By Samantha Chapnick and Jimm Meloy
This one's, well, a little different. It's a virtual explosion of images, sideline quotes, asides, comments, tables, text and line drawings. I found it delightful and refreshing, but the linear thinkers among us, those who live in a world in which Point A must precede Point B, will probably see the book as maddeningly disorganized. It's not, really—the book is divided into chapters, and the information in each does indeed fit there—but there's a quantum difference between most other books and this one. It lives up to its subtitle, embracing both the dramatic and the unconventional.
My best stab at a description: The authors posit that, since individuals experience meaningful, permanent change through emotionally profound experiences, we should look to popular culture (books, movies, music, etc.) for inspiration. E-learning approaches that thus create an emotionally charged response will encourage change in the individual. Taking lessons from principles of character development, dialogue, storytelling, and even camera angles, Chapnick and Meloy offer scores of ideas for making e-learning more effective and compelling.
Renaissance eLearning is visually exciting. The table of contents is presented in both written and graphical formats, and not in a straight line, either, but scattered left-to-right across two pages. It's also just bursting with tidbits for thought. It doesn't really lend itself to a straight read-through; I'm a fast reader, but this one took several weeks, a piece at a time. The authors encourage the reader to think of the book as a catalogue and to shop for what he/she needs. Their approach really accommodates the reader who wants to cut to the chase.
I would say this one is probably not a beginner's book, but a good jump-start for experienced designers, directors, and others who've been in the e-learning (or, I'd argue, the training) business for awhile. Recommended, but with a warning to those who balance their checkbooks every month, follow recipes down to the quarter-teaspoonful, and score high on the Myers-Briggs "S" category. —J.B.