build follow up information around it.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog: before and after

Move from linear to exploratory.

Most elearning courses are focused on a linear presentation of information.  Real learning doesn’t happen when you give the learners information.  Instead it happens when they use it.  So your instructional design needs to become less about presenting information and more about getting the learners to use it.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog: Move from linear information to exploratory.

Free up the way learners navigate the information.  Instead of linear presentation, give them a reason to need your course content, and then the freedom to find what they need.  Based on how you build your course, you’ll be able to assess their understanding and give them the feedback that is appropriate to their needs.

You won’t have to fear that they miss something because you’re not controlling the navigation.  In fact, if you look at the image above, you’ll notice that all of the same information is available to the learner, it’s just not delivered the same way.  The instructional design is not in the information but how YOU design the course for the learners to use it.

Pull the learner into the real world.

The following statement reminded me of a lot of the issues we tend to have with our clients and subject matter experts.

The more pieces of information we can “access” and the faster we can extract their gist, the more productive we become as thinkers.

Too much focus is on the information and not enough on the use of it.  In fact, one of my pet peeves about elearning is that because we can efficiently give people information, we tend to abdicate our responsibility to coach them through using it.  For all of the elearning courses I had to take over the years, I can only recall a handful of follow up conversations with my manager about them.  It’s a lost opportunity to set expectations and build the social relationships that are so critical to our success.

When we read online we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

It’s time to engage the learners and connect them to the real world.  There are a number of ways that you can blend the content from the online course with learning activities outside of it that are relevant and meaningful to the learning process.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Use case studies or problem-solving scenarios.  At a minimum, build them into your elearning course so that the learner knows how to apply the information to a real-world context.
  • Incorporate the course with real-world discussions.  Instead of solving the case study online, have the learners solve it and then discuss the solution with their peers or managers.  Of course, this depends on the type of course, but it can be very effective.  I used to use it in peer-coaching environments.
  • Create real-world activities.  I’ve built courses with activity journals.  The course would cover certain information and then the learner was required to locate that information at their site and document it.  For example, if part of the environmental policy was to locate and review the site’s emissions log, we
    had the learner actually do that and then report on the finding or use that information elsewhere in the course.

The main point is that just because you do a course online, doesn’t mean you can’t blend the course content with offline activities.

Leverage all forms of media.

Too many elearning courses are dependent on just the text or narration.  If you want your course to be effective, you have to make full use of your tools.  And this doesn’t mean you have to be an expert multimedia programmer or Hollywood producer.

Combining easy-to-use digital technology with rapid elearning software gives you all sorts of capabilities.  You can incorporate graphics, video, audio, interactivity, and web-based technologies.  It really just depends on getting the most out of the tools.

Here’s a list of previous posts that discuss ways you can get the most out of what you do:

There are those who cringe at some of this and equate it to the dumbing down of our courses or learners.  That’s not the case.  It’s just that we have to build elearning courses that connect with the way our learners receive and process information.

For example, if they speak Spanish, we build Spanish courses.  Since our learners are developing a sort of techno-language, we need to build courses that the learners can translate and use.  I’m sure we’ll be reading more about this in the years to come.

I’m interested to hear what you think.  Add your thoughts by clicking on the comments link.


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

56 responses to “Is Google Making Our E-Learning Stupid?”

To make the skimming and scanning easier there is a way of writing. All instructional designers at U&I Learning (where I work) are certified Information Mappers.
Information Mapping is a method of organizing, writing and presenting text in a way the brain is used to process data.

I find it very helpful to keep the main principles of Information Mapping in mind when I write texts.

Drop me a line if you want to know more!

Kia ora Tom!

Nicholas Carr’s point of view is not unlike the opinion expressed by Michele Martin in her post Why The Internet Is Making Me Stupid. I think that both these people have some merit in their arguments. But I tend to feel that technology is not in control of me in restrict my zone of learning any more than it did before the technology came into being. It is how I choose to use technology that may limit my learning, not the technology itself.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Hi Tom,

Very good article. I am also a big fan of Information Mapping. I found this helps you streamline the course content and helps the learner navigate through the course easily.

Thank you for this most interesting post!

It is true and we are facing a new information-gathering paradigm. I turn to Google anytime I’m stumped and in need of information. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve read a book from end to end.

This post will help when working with our subject matter experts to think in a new (non-linear) way as they review our courses. Then, my team, as course designers & developers, can concentrate on building exploratory interactivities instead of page-turners. The visuals you provided drive home the point of exploring our world, without having it explained to us.

Keep up presenting those “main ideas” towards building effective eLearning!

As usual, you have presented thought-provoking information that is both insightful and useful.

I, too, believe that information mapping is useful and fits with the information that you have presented here.

Thanks…and keep up the great newsletters!

It isn’t Google – it’s TV – the master of the short attention span.

Amen and amen to everything you’ve written in this post. As an instructional designer and Internet-learning junkie, I can attest through observation and experience that all these points are valid. Now, how do I sell these ideas to my training manager/director when they are so linear in their approaches (training by hostage)? I won’t call the problem a generational gap (for the sake of being politically correct) by I will call it a philosophical gap.

This article truly hit home for me. I’ve noticed that the way I read has evolved because I spend so much time researching various topics online. I too, have become a “skimmer” and it’s hard to come to terms with for a girl whose best subject in college was ancient lit. It’s at least comforting to know I am not alone in noting this phenomena.

August 19th, 2008

Part of the issue is presentaion. If text is presented in broad swaths, it is difficult to read quickly. Yet the online courses I see the text roll out over the width of my 20″ screen. Perhaps confining the text to columns of definite size would help.

One thought: if we use exploratory learning as our model, how does that differ from the autodiactical model which puts a premium on persistence over intelligence?

August 19th, 2008

Thank you for this article along with its references. After spending 24 months in an online Master Degree in Education program, I came to the conclusion that because people are now using tiny handheld devices such as cell phones to text, the words used must be easily understood (no dictionary), concise (to the point), and written in l50 words or less per paragraph.

If I wrote more, no matter how well-written, my writing was viewed as poor writing because of the length. When I began to bullet and shorten the same material, my writing was viewed as better writing.

August 19th, 2008

Good stuff. My dad actually sent me this article the other day due to his interest in my dissertation work. I can definitely understand the viewpoint. However, creativity must still be used in being able to appropriately access the multiplicity of resources that are available and then competently apply them. THe text message generation definitely accesses information differently. However, I can only surmise that the same was said when mankind found written language and paper. THe art of total rote memorization and storytelling was “compromised” at that point I s’pose. 🙂

August 19th, 2008


I’m not sure that I fully agree with the points that you or Carr are making. But, to be honest with you, I didn’t finish your long post, as I had to check the Drudge Report, CNET and ESPN while I was scanning your article. Can you net out your points for me in a 2 sentence blurb?

All you say may well be true, but let’s not claim the ergonomic sorting of information to be a phenomenon of the Age of the Internet. The World of Education knew about study skills such as skimming and scanning, and models such as SQ5R for generations, we just have not used them very well. I regard myself as reasonably well educated to degree level but I’ve never immersed myself in a text book in my life – I use indices, chapter titles, contents tables, headings, diagrams and key words to search for meaning and redundancy takes care of the rest.

Forgot to say – great blog by the way.

Good food for thought Tom…I really love your blog. Even though your post was long your use of graphics, typography, bulleted list etc made the post easy to read and engaging.
This points out that there are times when the content has to be relatively long but effort should be made to ensure that it is easily processed, using the suggestions you pointed out.
By the way I love the use of the Google theme for your title.

August 19th, 2008

Like most of you, by the sounds of it, my manner of reading online and accessing needed information has changed too. I agree with Robert K that this is fundamental change, and not a dumbing down of existing practices. This evolution in the way we learn online is an absolutely authentic response to the technology and our information needs. And of course it is emerging in the workplace as well – naturally and authentically – in response to what we need to do in our work.

The question is…just as most of us can perform an effective and focussed websearch, quickly identify useful sources, skim those for key points and synthesise multiple sources into a personal cohesive view, how much intentional instructional design is now needed to support that task? Maybe ID as we know it needs to accommodate that change, as Tom suggests, but maybe that change will go much further when average learners have more developed online learning skills. We will need ensure that our ID manipulations and interpretations do not conflict with (what will become) native skills in effectively utilising online content.

BTW – I’ve been a lurker for a long time – love the posts and they comments they inspire.

As usual this material is spot on. Usually I skim, but your content deserves a second, more studied approach.

August 20th, 2008

Hi Tom,

Incidently, there is an article in today’s economic paper “Before you get hooked to that online course…”. Incidently, it talks about the student taking the online course getting bored up and losing interest in the online course he opted for.

This has very much to do about instructional designing part, rather than something wrong with online courses. I think the three point solution you have suggested makes quite a sense and all of us who author the online courses must keep in view that the student is kept engaged thrugh interactive assessments that are related to real life cases.

I will try and send you the link to that article.



August 20th, 2008

One thought that I’ve had recently is way google ad’s are context sensitive and often pop up with the “right answers” at the right moment. Maybe our learning material need to be more like google ad’s.

[…] Is Google Making Our E-Learning Stupid? | The Rapid eLearning Blog | Tom Kuhlmann | 19 August 2008 Share and Enjoy: […]

Great comments to take to heart, as I’m in the midst of repurposing my own material for e-learning. Think we need to prepare our work so that time on line is quick and informative, yes. But through assignment, activities and reflections, the deeper thinking (hence integration) occurs away from the time online. Only way I know to move beyond superficial thinking.

THREE months into his online MBA, Aniruddha Gupta has started losing interest. This is making him think that ‘going back to the school’ is something he may not accomplish in his professional life. When he began the programme, he was full of enthusiasm and vigour. For the first 15 days, he outdid his colleagues in catching up with the syllabus. He would devote at least three hours at a stretch without even taking a coffee break. Slowly the interest began to wane. Today, he has reached a stage when the the goings have become quite tough, for Aniruddh is dragging it on since the past few months that could have been better utilised if he had not lost interest.

Interestingly, he was one of the few selected for an online training programme for which his company is spending close Rs 10 lakh. There were 10 more participants who reported similar situation where their online course has become a burden than a thing that they were looking forward to. Worse, this was a performance reward from the company to help them upgrade their qualification. And they would also be assessed on how much they learn from the same.

Technology-assisted or online learning, which is synonymous to convenience with benefits of learn-at-your-ease, can even lead people to lose interest if some basics are not adhered to. Today, there are scores of companies spending huge amounts of money on elearning to upgrade skills of employees, providing options for those who left academics at an early stage. Yet, the entire effort fails if such learning becomes a burden than skill acquisition process. For the individuals, it’s equally frustrating to waste time getting nothing out of it. Some simple tips can such courses an enjoyable exercise.

Select an online course that interests you the most. Don’t opt for something that doesn’t catch your attention or has no relevance to your current job. Once you select a course, try and learn things through the lens of what you’ve been doing your industry. “Select case studies that help you understand your industry,” says U21Global CEO worldwide Nick Hutton. “Trying to evaluate a situation through things you have faced helps.”
Avoid very long sessions online. For Instance, you can keep it a half an hour session and take breaks in between. If you try dragging it for long, it may be difficult to retain your interest. Be comfortable with the pace of learning and you will get the most out of it. Try and read up things related to your course even off-line, read magazines and make your learning real. “Stretching it for long hours harms the curiosity levels. Keep it short and you can advance at a better pace,”says 24X7 Learning CEO Karthik K S.
Sometimes, adhering to a particular schedule gives it the necessary discipline to complete a task. Try that online in your programme schedule. Taking your career and therefore, your online programme seriously, will help you do that. Besides, anything that you do unfailingly becomes a habit and you soon begin to enjoy.

August 20th, 2008

You still didn’t comment on whether this method of disseminating and learning new information is making us ‘stupid’. Rather, your focus switched immediately to how we can accomodate our learners in the habit of scanning, skimming and quick familiarization. Not that there is anything wrong, or even “stupid” about that. But what is lost in that approach is the deep thinking and values clarification that take time and energy. Yes we can learn skills and surface behaviors that way, but will it result in long term change to attitudes or thought patterns or beliefs, change that enriches a person or a company in intangible but lasting ways? Probably not. The trick is knowing when to accomodate and when to challenge, and why we would do either – and we’re back to objectives, again.

Loved the comment from Mike Hendrickson. Well, I loved the portion of it that I read.

I think the internet is like having a hyper-remote. When it comes to TV, I find myself channel surfing at times but I eventually end up finding something interesting and stay with it. But there is so much to see on the internet, it is like having thousands of channels. I think that is why I have no patience for anything more than 3 minutes long on YouTube. I was watching plane crashes on YouTube the other day and kept clicking on more and more. Then I got ticked off because there was a link to two helicopters at an airshow that were kind of doing this low level dance with each other. It was four minutes long so I started getting impatient. The whole four minutes went by and no crash. I came to realize that it was just an airshow highlight and not a crash. So I wasted four minutes.

The problem is not confined to eLearning. I teach a classroom course in which the test questions are carefully written to give the student all the info s/he needs to make the correct choices. I am at pains to tell them of this. The most common reason for wrong answers is still failure to read the whole question: scanning.

I must agree with Becki Nelson, merely accomodating is insufficient. While scanning is a necessary evil, it usually results in a collection of disjointed info chunks lacking vital connections to the REALLY big picture: what is valuable, what is right/wrong; as mentioned: deep-thinking. (Consider also sound-bites upon which our political leaders are elected.) Moreover, I’m seeing increasing evidence that some people don’t even know HOW to think deeply. We are left not only to accomodate but also teach the learner how to think past the bullet points.

The course I mentioned above is highly relevant to my learners. It contains numerous real-world exercises, etc. The scary part is that when scanning causes my learners to miss important info it does not result in mere business setbacks, people can die! The class is called Basic Life Support!


August 20th, 2008

Your blog is required reading in our design team. This time you (and Nicholas Carr) have really hit on something fundamental about how we learn. All instructional design professionals should take heed!

It is interesting that you end your post with musings about whether accomodating this new learning constitutes “dumbing down”.
Of course, we probably all agree that it doesn’t – might even be the opposite. But there’s no denying skimmed learning can be shallow learning. Sometimes that’s OK. When it’s not, encouraging or enabling people to DO something immediately with what they learned is critical – not just in a way that links them to more bits of information but that deepens their understanding of the bits they already have. You make this point often, and in the Googlized world, you can’t make it often enough.

Blending the eLearning immediately with other activities (as you suggest) helps the learner make connections in every sense – right down to the synapses!

A wonderful post. To all readers – be sure to read (really read!) the Nicholas Carr article that Tom links to.

Another great thought provoking post. While reading “all” of it rather than the usual skimming, thoughts of Marc Prensky’s ( work came to mind. Other great articles and research on the subject of the way our brain is being rewired, since the short attention span Sesame Street and Big Bird (before Google – 1969), agree that we are thinking differently as the result of technology. To think that some e-learning developers continue with the status quo is discouraging. At early 2009, analog frequency lends way to digital. Why use so many words when less is best. Thanks, Tom.

Glad I found this blog! Since most of the services I provide are virtual, this is a good resource.

One of the most popular professional development lectures I give is “Learning Styles of the Millennials”. The lecture/course covers curriculum design/development and learning styles/methodologies for ‘mixed’ groups (boomers, Xer’s, Y’s….). because their learning styles vary considerably.

Very relevant to this discussion – KM or Knowledge Management principles/systems that are so applicable to information presentation… and what occurs in this process prior to the presentation greatly impacting ‘how’ information is consumed and ultimately used. (collecting, analysis, organization, then presentation, and consumption/use).

i2i ke

August 21st, 2008

Just a quick comment, it’s not necessarily true that ‘merely scanning’ is a bad thing or even “lesser” learning. It all comes down to objectives. Merely scanning information in Basic Life Support can be dangerous. Merely scanning information on how to be a good parent can be harmful if one does not not also take the time to think more deeply about why one should be a “good parent” or what gives rise to inadvertent poor decisions. However, if one needs to learn new information quickly in situations that are not life threatening, if there is not a need for deep understanding, then ‘scanning’ is absolutely appropriate. The sad thing is that in our current drive to ‘quick competence’, the focus is on the “quick”, and very few of us actually do take the time to reflect or dig deeper.


You say it so much more succinctly than I!!

My point is that not only do “few of us actually. . .take the time to reflect” but fewer & fewer people seem to have the skill! We are awash in an ocean of information. Like whales, we’re forced to strain out tons upon tons of seawater to get a few pounds of food. Hence, scanning, and the attendant thinking pattern, is unavoidable. As instructional designers, our challenge is to help the learner slow down and savor the meal, as it were: relevance. More and more frequently, though, that also includes teaching them HOW to enjoy it: critical thinking skills.


I think we’ve come full circle, Tom.

Before there were books, we humans mostly engaged in exploratory and applied learning. We foraged our environments for useful and meaningful information (and food), taking what we needed and not much more.

We transitioned from the Stone Age through all the stages before the Age of Information to our current Age of Access.

No longer is it critical to “have” lots of information or stuff. Now it is essential to “have access” to infinite nuggets of information.

The trick to our enlightenment during this Age of Access will be making good judgments about the use of these information nuggets.

And, there’s always the old standby…

“When all else fails read the directions.”

To paraphrase a great instructional designer, “Stupid is as stupid does.” I agree with your pragmatic approach — accommodate what people are likely to do (like power browse), put critical points in focus — and especially with the notion of putting the learning into the real world.

People use “stupid” as a label to mean many things, some of them contradictory:
You did something I would never do.
You should have thought of that before.
This thing confuses me.
You dislike the technology I like.

And there are times when technology can’t easily provide the feedback necessary for someone to learn. I’ve been practicing my French by voice-chatting in Second Life. One of my online friends is trying to do the same, but he’s just started learning French. He doesn’t seem to have much patience for study, and hasn’t yet developed much of an ear. So, for example, he’s missing the difference between jouer (to play) and jouir (to enjoy, but also “to have an orgasm”).

None of this is to disagree with your overall point. Rather, the real-world discussions and real-world activities get their focus from understanding what the performer needs to be able to do in a given circumstance. And some of the time, the goal is to equip him or her to respond as well as possible to a new situation.

As in a well-managed real-life situation, if the performance falls short, the response will be “you did pretty well; let’s talk about how to improve that next time.”

[…] One of Articulate’s contributors Tom Kuhlmann asks the question Is Google Making Our E-Learning Stupid? […]

I too could have written this very article. I thought I was possibly the only one on the planet feeling this way. I cannot afford to skim information since I teach cooking and baking and must pay close attention to detail. I must add that not only the way to read, think and process information is at “risk;” the way we live is being affected. We no longer live our lives to learn or seek to become engaged. We are now “speed-junkies.” We want everything quick, fast and in a hurry. I was watching the U.S. Olympic basketball team and although I was enjoying the game, I found myself thinking, okay hurry up and win so I can get on to watching something else. In my cooking classes my students, both male and female want recipes and menus that are quick and easy; simple with few ingredients. I keep reminding them, you are what you eat, and if you eat the bare essence of food, don’t expect to be healthy. My words made no difference; people want what they want, when they want it. We are truly walking a strange path to redemption.

August 27th, 2008

Your e-learning system as a learning management is extremely exciting

I guess I have a different perspective. Maybe sometimes we want to make e-learning stupid (e.g. over-simplified), but for the most part, we should have better goals. See the blog about e-learning for dummies (a reaction to this article) on my site. Check out the other interesting blogs on the site, too.

@Vanessa: You must have read a different blog post. I can’t find the part about dumbing down the content or making it stupid. The essence of the post is to make the course more learner-centric. Bring the critical information to the front, free up the navigation and structure so that they learner can explore, and bring the elearning course into the real world.

It was in the title of the article.

Yes, I was reading between the lines somewhat, you are correct. If the goal is “power browsing,” I am failing to see how it is not going to be overly watered down. As you state, “Whether it’s right or wrong, people who are online have been developing habits that they bring to the elearning course. Design courses to accommodate these power browsing habits.”

Well, in my opinion it is not right, it is wrong, and we should not be producing content that reinforces poor reading skills – those “power browsing habits.” The other article – by Nicholas Carr – that was referenced discusses quite clearly the benefits of deep reading, so why would we want to lead people astray from a type of reading that is more conducive to deep learning?

As I stated, many best practices are recommended in the article, so I hope these compensate. Personally, I do not care to read content that is overly concise for whatever reason when it is presented for the purpose of learning (and I really don’t like having to pay for it); in my view it comes across as watered down. I am an e-learner and I prefer the deep reading that leads to deep learning. I am also an instructional designer and teacher. I am honestly tired of seeing courses becoming more and more compacted (a trend over the past several years). I also see my learners as being perfectly capable of deep reading whether online or off and experiencing deep learning as a result. It is a skill that some are better at than others and perhaps all of us need to improve on.

There is a distinction between reading (which isn’t ideal on the computer because of the resolution and contrast ratio) and building a multimedia course. When you design for multimedia you have to consider other disciplines such as graphic design, layout, common usability issues, etc. So reading text is not the only consideration.

There’s no reason whatsoever, that you can’t apply design concepts that leverage power browsing with more complex content. You’re just presenting the information is a different structure. You cna make it as deep as you want.

However, if you’re intent is to produce deep, readable content like you’d find in a college textbook, you’re probably not leveraging the right medium.

The way I see it, elearning is just one piece of the person’s learning ecology. So you are not only presenting the content online, you’re supporting that with a host of social interactions and practical application.

The ultimate goal is to design courses that are learner-centric and meet the learning objectives. This can be done a number of ways and at various levels of complexity.

Thank you for the detailed explanation. Yes, graphic design and typography principles are a big consideration for e-learning. They are important for textbook design as well. Of course, e-learning has some special considerations, being a different medium and because navigation can vary so much from course-to-course.

I just wanted to provide comments on your above post.
You stated, “However, if you’re intent is to produce deep, readable content like you’d find in a college textbook, you’re probably not leveraging the right medium.”

I do agree it is not the ideal medium for reading. But, still, all writing is done on a computer these days – including writing for college textbooks. So, there must be a fair number of people who can read online. The college I teach for provides all of their textbooks online. Most students seem to be doing fine with it, although there are a few who would rather have a book. I do think we should head toward a more paperless society, but not at the sacrifice of deep content on a computer screen.

You stated: “The way I see it, elearning is just one piece of the person’s learning ecology. So you are not only presenting the content online, you’re supporting that with a host of social interactions and practical application.”

The concept of “learning ecology” is a good one. I am thinking, though, if we are engaged in social interactions online, such as in an asynchronous environment (most commonly used due to convenience), then we are theoretically engaged in deep writing and deep learning in that less than desirable medium. I have noticed, though, that interaction is often watered down, too. Is it because learners cannot use the medium and need more practice, is it the medium itself, or is it that they just do not want to? Do learners stay overly concise, leaving out deeper thought and analysis because the content was presented that way and they did not make use of the provided or available “learning ecology?” Or are there deeper issues still, such as not having learned deep reading and learning skills to begin with? Or, maybe people just want to do the minimum to get through a course? Seems that we still have a lot of research to do. So many questions; no definitive answers.
I appreciate the conversation.

[…] 原文作者:Tom 原文链接:Is Google Making Our E-Learning Stupid? […]

Great blog Tom as ever. For UK readers some may have seen an article published in The Sunday Times (Stoooopid …. why the Google generation isn’t as smart as it thinks, July 20th 2008), which, as copywriters communicating across a range of media ( including e-learning), we felt compelled to write about.

Bryan Appleyard mentions The Atlantic magazine article by Nicholas Carr and warns us that the Google generation isn’t actually as smart as it thinks it is. Appleyard’s concerned that as bibliophobic children keep logging onto Google to get their fill of info-fixes and social interaction, they’re eroding their ability to concentrate. And the rest of us aren’t doing any better. Distraction is becoming our way of life. That’s a pretty sobering message for marketers. But here’s a thought…

Maybe we’re all getting better at spotting the guff! The internet’s full of it. (You might have noticed.) Maybe distraction is our natural way of filtering out the rubbish and homing in on the good stuff? Maybe we should actually welcome that distraction? Whisper it quietly: maybe it’s a good thing.

Distraction or discrimination?

Take skimming. That’s first up against the wall come Appleyard’s revolution. Certainly, skimming is habit forming. And the net makes it so easy. But when the vaguest search string can cough up hundreds or thousands of responses we’ve got to skim and scan. We’ve got a lot of land to survey, and the promise of easier pickings on one site over another will always draw us in. It doesn’t mean we’re easily distracted – it means our discriminatory impulse is working at full strength – forcing us to winkle out waffle and home in on the meaningful bits. It’s one of our greatest attributes – cherish it.

We did comment on the whole article, which is a bit long to post here, but is on our webiste at

In my eyes the crucial question for understanding learning matter is the “why”. “Why, why, why” that´s the key, because the cognitive structures in our brains start to link pieces of information logically. This enables the learner to be creative and find other, mostly more effective approaches. I really appreciate your way to structure information, as when I went to university this has been supposed to be students work, which on one hand made it harder to study, on the other hand tought me to structure lerning matter efficiently.

[…] This entry was posted on Thursday, November 13th, 2008 at 8:54 pm . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. […]

Thanks for the good article. By streamlining the course content and navigation, people are able to go through the course easier.

Thank you for such an interesting post! It is true and we are facing a new information-gathering paradigm. I turn to Google anytime I’m stumped and in need of information. I can’t tell you when was the last time i search a dictionary.

Thank you for reminding me about this post, this strongly supports a new class we are teaching titled “From ADDIE to Improv” a program that helps trainers to see that the traditional methods of design may need to be re-thought. By using real-world application and moving and using the “show vs. tell” technique used by improv professionals, your learner will learn faster and retain more knowledge. We will be pointing people to this post as a resource in this class.

A good article, in my minde e-learning ist a perfect way to learn fast and self contained.

Google ist nice and a good articles xD

Hi, I found lots of good information in your blog. thank you

Thank you for the blog! It´s no question, e-learning is quick and effective.

February 23rd, 2010

Hello, Very good article. I will continue to pursue this article, as it is written is very interesting. Since we are interpreted very much on good information. Best regards 🙂

It’s remarkable what you say – I found my mind wanting to do something else after a couple of paragraphs of this! And that’s quite something. After forcing myself to persevere this was an interesting and well written article, the fact that I was tempted by distraction just proves what you were saying :p

Too bad to say, all of us have to live with Google, but I’m happy with it 🙂

This is a very interesting article in relation to what we’re seeing today with Apple apps. With the recent announcement of iBooks, I’m a bit worried about the potential growth of low-quality quick-and-dirty training material. It makes me think Apple will force people into the textbook, template-style of education which has dogged the training landscape for some time.
It’s funny that some of the same thoughts I had about iBooks were addressed about Google almost 4 years ago. I feel that many of the concerns addressed in this article were overcome to a great extent, and hopefully that will be mirrored in my concerns with iBooks.

It’s really a great and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.