Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quality or Quantity: What matters in the learning business...

Fast Good Cheap! Pick any two!

We are all familiar with this...Gradually my years of experience has taught me that the first thing to be sacrificed at the altar of business is "good". Good is a subjective, an often intangible measure. Fast is measurable; so is cheap.

Quality, in spite of all the parameters, remains largely unmeasurable. It takes years to develop design sense; years to understand why a certain sentence just sounds more right than another; years to design a learning experience as opposed to slides full of chunks of text...

But Quality, that indefinable something, remains for most part undervalued. Numbers count...quality is often shrugged off as an additional "something" or a ploy to gain more time...

But in this business of learning that we are in, quality has to be of paramount importance. Creating one effective learning experience is infinitely better than delivering ten mediocre modules...But who do you convince?


  1. Sahana,

    This is so true! I'm sitting here banging out training programs with more in demand each day. But there is no support for doing it the "right way," which takes time, analysis, and post-training support. Do you think in this "instantaneous information age" there will ever be a return to thoughtful process over quick product?

    Bill T.

  2. Bill, thank you for your comment. I think as learning solutionists who believe in delivering learning experiences as opposed to putting lipstick on a pig, the onus is on us to keep driving home the need for quality. I have realized like you that there will often be no support for the right way of doing things...And it is no one's fault. It's the rat race of business.

    What most course designers are failing to realize is that in this age of free and abundant information, google search and Social Networking platforms facilitating informal, collaborative learning, there will be no place for mediocre and poor learning programs.

    Would love to hear your thoughts...

  3. I have also pasted the comment to this post from Simon Bostock on my Posterous blog:

    Never thought of it that way - excellent. Good gets dropped because it's less measurable.

    Fast/good/cheap is one of those trade-off things that we're all blind to. Greater compliance (training) means less chance for development (innovation) in some cases.

    I wonder if the same is true - sometimes - for quality? You're absolutely right to say that one quality learning module is better than ten mediocre. But sometimes you can only get to that 'quality' outcome by burning through the mediocre iterations.

    If you have ten standardised mediocre modules, then it'll be awful. But if you're committed to doing something quick and dirty and rapidly improving, it doesn't have to be a bad thing?

    Good quality too has a cost and there's a trade-off involved.

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    Just a few more thoughts triggered by your points: I think quick and dirty can be beautiful. It may lack the polish and the finishing touches. But it can still be innovative, present the output quickly with an ongoing commitment to improve...

    What bothers me is when I see careless and cavalier reuse of mediocre stuff just to meet a certain deadline within a certain price range...and the fault lies with the vendor as well as the customer...Accepting mediocrity should not be an option in the world of learning. By delivering poor quality, we insult the learner's intelligence.

    Yes, quality comes with a cost attached--the cost called time. And this often comes at a premium. But we can still deliver quality if we are committed and passionate about what we do, if we cease to think of it only as a business, if we truly believe that we can change the way we facilitate learning...

    Maybe, I am being idealistic. But I have seen too many mediocre courses and believe that the world would be a better place with fewer well-designed formal courses.

    What most course designers are failing to realize is that in this age of free and abundant information, Google search and Social Networking platforms that facilitate informal, collaborative learning, there will be no place for mediocre and poor learning programs. Learners have enough channels to procure the knowledge they need, with the benefit of added context and superior quality.


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