Collaborative Training Environment

This blog post addresses the training solution for a newly purchased information system in a major corporation. The learners are located in different locations and cannot meet at the same time. The staff needs to share information in the form of screen captures and documents; in addition, they are required to participate in ongoing collaboration. To fulfill these needs, the instructional designer is utilizing technology tools, which enable collaboration and document sharing through an asynchronous learning environment.

Google Docs

Google Docs

GOOGLE DOCS

One of the powerful Web 2.0 tools in document sharing is Google Docs; it enables learners to save documents online; the document could be shared by selecting the “Share” feature which generates a unique web link that could be sent via email to the learners (Kostina, 2012). Google Docs includes spreadsheets, presentations, documents, and forms; participants can either edit content or just view the final documents (O Broin & Raftery, 2011). The documents could be saved as PDF or shared as a web page for everyone to view (O Broin & Raftery, 2011). In addition to sharing a document, learners could open the link and collaboratively work on the same document to modify and add information (Kostina, 2012). Participants can work synchronously and asynchronously on these documents.

One of the very effective learning strategies is project-based learning; for example, participants in the training program could work together to provide solutions to case studies and/or present findings. Through Google Docs, participants could create schedules using the spread sheets feature, edit presentations and share documents related to their training. In addition, it is easy to share screen shots and images in the online shared document.

Drawings and Charts in Google Docs

Drawings and Charts in Google Docs

Through a case study, O Broin and Raftery (2011) concluded that participants found Google Docs very useful in their project-based tasks as they were able to work remotely on a document from various locations. Furthermore, once instructors are granted an access to the shared document they could provide instant feedback through inserting comments; in addition, they can review the history of revisions and flag any lack of participation (O Broin & Raftery, 2011). In a training program, facilitators then can recognize the needs and could motivate the learners to participate and direct them to proper resources.

WIKIS

Wikis is another collaborative tool that could enable participants to compile information into a shared online website (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). Wiki platforms are provided through course management systems which could be a tool to enhance the learners’ interaction in online learning courses. In addition, there are many wiki providers like Wikispaces ; here are some examples of educational wikis.

As the learners are separated by location and time; and there is no shared physical workplace, conversations can accrue among the users of the wiki as they view the same content and engage in conversations that could motivate them through their professional development training (Lightle, 2010). Through wikis, participants can create and edit instant web pages and embed screen shots, list challenges and share their experiences (Lightle, 2010) related to the training. The final product site is a collection of challenges, experiences and suggestions that all learners could refer to when needed throughout the training.

Wikis

Wikis

In a project supported by the University of Wisconsin-Madison through the Technology-Enhanced collaborative group work project, DeGrace (n.d.) explained that wikis brought the class together. Moreover, it enabled them to understand the various elements of the course and helped them in keeping track of what they are doing and what everyone else in the course is doing (DeGrace, n.d.), here is an overview of the project.

To build an online professional network, the Middle School Portal 2 (MSP2) group used wikis to embed live feeds from various website which provided learners with up-to-date information from various resources; all are collected in a page of wiki (Lightle, 2010). In addition, learners can get notification through email when there are new contents posted to the wiki.

Using a new staff automated information system could be challenging; employees may lose interest and motivation in completing online learning. Technology tools could provide a sense of community and provide support to enhance the learning experience. It is the responsibility of the instructional designer to understand the learners’ needs and provide venues for them to collaborate, share experiences, ask questions and continue learning.

References:

DeGrace, K. (n.d.). Awardees’ stories about using group assignments. Retrieved from http://engage.wisc.edu/collaboration/stories/#3

Kostina, M. (2012, June 13). 10 free, must have web 2.0 tools for your teaching & training needs [Blog message]. Retrieved from http://effectiveonlineteaching.org/2012/06/13/10-free-must-have-web-2-0-tools-for-your-teaching-training-needs/

Lightle, K. (2010). Using social media to build an online professional learning network of middle level educators. Knowledge Quest, 39(2), 48–53.

O Broin, D., & Raftery, D. (2011). Using Google Docs to support project-based learning. All Irlend Journal for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 3(1), 1-11.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

[Untitled image of multiple documents in Google docs]. Retrieved September 23, 2012 from http://www.google.com/google-d-s/b1.html

[Untitled image of drawings and charts created in Google Docs]. Retrieved September 23, 2012 from http://sixrevisions.com/project-management/6-tips-to-help-you-get-the-most-out-of-google-docs/

[Untitled image of characters standing on puzzle pieces]. Retrieved September 23, 2012 from http://driscoll-class.wikispaces.com/Wikis+in+Education

Mind Map: Defining Distance Learning

Mind map illustrates my new definition of distance learning

Mind map illustrates my vision and new definition of distance learning

Click on the map to view it in a larger size.

Defining Distance Learning

earth and mouse

I first understood the value of distance learning when I was offered access to hundreds of online training modules through my employer, the US Department of State, between the years 1994 and 2003. The training included modules on learning advanced software programs and customer service support. The modules were self paced without any interactions with an instructor or other learners; in addition, it was content based. I appreciated that I can learn on my own, using my computer, without having to go to a class or spend hours commuting to a training centre. From this, I shaped my first definition of distance learning which is learning happens in different geographical location, through the Internet, and is designed to reach out to professionals who want to advance their education and knowledge.

Years later I took my first online course in project management through a distance education institution. Through the course, I used a learning management system, interacted with my instructor and collaborated with students throughout the course. I realized the differences between distance education and distance learning. Distance education is provided through traditional educational schools and colleges (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012); while distance learning is based on self study and could be done through nonacademic organizations (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.; Simonson et al., 2012). Through exploring Web 2.0 tools, I also realized the differences between synchronous and asynchronous learning, and that learning could be separated by time in addition to geography (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). While searching institutions to pursue my graduate studies, I realized the importance of credibility and quality of study which is granted through accreditation (Simonson et al., 2012).

It was interesting to explore the many dimensions and definitions of distance education this week and how it developed from being correspondence study, then through open universities in Europe and then virtually through the Internet in the last decade (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Distance education can be defined when learning happens through educational institutions, when the teacher and students are geographically separated, through interactive telecommunication and in a learning community (Simonson et al., 2012). Another emerging definition by Edwards (1995) is that distance learning happens with a focus on individual needs and local requirements (as cited in Simonson et al., 2012). Distance learning could also happen virtually by using technology in the education process (Simonson et al., 2012).

Distance Learning

My definition now about distance learning is that it is not about transferring knowledge and presenting content, but it provides resources like public funds to homeschooled students and students in rural areas (Huett, Moller, Foshay & Coleman, 2008). Distance learning is a two-way communication between the student (s) and instructor using technology. I believe that the evolution of technology (Simonson et al., 2012), financial consideration and competition among institutions (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008b) in organizations are fundamental factors, which will affect the evolution of distance education and distance learning. Boling, Hough, Krinsky, Saleem, and Stevens (2012) explained that successful and award winning online courses are the ones that provide students with real-life experience through collaboration and social interactions. Technology could increase the interaction and collaborative work among learners (Simonson et al., 2012) which enhances the distance learning experience. For example, now as I am pursuing my graduate studies I experienced being in a community of learners, learning by solving problems and applying the new knowledge to real-life application that I could use in work. Furthermore, I learn by exploring tools and resources that could help me in my learning experience and my personal and professional life.

Moreover, I believe distance learning could be designed to be accessible as many of the technology tools used in blended courses and online courses could be accessible, like using closed captions and designing accessible HTML web pages. In my institution, as I set on committees related to accessibility and the universal design for learning; I see that there is growing demand to create policies and procedures to support distance learning. Equally important, is to provide proper training and support for instructors and training providers (Moller et al., 2008b). Moreover, there should be a need to focus on quality, better evaluation systems and complete analysis of the learners’ needs (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008a). Additionally, as technology is expanding and there are many web-based communication and social tools, learning solutions should be based on extensive research (Huett et al., 2008). I now believe that distance learning will expand to include not just older adults in remote areas but to everyone, everywhere and all ages (USDLA, 2009).

Image of distance learners with an image of the world's map in the background

As there is a growing demand for distance learning in the corporate world, higher education institutions and K-12 schools, I believe that distance learning will continue to grow (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Therefore, distance education will be incorporated in various learning environments; it will be expected and respected (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

 

 

References:

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–6 7.
Laureate Education Inc., (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation [Video]. Baltimore, MD : Simonson, M.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008a). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008b). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
USDLA (2009). Distance learning: Enabling the race to the top. Retrieved from http://www.usdla.org/assets/pdf_files/Distance_Learning_Briefing.pdf
[Untitled image of distance learners with a background of a map]. Retrieved September 9, 2012 from http://myschool30.com/category/distance-education/
[Untitled image of tablet, book and pen]. Retrieved September 9, 2012 from http://pconlineworld.com/e-learning
[Untitled image of earth and mouse]. Retrieved September 9, 2012 from http://www.ncc.commnet.edu/dept/distancelearning/default.asp

Distance Education

I am glad that I will start again using my blog. I created this blog for a previous course about “Learning Theories,”  I was hoping to be able to post on a regular basis after the course, but was not able to do so. The posts now will focus on exploring distance education. I look forward to reading your comments and feedback. Click here to read about me.