Do you need to love a tool for it to be useful?

A recent survey over at the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (via John Dale) had responses from elearning professionals, asking them their favourite tools for learning.

Can you guess the top 5? Here they are:

  1. Firefox
  2. Delicious
  3. Skype
  4. Google
  5. Powerpoint

Now, given our recent VLE debates, on to the interesting bit. Where do you think Moodle came? Answer, a respectable 12th. And Blackboard? It didn’t make the top 100.

Now, there are several things to consider here. Firstly, these were e-learning professionals that were surveyed, and their responses may well be different from the vast majority of other educators. The point being that Blackboard isn’t aimed at elearning professionals necessarily, it’s aimed at the ‘average’ (I know there’s no such thing) educator who doesn’t want to think about elearning. Just as Windows isn’t really aimed at IT professionals, it’s for the big market that occupies the centre of the distribution curve.

Secondly, the tools mentioned are useful for the individual, but that doesn’t mean they solve some of the institutional issues that may be involved, such as authentication.

Okay, I’ve done my even handed part, now let’s look at what it might also tell us. What a lot of the top 100 have in common is that they are customisable, adaptable and personal. Which brings me on to the title of this post – a lot of these tools are ones people really love, usually for one or more of the following reasons:

i) They do one job really well

ii) They are customisable/personal

iii) They have an easy social dimension

Now if you are the purveyor of, say a commercial VLE, or any commercial elearning software, you should ask yourself if your product really hits any of those targets.

The alternative view is that although individuals may love some tools that doesn’t really matter – it’s senior management who buy enterprise systems and ‘loved by users’ is not usually on their specification list. Shame.

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