Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Templates are killing creativity

Cookie cutters: detriment to creativity, or fuel to the creative fire?
Last week, while I was updating something on LinkedIn, I saw one of my colleagues post a link to a post by the eLearning Brothers called The Top 10 Best eLearning Game Templates. I am generally not a fan of such list-posts, but every now and again I come across something really interesting.  I usually don't teach courses on CBT, WBT or other self-paced eLearning.  It's an interesting topic, but it really isn't my cup of tea, so I wouldn't voluntarily agree to teach an entire semester of such a course.

In any case, last semester I was peer reviewing a colleague's course (and to some extent co-teaching it because I had a hand in grading and content and assignment creation), which just so happened to be in Multimedia.  The particular spin that this course took was to use multimedia to create a self-paced course. So, with this fresh in my mind, with the discussions we had last week in #rhizo14 about cheating as learning, and this week about enforcing independence, this post from the eLearning brothers came in as the glue to tie it all together.

The thing that really came to mind is that templates for eLearning packages is really detrimental to designer creativity, or at least it can be. Many people that I could would take one of these templates and just use them, as is, as part of their own self-paced eLearning course, be it embedded into another storyline training, or as a separate game in an LMS course shell that contains a variety of smaller self-paced eLearning training.  The problem with these templates is that they lose their potency the more you use them. The learner becomes resistant to the novelty of the new the more they are exposed to such template-based eLearning, and we just go back to having point-and-click-and-click-and-click...until you get to the end.

Now, when it comes to the education, and training, of future instructional designers and educational software developers I think that templates do have their place, but not as off-the-shelf turn-key solutions, but as exemplars of what can be accomplished.  If we take those templates and reverse engineer them, to see what makes them tick, learners can build their own eLearning templates from scratch using the knowledge they gained from reverse engineering some good exemplars. Thus "cheating" in a way to fuel their creativity, and to encourage independence from the established "best" templates and go off on their own design directions.

What do you think of templates?
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