What can the E-learning Community Learn from the Titanic disaster?

What can the E-learning Community Learn from the Titanic disaster?

The sinking of RMS Titanic continues to be a subject of discussion, more than century after the catastrophe. The world of shipping has learnt several lessons from the tragedy of the RMS Titanic. However, when seen from a broader perspective, it provides quite a few lessons for the eLearning community as well. Let me share more on how the Titanic incident helps us build courses better. This incident is a stark reminder that we need to focus on these 5 crucial aspects.

1. Incorrect estimates

The lack of lifeboats in sufficient numbers was a major reason for the huge loss of life in the Titanic accident. Investigations revealed that adequate number of lifeboats were not provided because their number was calculated based on the weight of the vessel and the not the number of passengers onboard. What a blunder, indeed!

Similarly, an online course development project can be in deep trouble due to wrong estimates. It is very important that the project manager gets important project estimates such as the time needed for completion, cost, number of people needed for the project and so on, right to ensure its success.

2. Assumptions can kill

Experts believe that 3 assumptions led to the demise of the Titanic. The builders of this great ship assumed that various parts that made up the ship were of very high quality. But several rivets used in the construction of this mammoth ocean liner were in fact, in a very poor state. The second assumption was made by the radio operator Jack Philips. He ignored a warning about icebergs in the region assuming it to be insignificant. But the costliest of the all was that Titanic CANNOT SINK’. This blind faith resulted in gross oversight of various measures that led to the loss of more than 1500 innocent lives.

An eLearning project too can run into rough waters because of wrong assumptions. Assumptions on small things can lead to big problems. For instance, while the client assumes that the eLearning developer is aware of all their requirements, the opposite may be true. Similarly, the project manager might assume that he has clearly explained all the project risks to the client while the latter may have understood little.

3. Communication is the key

A number of lives could have been saved if the distress signal from the Titanic was promptly attended to by the American ship ‘California’. However, the radio of this vessel was switched off when the frantic crew of Titanic sent their message requesting help.

A project to develop a digital course can also meet the same fate if the communication between different stakeholders is flawed. Improper communication is the nemesis of effective coordination that is the lifeline of an eLearning project.

4. Change of schedules can be fatal

It was reported that Bruce Ismay, the owner of the Titanic, brought pressure on Captain Edward Smith to increase the speed of the ship for propaganda purposes. Ismay ignored the fact that the Titanic was a passenger ship where safety of the people onboard is paramount. Ismay did not think of the consequences of his decision.

Likewise, decisions taken to “get more” in the stipulated time for an eLearning course development can lead to major problems. ‘Scope creep’ is a Trojan horse that can ruin the project. Small changes seem harmless, but can have major impacts. A number of requests for “small changes” can cause time overruns. Each of these changes may take very less time to implement, but incorporating all the requests may result in considerable delays. As an old Indian proverb goes, it is seconds that make a year.

5. Documentation prevents repetition of mistakes

The Public Archives at Halifax houses extensive documentation about the Titanic tragedy. This documentation provides several insights into the disaster and helps researchers draw conclusions as to what went wrong on that fateful day.

Documenting the work on an eLearning project is very useful in analyzing the issues faced. This goes a long way in preventing their recurrence.

Thus, the Titanic disaster provides valuable lessons on eLearning project management that we can ill afford to ignore. What do you think?

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