I just upgraded to a

by francine Hardaway on June 26, 2003

I just upgraded to a new beta edition of MediaMap Online called Performa. Instead of being a mere database of media outlets, editorial calendars, and media contacts, Performa is a high-powered contact manager and work flow solution(www.mmperforma.com).

When I first became a user of MediaMap, I was at Intel and the software was called Media Manager. Media Manager was a replacement for thick books of research about editors and what they covered. It wasn�t on the Internet, and it was pretty simple. Over the years, it has gone online and gotten more complex, but also more useful. I�ve always liked the company�s approach to gathering intelligence about media contacts and outlets, so I�ve always invested in the annual updates, even though they are pretty pricey.

I haven�t had any training in the software in about two generations, although it has been offered to me; I�m too lazy to schedule the conference call with the representative and listen to it, so I probably use about 50% of the functionality. But now, MediaMap offers its training online, in five-minute segments that you can take at your own pace. In short, MediaMap has shifted to e-learning.

Well, I�m on the board of GELIA (Globalized E-Learning Assocation); I�m down with the concept of e-learning. So I decided, since the software had changed dramatically, that I would e-learn it. Or perhaps e-re-learn it.

Bummer. E-learning sucks. It is not fun. No wonder my foster kids did not jump for joy when provided with computer-assisted education. It�s pretty damned dull sitting in front of a computer screen, watching slides of screen shots with highlights on them, and then answering five multiple choice questions at the end of every lesson segment.

One of the problems with customer online training is that everyone starts at a different point of familiarity. I, for instance, do not need to be instructed on what �screens� are. The things I would like to know are probably not even in the online training, because they are subtle.

MediaMap also offers a webinar. That�s probably better, but of course I will never sign up for it because you have to exercise some self-discipline to take part in a webinar: you must calendar it, and then be present physically and intellectually when the moment comes to view it. Knowing me, I�d be getting a phone call one minute before it started.

So I decided to download the �Quick Reference Guide,� a .pdf that I could print out and read at leisure. However, it crashed my browser three times, and I gave up. This is the meaning of �beta.�

So back to the online training classes, which get longer and longer as the material becomes more complex. Now I can�t even force myself to go through those. It brought back memories of when I enrolled in a yoga e-learning course on the BarnesandNoble.com site, and I couldn�t finish that one either. E-learning, in the current format I see it, is intrinsically boring. And not because I find the computer boring. I spend hours on medical web sites looking up diseases and conditions I may or may not have; I spend more hours looking up film sites and submitting my nascent screenplay. I also read Google News on an hourly basis, so I don�t miss anything. I search for furniture; I buy shoes; I make reservations.

In fact, I do pretty much everything online, and I am constantly learning � except when I try to go to an e-learning class. Even Continuing Medical Education classes, which are available to me online and are about things I want to know (much as Performa classes are) do not hold my attention.

I think we�re still not there yet on how to educate people using the computer as a tool. We are definitely there on the research side. But how do we train on software, or teach language?

What�s missing from e-learning? Is it multimedia? Streaming video? Audio? I don�t think so. It may be interactivity with the instructor, which automatically personalizes the instruction. I think when I am searching the Internet and reading what I find, I am able to select what I need to know and eliminate the rest. I�m in charge of the learning. But when I�m taking an e-learning course, a curriculum designer is telling me what s/he thinks I should know.

Perhaps simulation is the answer. That might be why kids play online games (and so do adults); and it may be why kids who play online games improve their skills. Playing the game is learning. And it�s learning on their own terms. Big difference between being taught and actually learning.

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