Now before you read this blog post go and read this one. Update: Alas the blog post has been deleted…
Uploaded documents consistently create more workload. So why is it that staff are encouraged to waste their time by uploading documents and then, at a later point, are expected to invest even more time into re-learning processes for doing roughly the same thing only more efficiently? Promoting the uploading of documents as a basic skill really drives me nuts! There, I’ve said it. And I am not going to apologise for doing so. Technology should save people time and not create even more work. And it is far harder to unlearn bad habits than it is to learn good habits in the first place!
Also check out the comments.
There is a very valid argument against uploading Word documents to the VLE. It does make much more sense if you need to add text to a course that you add it direct to the VLE. This makes sense from the learner’s perspective, they don’t need to have Word, they don’t need to download and open the file. If a Word document contains links this can cause issues to the learner.
From a practitioner’s perspective it also makes sense, much easier to update text that’s already on the VLE, then find the original Word document, or download another copy from the VLE, upload and then ensure that the links back on the VLE now work okay.
So to summarise it actually makes much more sense to enter text direct onto the VLE than upload a Word document. It’s better for learners and better for practitioners.
What is logical and rational isn’t necessarily always the best way forward for some practitioners, or benefits the learners.
I agree we should use text where text can be entered, however very few practitioners come to the VLE with a blank canvas of resources, they would have already made an investment (hopefully) in using the computer to use Word to create documents for assignments, handouts and briefings. In an ideal world it would be great that these were added to the VLE as text, however in an unideal world if uploaded to the VLE quickly and easily, for the practitioner they can see that their resources are now available to the learners, whilst for the learners they can now access those resources at a time and place to suit them. They will see the benefits of using the VLE, hopefully they will. Of course if does make sense to avoid this step if possible, but it’s not always possible. At this point, the training on in the future just using text and not Word documents should take place, hopefully avoiding some of the problems noted in the linked blog post.
Sometimes using a Word document actually can make much more sense then using plain text.
Sometimes there are features in Word (such as hotspots) that require the use of Word to use them effectively. Uploading an image or text to the VLE wouldn’t work, and not all practitioners have the skills to necessarily repurpose an interactive Word document using a tool such as Flash.
Sometimes you want learners to manipulate a Word document and again it makes sense to start from the Word document rather than a copy and paste. Learners working together on a collaborative document for example may prefer using Word, even over such tools as Google Docs or a wiki which make more technical sense. Using technology is not always about making the right technical choice, sometimes an emotional choice or preference can work for some learners.
At the end of the day it makes much more sense for practitioners to use plain text on the VLE rather than a Word document. It is more accessible, it is easier (in some respects), it is much much easier to update later or next year and of course remember not everyone has Word.