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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Value of Research

As an academic and a person who values research, I think it is critically important to our industry to back research and to use it to make sound judgments regarding the design, development and delivery of e-learning. One site I especially like is No Significant Difference.

Will Thalheimer has done a fantastic job in promoting that agenda and so have the likes of Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard Mayer as well as others.

Another group that is assisting in that area is the eLearning Guild who is doing some fantastic research in our industry.

However, research does not come without cost as anyone will tell you and Cammy over at Learning Visions has some concerns about the high cost of guild research in her post titled e-Learning Guild Synchronous Learning Systems.

She makes some good points but also brings up a questions I have been asked many times, why is research so expensive. It seems so easy, just ask some questions, record the answers and you are done.

As a seasoned researcher I have to say...not so fast. Research is about asking the right questions, finding the right correlations and investing in the proper tools so that the research is an accurate reflection of reality. Much time is spent trying to obtain responses and then trying to make sense of the responses, of course, this is after you have carefully crafted and tested the questionnaire (a time consuming process itself.)

The eLearning Guild actually gives away much of its research. First, the basic membership is free and then an overview of research reports are free, the webinar that Cammy attended is free...and she took great notes with great information that was all free--check it out...(even if she was multi-tasking while Steve showed the research tool.)

And while $995 for full access to the report (once you are a member) might seem expensive to an individual, to a corporation it is a small price.

We need the guild to conduct research and we, members of the field, need to support it. Why, because empirically-based decision making is critical for our industry and the research the eLearning Guild does is invaluable in helping organizations avoid mistakes that can potentially cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. A small investment in research is good for companies and good for the industry. Research that would cost an individual company thousands of dollars can be aggregated by the guild and end up costing less than $1,000.

So we can lament the cost of obtaining the entire report or...we can be appreciative of the fact that the eLearning Guild is doing our industry a great service and giving away an awful lot of free information as well as providing additional information at a relatively small price.

So, if you are not a member consider joining, for free...and then see for yourself.


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1 comment:

Cammy Bean said...

Hey Karl,

For the record, I didn't question and I don't question WHY the Guild charges what it does. I understand we all have to make our livings. I just stated that the full report wasn't something I would be in a position to buy anytime soon (I work for a small company with a tight budget). I do love all of the fabulous resources that the Guild provides for free and take full advantage of them. And I encourage everyone out there to do the same. Buy what you can and attend what Guild events you can. And, of course, spread the good word when you can.