Sue got caught texting while sitting in her car at a stoplight. She was just sitting there when law enforcement nabbed her. But that’s another matter.
We are here to talk about how Sue dealt with the ticket she got. In California, those of us who get tickets may reduce the penalty via traffic school. Some turn to Clown Traffic School or my personal favorite, Shop ’til You Drop Traffic School. There are even gay and lesbian training options. Sue decided that e-learning made the most sense for her. She did it for the usual reasons associated with online education: access on demand, novelty, and location, location, location.
She paid up. Then she procrastinated. Finally, she signed on. Sue’s online lessons offer up lessons for those involved with e-learning.
How did it go for you, Sue? Please describe what happened when you went online. There were seven modules, each with sub-modules 5-8 pages in length. Sue said, “I was startled to see pages of text, lengthy pages, all longer than my screen and requiring scrolling. That was annoying. After every page, every page, they seek feedback. That too was annoying. And I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to learn from each module. That’s most annoying.”
She continued, “There were some videos, but I don’t think they use video capabilities as well as they might. Well, I might be being too negative here. There were videos that attempted to communicate the sorrow associated with death caused by vehicular accidents. That was a good idea. They were emotional, but for some technical reason, bandwidth perhaps, they were broken into four short segments. That dulled their power for me.”
You described some of the content of the modules. Can you share? Sue described it as an onslaught of driving-related factoids. While complaining, she acknowledged that some morsels grabbed her attention.
- Most bad driving things happen between 5 and 6 PM.
- Bad things happen in the 18th hour after you have awakened.
- 12% of drivers are doing personal grooming while driving.
- There were many facts about men and women and how they drive differently. Sue couldn’t remember any details.
- Cold medicine does bad things to driving ability. So do alcohol, fatigue and drugs.
- Accidents happen in bad weather.
There was a tendency to state the obvious, all with breathless encouragement to WATCH OUT. Vigilance during bad weather is one good example. It is very important to be careful when the weather is inclement. Be sure to inspect the automobile every time you get into it. This was revealed in a full page of text.
You misbehaved in a particular way. Did the lessons target your behavior or personalize? “No, there was little attention to texting. It was one item in a long list of concerns for drivers. Unlike other topics, they did not numb me with details on my pecadillo, texting.”
I know you took tests. Please tell us about them and their value. There were ten multiple choice items for each test at the end of the modules. Sue reports that she thinks she could have passed the tests without reading the modules. For one module, Sue jumped to the test when she got bored. She reports that she got 100% on that one. She also noted that the test questions only partially reflected what she decided was most important in each module. The system gave her feedback on how she did, but did not serve up correct answers on the items she flubbed.
Every so often, there was a pop-up question to verify that Sue was taking this test, not her cat. They threaten penalties for not-being-Sue and attempt to make certain it is Sue by asking questions based on data collected at the beginning of the course, for example, information about visits to foreign countries and cities in which she has resided. These are things the cat does not know.
Are there any strategies there that might encourage better driving behavior? Sue paused and then expressed appreciation for one aspect of the program. What she dubbed “the deluge of facts” successfully nudged her to reflect on her driving and other people’s driving as well. This item garnered her attention: Drivers make 20 decisions per mile and 2 of those are mistakes. Sue thought with humility about her own driving, and of course, she looked with concern at the drivers surrounding her on the road. She said she is more cautious, “I notice that now, as I am completing the online program, my awareness is up. I’m thinking more about risks, f0llowing distance, and about fatigue on the road.”
This is good. Will it last? “No, it won’t,” she responded. No hesitation.
Net, net, what do you think? I asked Sue to give me a word to describe her online experience. “Excruciating,” she said. I asked what made it excruciating. “Boring. Obvious. Endless text on matters that will not alter how I will drive in the future. I know. You want an example. Well, I think they have lots of text on the 8 levels of penalties for alcohol. Is that going to make it less likely that I will drink and drive? I don’t think it will.”
Sue did not pick the cheapest online class. She reports that she made her selection because it earned some strong ratings. That’s right. There are others, and they might look worse than this program.
Recently I was reading a document about principles associated with great online learning. The authors presented their view of the state of e-learning with words like sadness and profound frustration. Was that too strong? Sue’s experience reminds me that it is not. We have a long, steep hill to climb to leverage technology for lasting performance improvement.