I used to live near a bakery that made the most delicious bread. Thick, doughy, and light as a cloud, to bite into it was to have your stomach filled and your spirit warmed. What always puzzled me, however, was the sign that hung out front: “Fresh bread, baked daily just for you.”
“Just for me?” I would wonder. If it was baked just for me, why didn’t I have any say into the ingredients? What if I wanted multigrain dough with poppy seeds? Or a dark rye with cinnamon? Although the bread was otherworldly, I didn’t like being told that it was made for me when clearly, it was not.
As an instructional designer, I feel the same twitch of irritation when I hear the word “customization” thrown around. “Custom eLearning, built just for you!” It’s a nice promise, but what does it really mean?
Too often, “customization” means selecting characters, interactivities, or visual assets from a menu, and plugging them into a template using an authoring tool. To be sure, there are advantages to this approach. From the designer’s perspective, it allows us to reuse the backbone of our eLearning with multiple clients, making it easier and cheaper to produce. From the client’s perspective, it allows you to get a sense of a solution before you commit; it also requires less work on your end to see a final result.
To me, however, customization means so much more.