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Thoughts on complexity

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Larry Ellison was quoted lamenting the state of complexity of software/technology implementations. He basically stated that in order to fly, people do not need to build an airplane, create runways, map out navigation, etc. Flying works because it’s usable/simple.

I think a similar focus needs to be brought to learning and technology adoption. Our greatest enemy is complexity. We still suffer from a perspective that says something has to be “done” before it can be used. This is a problem – for example, in the area of standards, there is limited agreement. So, until standards emerge, we wait…and keep saying things like “once they are adopted, content sharing will happen”…”when this standard is developed, you won’t be forced into one LMS”…and on…and on…and on. It seems like we are collectively, hypnotically following the mantra of reusability and standards.

Here’s the deal: We’ll never get it perfect. It will always be a moving target. We need a simple standard…something that people can actually understand. If instructional technologists have trouble grasping the complexity of standards (here’s a test: ask the ID person at your college/university to concretely explain SCORM, IMS, learning objects, repositories, etc. – some may be able to…but I’m guessing most would have to rely on “vague speak” to explain the concepts), the average instructor will NEVER adopt or use them.

The current gap between those setting standards and those who are supposed to be using them seems to be growing. There is a simple solution. We need to “Bloggerize” elearning. The act of using and posting a learning object should be as simple as setting up an account with Blogger (5 minutes). Make it easy to start…and add complexity as the users request it. Right now, we have the architects building a house…assuming that people will move in once it’s complete. Unless they (architects) start exploring the needs of the “tenant”…the tenants will end up building their own.

One Comment

  1. Greg Ritter wrote:

    I disagree. Users don’t use standards, they use software. Simplicity is important in the tools that make use of the standards, but it’s not necessarily required in the standards themselves.

    More thoughts on this here:

    Tuesday, April 15, 2003 at 6:24 am | Permalink