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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Interview with Garth Wigle (New Series - Life in the E-Learning Organization)

Welcome to Life in the E-Learning Organization, a series of interviews with e-learning and distance professionals. This week's interview is with Garth Wigle, who is involved in training for Canada's air navigation systems.

What is your name, and what is your involvement with e-learning?
Garth Wigle. I am an education specialist with Canada’s air navigation service provider looking for new ways to deliver training to a workforce of approximately 5000 people that is deployed throughout the country from coast to coast to coast. I initially became involved in e-learning as a way to continue my own edification while working shifts and traveling extensively.

I completed my Master of Arts via a combination of face-to-face and asynchronous e-learning. I also now facilitate online in a Bachelor of Education in Adult Education program with an Ontario university.

As a result of these activities, I suddenly became the “e-learning expert” in the company, hence my current focus on locating and implementing appropriate new learning technologies for training air traffic controllers, flight service specialists, and electronics technologists. My most recent project has been the acquisition and implementation of a virtual classroom platform to allow us to engage in synchronous e-learning activities.

How did you get interested in distance education?
My first foray into distance education was 30 years ago via a “snail mail” correspondence course as part of a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics.
The program was completed largely via audiocassette and mailed in assignments. The only face-to-face component would have been the required lab work. Needless to say, the long lag time between submitting assignments and receiving feedback made it difficult to stay motivated to complete the work in a timely fashion. With the advent of the Internet and the near real time communication capability of email, distance learning became a much more engaging prospect for me. Since 2000, I have garnered considerable experience both as a learner and as a facilitator in asynchronous e-learning environments.

What is your favorite new trend in distance education?
I am becoming intrigued with the idea of mobile learning: using personal audio/video devices, cell phones, PDAs, etc. to deliver just in time knowledge nuggets to people as they need them.

What is your favorite technology?
At the moment, I would say my favourite technology is the virtual classroom as it allows us to combine the personal interaction of face-to-face learning events with many of the advantages of computer-based training (e.g. reduced travel costs, engaging interactivity).

What kinds of instructional materials do you use in elearning?
In my asynchronous work I generally use assigned readings, asynchronous discussion boards, assignments, and some small group work. In the computer-based training or synchronous e-learning packages I use a combination of assigned readings, audio-visual aids, application sharing, polling, quizzes, group work, assignments, and discussions.

How do you use textbooks in e-learning?

For me, textbooks have always been additional resources in any learning environment whether online or face-to-face. In the e-learning environment textbooks may be either hard copy or electronic, but they are still resources for additional information beyond what is provided in the lesson itself. They are one place learners may go to help them make sense of the new knowledge or skill they are learning.

What is your favorite quote? or, what's a book that caught your eye recently?

My favourite quote, and one that is perhaps foundational to my personal philosophy as an adult educator, is from Einstein: “I never teach my pupils. I only try to provide an environment in which they can learn.”

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Knowledge Factor Clears Blind Spots in Online Training

Are you confident in your knowledge? Is what you believe correct? Is your knowledge on-target? What if you are confident and wrong? Overconfidence, or the belief that one’s false knowledge is actually correct, could lead to a very dangerous situation, particularly when split-second decisions must be made – in the health industry, in the military, in air traffic control.


What training and education programs often fail to see is that all the lessons they’ve just presented can be trumped by people who override their newly-acquired knowledge in order to replace it with erroneous information that has been imparted by a highly assertive, confident employee (or even boss), who just happens to be wrong.

Knowledge Factor addresses an often overlooked issue, which is that it is important to identify and remedy the “confident and dead wrong” elements in their organization or in their training programs.

To that end, Knowledge Factor has developed instruments to help organizations determine

a) How confident your employees are with their knowledge;
b) The way in which they will act;
c) The degree of confidence they will exhibit, based on their beliefs;
d) The amount of knowledge that they have that is, in reality, erroneous or false.

The assessments that Knowledge Factor has developed are very valuable, particularly where the correct decisions and/or actions are a matter of life and death.

Many industries have such jobs, and the training that people receive is often a combination of formal e-learning and face-to-face instruction, which is then employed in the workplace in an informal apprenticeship or mentor situation.

Industries where being “confident and wrong” can have serious consequences:

Air traffic control
Health Care
Hazardous materials handling
Energy industry

Knowledge Factor’s approach is revolutionary and has the potential to change the way we look at training, internships, and mentoring. If organizations use Knowledge Factor’s approach, they will save not only time and money, but potentially lives.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Interview with Leah S. Piatt (New Series - Life in the E-Learning Organization)

Welcome to a series of interviews with e-learning and distance professionals. This week's interview is with Leah Piatt, Duke University, who is involved in corporate training and adult education.

What is your name, and what is your involvement with e-learning?
Leah S. Piatt. Relatively new to corporate training and adult education, I've been leading the way in our departmental work with e-learning. I've worked with Elluminate. I'm eagerly awaiting the day when I will get to actually moderate a class using this tool.

How did you get interested in distance education?
Some of our participants live and work an hour or more away from our training facility. We're really trying to alleviate travel and time obligations. I anticipate that e-learning will also help with the number of instructor lead classes we teach and bring about a more blended learning approach.

What is your favorite new trend in distance education?
I love the idea of continuing education via distance education. This could open up the amount of guest speakers we have both by eliminating travel time for the speaker as well as allowing someone who'd missed the session to hear the recording and view the presentation later.

What is your favorite technology?

What kinds of instructional materials do you use in elearning?
Power Point, Word, clip art, Snag-It, Captivate (soon, hopefully).

How do you use textbooks in e-learning?
We don't use textbooks, rather participant guides and job aids. These can be emailed before the session begins or converted to power point.

What is your favorite quote? or, what's a book that caught your eye recently?
quote: "While you teach, you learn." -- based on the words of Seneca the Younger, 4BC-65AD

book: The Primal Teen: What The New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our Kids --- Barbara Strauch

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Eedo's ForceTen 5.0 Offers Streamlined E-Learning Program Development and Administration

Eedo’s ForceTen5.0 is a learning content management system designed to overcome the limitations that most encounter, and which can present problems for the typical learning organization.

Podcast: downloadable audio click here.

There are many LMS solutions to choose from, ranging from ones customized for higher education or K-12, or those that specialize in training and professional development e-learning. In addition to corporate solutions, there are several popular open-source solutions, which include Moodle.

Most learning management systems do at least one thing extremely well. They may have an outstanding assessment systems, or, they may integrate well with almost all possible databases. But, that’s just not enough when you’re looking at an entire learning organization.

Most learning management systems have numerous limitations. If one is shopping for an LMS, problems immediately surface.

Common LMS Problems:

1---Steep learning curve;
2---Integration problems (with legacy systems, new databases);
3---Assessment is clunky, hard-to-use, and not well-integrated;
4---Not symmetrically scalable;
5---Does not accommodate learning styles;
6---Difficult to accommodate simulations;
7---Developers have difficulty collaborating on course development;
8---Workflow in development is not intuitive or natural;
9---Quality assurance is difficult to maintain;
10---Difficult to check the progress of tasks (not critical path friendly).

ForceTen 5.0 is a learning content management system, with some features of an LMS.

Eedo, which means “enlightened path,” creates solutions to the problems listed above by developing a learning management / learning solution that address all users and stakeholders.

1---For learners: accommodating multiple learning styles; easy incorporation and utilization of simulations and media-rich content; easy collaboration in discussion board; streamlined information sharing; good learning community development.

2---For network / IT administrators: The solution is scalable in a symmetrical manner, which means that administrators can accommodate surges in users, as well as widely divergent types of instructional content, and authentication needs.

3---For course developers: ForceTen has placed a great deal of emphasis on making courses easy for instructional designers and technologists to develop. They have streamlined the process with intuitive storyboarding and developer collaborations. Further, quality assessments are easy to accomplish with collaboration tools.

4---For instructors: The interface does not require lengthy training; tools are easy to use; layout is intuitive and streamlined; content is not buried behind multiple clicks; communication with the students is facilitated; assessments are easy to develop and deploy; learning community-enhancing tools are available (video, audio, etc.); gradebooks, dropboxes, and tools are integrated for streamlining of work flow.

5---For program administrators: Shareable assessments, coordinated communication with all shells, streamlined development and deployment of course shells, easy-to-use style sheets that make institutional branding / informational / disclosure information dissemination very easy to accomplish.

For more articles on e-learning, please visit Inside E-Learning.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Social Networking Through Games in the E-Learning Organization

People play video games. It is impossible to fight it, so why try? People seem to derive as much enjoyment from “serious” games and simulations as the entertaining ones, when the conditions are right and the games are multiplayer, multilevel, entertaining, and emotionally engaging. ( has plans to create a social networking opportunity with its games and game portal. The idea is to share games as well as ideas and projects. They suggest that one might house the games or the game portal within an e-learning organization, perhaps even within the learning management system and a course.
Doof, a fully integrated social networking site, allows individuals to choose among dozens of free games, playing at any time and any place via flash player, thus avoiding tedious downloads. While doof is still in its beta phase, it's clear that it is more than a game space. In the last few weeks, doof has added doofspaces, games, video sharing, image sharing, news, rss feeds, and more.

One of the more amazing features of doof is the ability to sync and import facebook information into doofspaces. This could be the portal of choice for many individuals who want and need a place to network, and they like games, and they would like to be able to share information.

Doof is still under development, so it's hard to say what other features will be included. A very powerful and useful feature could be to include the ability to create groups and subcommunities. It would be a fantastic way to blend elearning and social networking and gaming. Elearners could go to doofspace for all their entertainment and educational needs. The portal to the school and/or course management system could be in a doof community.

The efficacy of serious games and simulations for creating an environment conducive to skill-building cannot be disputed. Serious games such as the United Nation-sponsored Darfur Is Dying can be helpful in allowing students to role-play as a Darfur refugee and to understand the challenges of obtaining water and basic sustenance in an exceedingly hostile environment.

Darfur Is Dying shows learners the human impact of conflict and it lets one see exactly how conflict can play itself out in real life. Enactments of conflict, role-playing, and creative problem-solving all result in the development of empathy and empathic responses. In addition, the game allows learners to understand the complex network of circumstances, conditions, and geopolitical realities that underlie policy-making and problem-solving.
Serious games containing a bit of whimsy help learners overcome anxiety about the technology and role-playing. The games can be quite disarming, and learners find it to be very encouraging to form teams, collaborate, and make strategic decisions. An example are business simulations produced by ExperiencePoint which focus on decision-making, conflict resolution, organizational behavior, and motivation. In the past, ExperiencePoint has employed unique strategies, and has added a very effective measure of whimsy in free simulation demos that incorporate scenarios that range from organizing elves in Santa’s workshop to deciding how to go about recruiting a star player for one’s hockey team.
Serious games and simulations are available online and by means of CD-ROMs. Perhaps the most engaging ones, however, are the ones that allow multiple players and a great deal of interaction. Such game are being used by the military to recruit soldiers, to train military personnel, to fly planes, to respond to patients in a hospital emergency room, and to plan a city.
However, what about “unserious” games, and games that are played purely for entertainment? Do they have a place in the e-learning organization?
Traditionally, “classic” games such as Pong, Galaga, and Tetris, often played on cell phones as well as on one’s personal computer, not to mention massively multiplayer role-playing games have been considered the enemy of learning. In fact, some have even been blamed for school violence. At best, video games have been considered time-wasters, and potentially addicting. Reports that a young man in China died after going three days without sleep while on an online gaming binge did not help correct negative perceptions. Instead, it led to the inevitable conclusion (however flawed), that online gaming can kill.
No matter how “time-wasting” or “dangerous,” people will play online games. Now, with iPhones, smartphones, handheld computers and widespread wifi, multiplayer possibilities have expanded. Portals to interactive games and downloads continue to be quite popular.
What is the next step? Is there any way to harness the power and enthusiasm of gamers and to guide them to something useful while still being “unserious”?

The idea that one might use non-serious games as the foundation of a social network of people who share educational goals is an interesting notion. The first questions that come to mind are:
1---If it is not an outcomes-focused game, how do students stay motivated to do school work? Won’t they go into the virtual game room and stay there?
2---How are the games not a distraction?
3---Can games like Pong or Galaga be used to get people to share ideas from their course?
4---Could games and the “games space” be a part of a “virtual student lounge”? It would probably be a highly trafficked portal. If so, might it be a great place to disseminate information and general announcements? Some people would check the game space before they would check their student e-mail. It could be a good place to post the academic calendar, key deadlines, and announcements about games, scholarships, jobs, deadlines.
Using games and game portals as a way to drive traffic to a certain place in the e-learning space is a good idea. Here are a few ways to that the institution might use the game space productively:
1---Require students to click through announcements as they authenticate in order to access the games;
2---Create a time limit for games. Perhaps they can only play for 10 minutes per hour.
3---Tie time-on-task in practice tests and drills with more free access to the “unserious” games. Fifteen minutes on practice tests means two minutes of free Minesweeper (or one’s favorite game)?
Online learning will undoubtedly undergo massive changes as technology evolves and students gravitate toward the kinds of programs that reinforce and reward the behaviors they already exhibit.
Social networking through “unserious” games may lead to strategies for developing learning communities and effective social networking, team-building, motivation, and higher attrition in school.

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