Monday, August 20, 2018

Could this be the worst piece of online learning ever? Let me explain why it may well be…

PewDiePie is a legend among his 100+ million YouTube followers. He lives in my home town, Brighton, and has built his reputation on videos that praise, review and sometimes eviscerate games. Unusually, this piece of US gamified, online learning aimed at cybersecurity, was his target and he nails it.
I’ve written a lot about how online learning has gone down a rabbit hole, with its overworked media, all presentation and no learning, reliance on recognition not retrieval, and sometimes (not always) ridiculous use of games and gamification. This is a hilarious example of condescending scenarios, awful multiple-choice questions, interspersed with screens full of text, even a game within a game. It’s so bad it’s good – as comedy.
Seriously though, it has all the hallmarks of where the online content market has gone wrong. I can only guess what this cost the client – but it was most likely a high five or even six figure sum.
Look and feel
Let’s be honest, it must have been hard to pull off, but it both looks and feels awful. Not sure where the art direction came from but it is all over the place. I have come to loathe this cartoon style learning. I find it condescending and patronising in equal measure but this is what happens when you slam together disparate media, from 3D animation to clip art to screens crammed with text. It is a cartoon mess.
Media rich is not mind rich
It tries SO hard to be engaging with 3D animated characters but they are straight out of the clip-art, cliché playbook. Then the animated effects that slide, whoosh and pop up like a disjointed, surreal dream. We need to sit our teams of content designers down, and scream out the simple principle – LESS IS MORE. We have decades of research showing that all of this ‘noise’ inhibits, not enhances, learning.
The questions are, at times, mind-blowingly bad. Multiple-choice questions are OK but difficult to write. They could have made the effort. You end up just clicking through or laughing at some of the ridiculous options. 
This is where it really goes up its own asshole. So determined are they to gamify everything, they completely destroy the learning. It is clearly a game designed by someone who has no actual knowledge of computer games. You get a lot of this in some online learning. So bad is the media mix and rewards, that it is truly hilarious. But nothing prepares you for the ‘millionaire’ game within a game, doubling down on the use of trite gamification. It is not that all gamification is bad but so much is this badly executed, Pavlovian nonsense.
How can I sum this up? It should be compulsory to show this, in ALL instructional design courses, as an example of how NOT to design learning. If you get to the very end look out for the hilarious point where he downloads his PDF pass certificate and PewDiePie says, it’s a ‘virus’. It is so surreal that it could pass for a deliberate piss take. When online learning has come to this, you know it’s time for a rethink. Enough already with the graphics and grotesque gamification. It’s embarrassing. Stop. Slow down. Keep it simple. This is what used to be called edutainment but it is neither edu nor tainment, it is the ugly cul-de-sac of an industry that has abandoned learning for crap media production.

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