Let’s Junk the Jargon

I received a press release about Thomson Learning and Tata Interactive Systems collaborating on a new project called the Thomson Learning Lot. According to the press release,

“Tata will…develop systems for content-creation work flow, as well as for publishing and archiving objects, then rendering the learning material on the portal… The project involves combining such technology as LAMS, DSpace, Fedora, Zoomla, uPortal and so on…This is another example of the Web 2.0 software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach where various open-source softwares are used.”

Huh? After reading the entire announcement top to bottom, I still have no idea what the Thomson Learning Lot is, why it exists, who’s lives it will improve, or why I should care. This is because the entire message is presented in impenetrable jargon.

I realize that every field has its own language and is prone to jargon. However, I think the eLearning field takes it to a new level. If you want proof, just go to the website of an eLearning software vendor, or attend an eLearning conference, or read an eLearning magazine or journal. The speech or prose is often laden with jargon that is exclusionary of those not on the “inside” and makes eLearning seem much more mysterious and complicated and costly than it need be.

I think that such exclusionary language works against the interest of the field because it scares off those we may be asking to invest in eLearning projects. We would be much better off speaking to potential clients or key stakeholders (i.e. those controlling the purse strings) by using plain, straight-forward English (or French, or Farsi, or Chinese, etc.)

In the meantime, however, there are ways to cut through the jargon. I offer the following translations of key eLearning terminology for the uninitiated.

“We offer a robust, stable, and fully-scalable enterprise-wide LMS solution to facilitate competency development across the organization.”

Translation: We hope this newest version of our eLearning software does not crash and burn when it has more than five users on it at time.

“Our plug-and-play open architecture approach facilitates interoperabilty and is based on industry standards for Web deployments (XML, SOAP or AQ) and supports major learning standards (AICC, SCORM, IMS, and IEEE).”

Translation: Our eLearning software plays well with others.

“Our product is an integrated, field-configurable, shrink-wrapped application.”

Translation: To be honest, I haven’t figured this one out yet, but I think it must be well packaged.

So the next time someone tries to snow you with eLearning jargon, ask them to translate it in such a way that your grandma or grandpa would understand. If they can’t, don’t do business with them. Because, if we cannot get past the jargon, we cannot focus on what is truly important. And sometimes the jargon hides the fact that the person using it has nothing important to say.

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