When is a Lavatory a Toilet? Getting bogged down in jargon…

Sometimes i have to reset my brain to the particular flavour of acronym in use by a specific client. One man’s PBA is another man’s FW. What, for someone, is CBT is, for someone else, e-learning. To one person, Mobile Learning is flavour of the month, but for another, it’s Embedded Learning.

Jargon and acronyms are great. They let us throw up the barriers to non believers and establish inward looking communities of enlightened practitioners, whilst all the time saving ink and space. It’s impossible these days to introduce a new idea without also introducing the associated jargon. You can’t have Mobile Learning without adopting M-Learning. You can’t have M-Learning without including MLE’s. That’s Mobile Learning Environments, not Massively Long Explanations.

There are, of course, many benefits of capturing the essence of a concept in a bit of jargon. The challenge can come when we try to use too many acronyms, abbreviations and technical terms in training. When we should be trying to tell a simple message in a simple way, we can get bogged down with jargon.

One place where this often becomes apparent is where we are creating training for an existing population, but which will also be used now, or in the future, by new starters. The existing users know the jargon inside out, the new starters won’t have a clue. It’s a challenge, because if you spend your time explaining what everything means, the existing users will just disconnect, because they know it already and it’s either boring or patronising. If you don’t cover the basics of the jargon, new users may start nodding like donkeys, but with the glazed over expression of the terminally bewildered.

There are ways around this, for example, by creating extra ‘glossary’ videos or segments, which are only visible to new starters, or by creating an entire module about ‘Jargon’. You can tackle the subject head on and try to accredit people in the language that you use.

On a wider basis, the risk of acronyms and jargon is that they can mask a simple lack of substance. Calling something User Generated Content (or UGC if you’re in the club), does not, in itself, mean that it’s any good. Calling something the ‘Learning Management System’ does not mean that people will turn to it for their learning. People engage with content or utility, not systems and acronyms.

If you look at a TV documentary on Quantum Theory or Evolution, if it’s well written, it should be able to tell a complex story in a simple way, introducing each hypothesis simply, tying it into previous concepts and elaborating the progression of the journey. This is the type of user experience that we are aiming for. If it’s done badly, you end up with a series of disjointed, semi understood concepts and terms, with no ability to interrelate them to construct the story.

Getting the language right, avoiding excessive jargon and acronyms won’t, in itself, avoid these issues, but paying the right amount of attention to it when we create learning solutions will certainly help.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Barriers to Learning, E-Learning, Engagement and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to When is a Lavatory a Toilet? Getting bogged down in jargon…

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention When is a Lavatory a Toilet? Getting bogged down in jargon… | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog -- Topsy.com

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