It was when I heard the telltale sounds of Mario Kart coming from his room that I began to get suspicious.
You see, in a few days I will be dropping my boy off at college. He had to complete some drug and alcohol awareness online coursework before he will be permitted entry into his freshman dorm. And in true procrastinator style, he waited up to nearly the eleventh hour to finish it up.
Finally though (and after much nagging on my part), I saw the laptop on the kitchen table open to the school’s learning portal. I heard the narrator’s voice over about blood alcohol content. But the kid? He was upstairs playing a video game.
And that’s when I realized that he set the video to play, then wandered away for a snack and a bout with some gravity-defying tracks and a Super Horn. Then he would stroll back into the room, click an answer to a couple of the questions on the screen and start another video going.
Judge me for my parenting as you will but the instructional designer in me began to rock in a corner.
The “learning” modules themselves? (I soooo wish there were a sarcasm font so you could see the disdain with which I am typing the words in quotation marks.)
Forced navigation? Check.
Corporate, inflection-free narrator? Check.
Can’t skip through a video to answer the knowledge check questions? Check.
Compliance “training” that is a CYA for the organization but is not intended to actually teach anything? Check, check, check.
What my son learned was…nothing, really. Or nothing good, at least. He learned that he didn’t have to engage with the material. He learned that it was not about teaching him to identify situations or criteria (for instance) that might make it more likely to sustain alcohol poisoning, but was treated to a literal box checking activity for the school to use, when pointing out that it was doing something, anything, about alcohol use on campus.
What would be effective? Hmmm, how about instead of a late-twenties looking talking head lecturing a kid about BAC, you thrust a kid into a realistic simulation scenario where they need to keep a peer from going to the hospital from alcohol poisoning? How about respecting the kid by asking him or her to apply what they already know to a situation? How about the kid needs to course correct as they go along, feeling the consequences as they decide about a situation? That, my friends, could be impactful.
Oh but wait, I forgot. In real life, when the kid is at a party, there will be a momentary freeze and three multiple choice questions will hover in the air. Because that’s how real-world decision making happens, right?