"Why are you so anti-online learning?" It was a surprisingly blunt reader comment, but one I take some personal pride in. No, I am certainly not some latter day-luddite,
sabot raised high, ready to strike out and destroy any technology newer than the Jacquard loom and the cylinder and plane printing press. For the record, I was writing individualized, computer-based training when the platform was mainframe, the interface a teletype terminal and programming was done in Cobol via punched paper tape. Also for the record, I think there is indeed some very cool stuff out there looking for love from just the right users. All of which is basically irrelevant.
No, my issue and point of pride is the piqued reader's wrong-headed assumption that it is somehow my duty to cheerlead and champion the latest training industry buzz; that be it salvation or sop, passing fancy or important fundamental change, my job is to promote it to you. It is undoubtedly a well-intended point of view, based on the idea that all new, fledgling ideas are in need of championing. It is certainly a view as old as trade journalism. And just as certainly it is an unequivocally, fundamentally wrong expectation.
My view is that you come here for a balanced view and an occasional good argument, not blind advocacy or press release boosterism. Were these pages simply a conduit for self-serving claims, we would not be creating much value for you or be very respectful of your time. You would be better served surfing the Net and taking your chances.
That most of you expect some sort of critical objectivity came home to me several years ago when a colleague and I did a round-up article on disk-based enrollment trackers. We pulled together a dozen or so of these precursors of today's learning management systems, lined them up by price and features and advised readers to go forth, buy and track their learners. About 17 minutes after that piece published, I got my first call. "Have you ever actually used the Acme Blood Hound Body Tracker? It's worse than filling out one of those use-only-a-No. 2-pencil scan sheets for every person in your company!" That tirade was soon followed by a dozen more equally livid upbraidings aimed at the entries in our not so carefully scrutinized and evaluated menu of administrative software. My personal lesson—if you haven't used it, played with it, and talked with people who both love and hate it, don't write about it. Period. And never take lightly the possibility that somebody out there is going to quite literally take you at your word.
Does that mean I shouldn't be taking stands and voicing points of view? Heck no. There are people in the trade who to this day won't speak to me because I raised the possibility that isd as we've known it since B.F. Skinner was training pigeons might just possibly be out of date. Good. And there are an equal number of people who think I pointed out the obvious elephant in the living room—a problem that needs a good talking out. Good to that as well. The unexamined point of view is the one that inevitably rises up and bites you on the backside when you least expect it. That's just exactly what I think of as one of the important things I should be doing with the space that the publisher and editor have, in their infinite but mysterious wisdom, granted me—crystallizing the swirling controversies of the business, not tediously reinforcing some prevailing point of view.
If all of this leaves you unconvinced and ada- mant in the view that I should either be cheering for your favorite nostrum or keeping mum—"If you can't say nothing nice ..."—then let me invite you to stop reading right now, head out on the Internet, and have a great caveat emptor day.