As it turns out, you can have too many tarps.

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Last month, my husband and I took our two (very large) dogs camping.  Not just camping, but tent camping on the beach in the Florida Keys.  I had no idea what to expect (other than the obvious mosquitoes, no-see-ums, sand, intense humidity, and blistering heat).  I carefully planned for months what to take.  Living in a hurricane zone, we have plenty of emergency supplies that would be good for camping – such as tarps.  At the last minute, I tossed a pile of tarps in the car, saying “you can’t have too many tarps”.

When we broke camp, it was pouring rain.  It was one of those Florida spring rains that are accompanied by gusting wind and lightning.  Needless to say, we didn’t pack the car as tightly as we did at the beginning of our journey, so things weren’t fitting as nicely as they had.  Plus, they were wet and covered with sand.  As it turns out, a pile of tarps takes up a lot of space!

Even though one tarp is highly valuable if you need emergency shelter from rain, several tarps have diminishing returns.  At some point, they become a liability rather than an asset.

As always, I see analogies between life and learning and on the long (rainy) ride home, I got to thinking about how information is like a tarp.  And how too much stuff – in training – can become a liability, just like too many tarps.  Just like with camping, too much stuff can detract from the experience.  So this brings us full circle (at least the way my mind works) to earlier posts:

  • Who is our audience and what do they want out of this experience?  The camping audience was two people and two dogs.  What we wanted was to relax and spend time together.  We did get plenty of the latter… In an eLearning course, the audience most likely wants to learn something.  They don’t want to be subjected to overload.  One tarp is good; five is too many.
  • Why are we doing this?  What do we want to get out of it?  If we’re planning a camping trip or an eLearning curriculum, our goals are similar:  we want the campers – or the students – to have a positive experience worth remembering.
  • What can we reasonably accomplish without undo risk or hardship?  What are our constraints?  Is it possible to have a really fun camping trip with just one tarp as a back-up?  Yes.  Is it possible to deliver a really great eLearning course without including every imaginable detail, idea, point of view, or feature?  Yes.

If you need help in deciding how many tarps to bring or how to design your eLearning so that it is a good balance of features and content for your situation, hire a course designer.  It will be worth it when you’re standing in the rain, wondering how you’re going to fit it all in.

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