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Why is evidence based practice so important?

This post was written by Imogen Casebourne and first appeared on the Epic blog on 8th May 2013.

evidence based practiceLearning is a subject that philosophers, academics and teachers have thought and written about for thousands of years. Plus, most of us went to school, and all of us continue to learn after we leave formal education, so everyone has valuable insight to offer regarding what learning method is most effective for us. This all makes for a lively and informative debate.

It’s nonetheless all too easy to make assumptions about how we can help people to learn by using new technologies. Often these assumptions are incorrect because they are based on ideas suggested by the technology itself, rather than evidence about how people actually use that technology.

At Epic, we believe it is vital to base our approach to learning technologies on robust research and the resulting evidence about what works best.

In terms of individual projects, this means devoting as much time as possible to finding out about learners and their needs, and sense checking programmes with end-users at key points during production. For example, when we worked with the BBC to update their editorial policy training in 2010, literally hundreds of end-users were involved at key points in the development of the project – firstly to define key areas of learning need, and then to test the proposed interactions and approach.

It also means drawing on the best independent academic research into how people learn using new technologies, and ensuring lessons learned from academic studies into such issues as the best way to use audio in e-learning (and how not to use it), are brought to bear in our design work.

But at Epic, we take the pursuit of evidence one step further: we also carry out academically rigorous peer-reviewed research projects of our own. I’ve been involved in three such projects over the past year.

  1. One such research project examined mobile learning in the NHS, which can also yield insights into how mobile learning can best be deployed across other large and complex organisations.
  2. Last year, we partnered with the University of Oxford to complete a pilot study that looked at setting out a methodology for how academics can judge the accuracy of Wikipedia across languages and subject areas – which sheds some light into whether and how large organisations can be confident in investing and supporting collaboratively created data.
  3. I was recently asked by the eLearning Guild to author a research report on mobile learning with practical case studies. The report explores nine international case studies and shares how these organisations deploy a different approach to mobile learning.

Epic’s independent academic research has also seen us develop partnerships with academics and external research departments, including the education department at the University of Oxford. Having this capability lets us set out to fill gaps in the evidence, and give our clients the best possible advice about how to use new technologies to support learning.

Doing research on learning and how people learn using technologies is something that I find extremely fascinating, so it’s great to feel that Epic is helping to push the debate forward.

Why not download Imogen’s recent research report for the eLearning Guild on How Mobile Learning Is Done: Nine Case Studies From Around the World? For as little as $99, you’ll get access to this report as well as all 55 Guild Research reports, discounts to conferences and more.