Monday, February 23, 2015

The Best Possible Collaborations in the M-Learning Space

I've been doing quite a bit of thinking about the way in which new needs and technologies are impacting the way education and training are prepared, delivered, and administered. All the advantages of m-learning come to the forefront: on-demand, ubiquitous (esp with wifi), and practical. There are also new advantages as well, which have to do with the way in which multimedia and social networks make collaboration and the use of multiple types of content possible.

As a result, there are some significant changes in the way in which materials are developed and deployed, and there are also differences in expectations of the learners / users.

The high-definition, high production value end of the instructional materials spectrum. Materials for m-learning can also be collaborative and created by learners.
Changes in Development / Deployment: Because the technology changes quickly and because instructional materials emerge quickly, it's very important to have a quick-to-market platform which incorporates existing multimedia and resources.

Here are a few considerations:
    * The LMS will be a shell from which content is accessed
    *  It may be desirable to develop programs that do not use an LMS, but instead, utilize a bundle of products, such as Google materials
    *  Assessment can be done via a lite version of an LMS or via collaborative archiving (GDrive, Dropbox, etc.)
    *  Social media can be used for communicating with group members and making them aware of resources (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook), but not for confidential elements
    *  Instructional materials will be available in a "just in time" manner, and not necessarily developed months or years in advance
    *  Courses respond to changing needs (regulations, new technologies, new job opportunities) and so are often in flux

Implications for Credit Evaluation:
    * It may be necessary to evaluate the *type* of materials, and be comfortable with the fact that a textbook will not be the only materials
    *  The educational institution would simply provide representative samples

Increased Focus on Collaboration:  Collaboration is important and with new technologies students have more flexibility than ever to learn from and with each other.  This changes the nature of tasks and assignments, and also the way in with learning takes place.

Here are a few considerations:
    * Increased number of games and gamification that should be situated and purposeful (ties to learning objectives) not random or simply amusing
    * More interactive uses of shared texts, images, maps, and videos that are produced by students and posted in social media (youtube, instagram, etc.)
    * More need for informal communication done quite quickly (via Twitter, Google Hangouts, WhatApp, Skype, FaceTime, etc.)
    *  May not be possible to evaluate the nature of the collaborative processes -- but important to provide guidelines
    *  Will be important to have examples of products / projects to be completed by students
    *  Rubrics may seem a bit subjective, and so the process itself should be important and students need to reflect on their learning journey, and focus on meta-cognition
    *  Experiential learning / prior knowledge are easily incorporated in collaborations

Implications for Credit Evaluation:
    *  Rubrics should take into consideration the process as well as the final product
    *  Incorporate meta-cognitive strategies for instruction and evaluation
    *  Games / gamification should focus on situated learning that can build on prior knowledge

Changes in Assessment / Evaluation:  M-Learning makes assessment via gamification, interactive quizzes, and collaboration very convenient.

Here are some considerations:
    * Gamification should be easy to implement and change in order to maintain maximum situatedness
    * Portfolios can include multimedia, with clear tie-ins to learning objectives
    *  Rubrics need to be clear and also to incorporate a learning journal to reflect on metacognition
    *  The process of collaboration itself should be a part of the assessment, and can be done by means of a learning journal
    *  Interactive quizzes should be of the appropriate difficulty
    *  Quizzes should work easily on all devices
    *  Collaborative efforts (portfolios, projects, etc.) need to be clearly situated in the learning setting / goals, and appropriate scaffolding needs to have been developed
    *  Collaborative efforts need to clearly tie to learning objectives
    *  Allow students to build on prior knowledge and experience when possible, and form collaborations so that they can incorporate experiential learning

Implications for credit evaluation:
    *  Need to be clearly tied to learning objectives
    *  Higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy often represented in collaborations
    *  Interactive quizzes can be effective for the lower level Bloom's taxonomy elements (identification, etc.)
    * Institutions need to provide a backup / contingency assessments in case of massive technology fail   

Final Thoughts
It is hard to predict the future, except to know that there will be changes, and the demand for new information, skills, and education will continue to be strong. There seems to be an increasing sense of urgency, and those institutions that are nimble and can provide knowledge transfer and skills building in a quick, effective, easy-to-implement and easy-to-complete manner will be the most successful of education / training providers. Entrepreneurship will always be rewarded, especially for those entrepreneurs are particularly adept at recognizing, assessing, and taking advantage of opportunities.

susan smith nash with fresh coconut taking a break from designing an online course
Susan Smith Nash eating fresh coconut, thinking about training and education that includes collaboration and can be accessed via smartphone, laptop, tablet, or regular computer, and which does not require much bandwidth.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Interview with Rick Zanotti, RELATE, Leaders in E-Learning Series

Taking an integrative approach to e-learning, with perspectives gained from working across disciplines and with evolving technologies can provide unique insights. Welcome to an interview with Rick Zanotti, an influential e-learning leader whose perspectives have shaped products and approaches to e-learning and the development of learning management systems.

1.  What is your name and your relation to e-learning?

My name is Rick Zanotti. I'm the president of RELATE Corporation and I've been personally involved with eLearning since the early 1980s when I developed training on green screen monitors! Since then, in 1995, RELATE became a full-service elearning and media creation and development company.

Rick Zanotti, RELATE
I was involved early on with products like Authorware, IconAuthor, Quest and others and we were pioneers in developing full-screen courses by using advanced compression techniques for graphics, video and audio in times of slow computers and even slower Internet connections (pre-internet as well).

2.  What do you think are some of the main issues facing individuals who need training to maintain their professional credentials?

Two main issues: Time and Context. Often, professionals seeking to revalidate licenses such as Accountants, Doctors and others, have busy schedules with little time to attend stand-up training sessions. Often, the training they attend is not contextual, just fact-based information. This means non-engaging and often boring.

eLearning could do wonders for this and create consistent experiences and, if written correctly, would have some context, or story, to make the learning more personal and significant to the learner.

3.  What are some of your favorite tools?

I use tools like Articulate Storyline, Lectora Publisher, Adobe Captivate and iSpring Presenter. I can't say I use only one tool specifically. I tend to decide on, or use, the tool that best meets the needs of the training being produced. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Unfortunately, may of the tools are also pretty limited and if we could combine them into one we'd be in a better development place.  But reality being what it is, I adapt to the client's needs and we make due knowing the workarounds to get the job done well...

4.  If you have to launch a new program, how has your approached changed from how you did it in the past?

Our approach has remained pretty consistent from 20 years ago till now. While the tools have changed significantly and not always for the better, the processes remain largely the same.

We start by asking the client questions about their needs, the specific audience, goals and results and deployment methods (now almost exclusively web-based or mobile). From that we determine what tools to recommend or use. Often we are constrained by what the client uses, but that can also be flexible in many cases.

5.  What are some of the new directions that you find most interesting?

Being a techie at heart (most people don't know I have 25 years in the IT field), I like all aspects of web-based training, the increasing use of video in elearning, as well as the blended elearning approaches that can be quite powerful. I am not as keen on mobile learning though I completely embrace mobile technology and have more tablets and phones to my name than I really need... LOL  But I feel we're not there for mobile yet for many reasons of which security, proper writing and design and device connectivity and corporate acceptance.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Interview with Don Tharp, COPAS: Leaders in E-Learning Series

Quickly changing environments pose special challenges for training and education developers and providers. The regulatory environment can be in flux, as well as the economic, political, and physical contexts. Being able to meet the challenges is of particular use, and it is gratifying to be able to talk to a professional who has successfully developed and implemented training and assessment in many challenging and rapidly changing environments. Welcome to an interview with Don Tharp, Director of Training and Education for COPAS (Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies).

1.  What is your name and your relation to e-learning?

Donald “Don” Tharp
Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies (COPAS) - Director of Training and Education

I spent 28 years in the United States Air Force involved with training, education and operations whether it was for my needs or my brothers and sisters in arms. I worked at the United States Air Force Academy twice with a stint at University of Northern Colorado completing my Educational Technology Ph.D. Think about the mid to late 1990s and the educational changes taking place especially regarding Distance Learning, Technology advancement and integration, and growth of Learning Management Systems (LMS).
Don Tharp, Ph.D.

The military was continually trying to develop ways to integrate technology to further education and training especially for those of us continually heading over to the “desert” for combat operations. This opportunity provided a chance to work on both sides of the process as a developer, user and integrator.

Don Tharp while deployed in Iraq
As I retired and departed the military I was fortunate to start work with Lockheed Martin as a training manager, holistic systems designer, business development and technology integrator. Working with engineers, partners and customers provided the basis for my vision of e-learning focused on life-long learning and learner engagement. I received an opportunity to return to academia and educational technology designing, developing, integrating and evaluating coursework for my courses and our schools’ faculty and staff. I had come full circle in e-learning and was ready to take on a larger project working in the same field as the rest of my family members, petroleum.

 I started work at COPAS May 2014 with the responsibility of updating and adding new educational courses. First goal was to breakdown what education and training we currently had available and establish a strategic plan to maximize e-learning and technology integration. I developed our 3-5 year strategic plan focusing on shifting from 8 courses consisting of PowerPoint with text and a few pictures and even less video to courses and modules that are objective driven. The key is to establish active learning for engaging our learners to entice them to become life-long learners focused on their own professional development.  With that thought in mind, our analysis showed we could use technology to enhance and triple our courses using a LMS for online learning, communities of practice, collaborative engagement, and instructor growth.

 My current mantra is building up our network of instructors and subject matter experts who are willing to engage e-learners and their own learning. We are moving ahead with year one of e-learning that will include online with an instructor monitoring, webinars, virtual instructor training and face-2-face classroom using a variety of elearning methodologies.

2.  What do you think are some of the main issues facing individuals who need training to maintain their professional credentials?

There are a few issues facing individuals needing to maintain or even grow their professional credentials today. We need to get away from always calling it training when most of the time we’re engaging our learners educationally. Additionally, if you look online at the variety of professional education opportunities they are boring. They are either 8 hours of PowerPoint with tons of text spewed by the all-knowing instructor to the learner or Webinars spouting instruction or self-paced courses that just don’t turn the learner on. Sometimes we add in audio, video and/or graphics (pictures, clipart etc.) thinking we’ve expanded our learner engagement by hitting more senses. While that is a good start, it is far from what is needed for learner to become excited about learning. We need to get the instructors to become more engaging and “guides on the side” and not “sages on the stage.” Worrying about instruction time and not learning has trapped us. It is time to go back to step one in the design process and remember to include our learners and instructors during the analysis phase. Then decide on the appropriate media to get learning opportunities to the students.

Additionally, during the media selection process each designer gets locked into the tools they know and fail to use more modern and up to date instructional tools and media. Take Flash for example; while a great tool and has its place too many designers are still using it for every educational course they design. What about using social media (this is a tough one to use but things have changed), additional web resources, short PowerPoint (completed appropriately) snippets, micro-learning segments or even the old question and answer periods used by master teachers? We need to engage our learners actively.  Active learners become more willing to believe and use professional development to grow themselves maintaining and expanding on their professional credentials.

3.  What are some of your favorite tools?

As an Educational Technology believer and user, I believe in using a wide variety of technologies especially to reach as many of my learners as possible. Some of the items aren’t considered technology – collaborative/group learning and projects, communities of practice and peer-2-peer learning. What technology can do for us is expand our reach and assist us using those learner centric tools. Putting the focus squarely on the learners. To help me get there I believe in Learning Management Systems that are responsive and adaptable like Moodle or Blackboard. We’re going the Moodle route through a Moodle Partner in order to keep our costs down but also allow us to have better access to bringing in learner requested toolsets like: Video streaming (Kaltura), Communities of Practice and Portfolios (Mahara), Virtual Instruction and office hours (Adobe Connect and BigBlueButton) and lastly adaptable learning modules where I can use Social Media, Active Learning and a variety of evaluation techniques and types to avoid boredom and keep the elearning responsive. So whatever software and hardware can help me engage the learner via simulations, problem-based, case-based learning, and collaboration we’re trying to use it if it is cost effective.

4.  If you have to launch a new program, how has your approached changed from how you did it in the past?

Since we are actually launching a new program for COPAS and our Societies I will tell you, yes my approach changed from my military and corporate days. I believe having been involved military training and education, corporate training and education and then returning to higher education allowed me to finally understand we can engage our learners by working a mixed instructional design process.

 While using normal ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implement and Evaluate) gets great results we need to work faster and get more students and instructors involved earlier. This requires bringing in rapid prototyping and mixing it with ADDIE. It makes it easier on the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to work with instructional designers and stakeholders. Once I can show them a variety of ways to engage the learners they become much more interested in adjusting how to get facts and thoughts to the learners. They are becoming believers of life-long learning. Once you adapt the thought process "everyone continues to learn across his or her lifetime," you realize you don’t have to jam everything in one learning module. You can start thinking out of the old “sage on the stage” box and start guiding the learner towards their desired path. It is then the process gets fun and very interesting.

5.  What are some of the new directions that you find most interesting?

How learning technology is the be-all today tends to get way too much focus. I love technology and we need it to reach more learners and provide those engaging learning environments but it is only a tool. I do love how others are starting to think outside the box and focus more on learners and not learning styles. We need a mix of media opportunities to reach every learner but we need to do it correctly. 

All that being said, I am intrigued on pushing Moodle, its building blocks and outside modules to build a system that can provide learners multiple learning opportunities from: Webinars that engage, Virtual Learning used collaboratively, Communities of Practice, Badges and Portfolios, Instructor Development (as important if not more so to learners success as any technology or course), and lastly engaging material all focused for the individuals lifetime of learning. That is a quest worthy of pursuing.

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