Archive for the 'e-Learning' Category

The Webinar Question

20 February, 2009

I’ve sat in on a bunch of webinars lately, generally they get some slides on the screen and conduct a kind of interview. User interaction is tpically limited to the occasional poll or the ability to ask a question using the chat window. I don’t ever find these overly useful, sometimes you get some good tips and tid-bits that prove to be helpful, but they never really hit the mark as a learning experiance.

So yesterday I had my first chance to run a webinar of my own. Admitedly it was only with 6 participants and they were all staff but it was nice to try the technology out, and see if I could go close to making a webinar as good as a training session.

In short, it wasn’t as good. But it wasn’t too bad either. There are a few things that I reckon are worth keeping in mind if you are about in embark upon training via webainar.

Open the webinar client 1.5 – 2hrs before the session, just leave it open. We use Elluminate internally which I used last week so I was pretty confident that it would open straight away. It turns out I used Elluminate 9 last week and I was using Elluminate 8 yesterday. Elluminate 9 is installed on the PC and works fine but Elluminate 8 wouldn’t work. That meant 20 mins before the session I was forced to change computers and use my 12″ iBook that has a broken VGA out port. In the end it worked ok and I was very glad I logged in a long way ahead of the start of the session.

Have two screens, it might be that I don’t know how to use the tool properly but it is really helpful to have one screen showing what you are sharing (PPT, Applications etc) and one screen for you notes and the ‘preview’ window that shows you what the participants can see. This is vital for two reasons, it means you don’t ask “can you see x” every five mins it also will alert you if your connection drops (as mine did a couple of times).

Run through your session a couple of times to make sure it flows and you know what you are jumping to next. The rules here are the same as face to face training. Think ‘the 5 P’s’  – Perfect Preperation Prevents Pretty (there is another word that can fit in there but we shouldn’t use it in polite company! :-)) Poor Performance.

Use the tool A LOT before you run your first real session, know what every button on the screen does. It will make running the session much simpler.

Be interactive, (I didn’t do a good job of this one) conducting a poll at the beginning of the session is not being interactive, unless the speaker is incredibly compelling people will tune out.

There are too many distractions,  people will have your webinar open in one window, then in others have a combination of email, twitter, facebook, RSS reader, their favourite news paper, YouTube a, a half written report etc. You are competing against all of that stuff for their attention so don’t ever think that your dulcet tones and your funky powerpoint will be enough to keep them focused.

Finally if you don’t have too many people, encourage questions. If a participant misses something and feels they can’t ask a question they are far more likely to close the window and give up.

Many of the techniques used in running successful face to face training sessions can be applied in a webinar, the difference is getting it right much more important. There are very few people  that will get up and walk out in the middle of a face to face session but if you’re online people will close the window.


Can we possibly use Second Life?

4 June, 2008

More second life stuff!! I know your thinking ‘Mick get over it!’ This month the LCB big question is all about how we can use Second Life for training? It’s been a couple of months since I have been able to find a way to come at a Big Question, so seeing as this is a bit different to my discussion of a couple of weeks ago I’ll give it a go! That conversation focused on uses in my own work environment, I’ll take this as an opportunity to try to be a bit creative, and think outside my own square.

I mentioned in my previous SL post that an ideal use in a corporate environment is OHS training. Everyone at some point in their careers has had the miss-fortune of sitting through a boring ‘lookout for everyday hazards’ type video. I reckon SL or similar would be ideal for this type of training!

Moving on to new ideas: Landscape design. My fiancé is keen to start working on a landscape design course of some description. Unfortunately due to her illness she is going to struggle with the manual side of the course. Workshops and activities conducted in SL could allow her to learn the principles of good design and experiment with ideas without needing to spend hours in a TAFE garden.

Media / journalism, Reuters and CNN already have a presence in second life, aspiring journalists could set themselves up in SL and observe what’s going on and hone their craft in the metaverse prior to migrating to the physical world.

Security training. I don’t know anything about security training but I would imagine there is a lot of procedural observation of behavior. It is possible that ‘suspicious’ behaviors could be replicated in S recruits could then diffuse the situation in a safe environment.

There we go, that’s four ideas. Each will have hundreds of extra considerations and complications, but I would think given the right support they could develop into useful learning tools. I do believe virtual worlds have a lot of potential as training tools, however (check out my previous post to see my reasoning) they do require a lot of evolving before we see widespread adoption.

Facebook as a Knowledge Sharing Platform

8 February, 2008

Like many work teams we have decided to see if Facebook can work as a platform for knowledge sharing. This is one of the first steps in our broader journey to create more social learning opportunities for our members. Hopefully it will provide an insight into the some of the challenges we will face when we attempt to roll these technologies out to our members. A month into our experiment I think it will.

I originally intended to write a full case study on this topic today but after giving the issue some further thought, I have decided to describe the situation and some of the challenges we are facing. I’ll leave the possible solutions for a couple of week’s time when I have got further into my reading and hopefully discussion.

I must flag before I go any further I am only a participant and observer in the project. Another team has been handling the planning and implementation, although if my interview goes well on Monday I will be involved soon :-).

The first step in establishing our platform was to create a private group and encourage everyone (approximately 15 people across 3 states) to create a profile.

The second stage was to try and drum up some interaction. A question inviting the team to suggest how we could make use of the group was posted and a couple of useful web links were posted on the group main page.

At this stage we got interest from those that were keen (myself and a couple of others), we added to the useful links, responded to the discussion and started some new discussions. The problem was not many others contributed.

The third stage was to introduce a weekly challenge. The manager responsible for the project asked everyone in the team to post one link they find very useful and describe why it is so great.

Here we started to get some action. Everyone in the team contributed at least one resource and described how it is useful to them. At this point I thought now it will happen; everyone will get involved and this will really take off. It hasn’t. A week later we’re back to the usual suspects.

That’s where we are at today. I’ll finish this post with a run down of some of the key challenges I think we are facing, then try and find solutions to those over the next 3.5 weeks.

Not mission critical

In its current state this project will not provide our team with any mission critical information. As a result they are not making the time to check the group or contribute to it.

Separate Goals

Our team consists of three separate groups, two that are focused on multimedia development, e-Learning and Social Learning and a third that is responsible for running the Library. I can post links to interesting podcasts about social networking all day but those in the library do not care, they want resources relating to them (which is reasonable… I don’t want to read about libraries! ☺).

Lack of Literacy

This is very common with these types projects, many of the team members have basic computer literacy; they have mastered Google, email and MS office but not too much more. I must admit sometimes I find it a bit difficult to figure out how to make things display in Facebook, for those that are not overly confident with the web it can be very intimidating.

Lack of Confidence

While on the topic of feeling intimidated, those that are not overly experienced are quite likely to feel very intimidated by what the experienced team members are posting. If you read my post from Wednesday would know I have been experiencing that same feeling of apprehension. It is very easy to think ‘how can I contribute something as good as that.’

Lack of value

This is probably a combination of the first two points but I think I am going to keep it separate for the moment. There is no clear value to logging in. There reason the team has at the moment is too contribute. I think we’ll need to come up with something more compelling than that.

That concludes my list of challenges, I might take the weekend to think them through and do some reading. Michelle Martin’s Blogging4Learning project may help me with a couple of these I’ll have to keep a close eye on how she is going. On Monday I’ll start discussing some of the broader issues in using social learning tools in a corporate environment.

The Learning Circuits February 2008 Big Question

5 February, 2008

Instructional Design – If, When and How Much? The Big Question Logo

This month’s Learning Circuits Big Question is a cracker!! I’ll say up front I am biased towards ID, I believe that all learning products require effective instructional design regardless of how they are being delivered.

For the purpose of this discussion I see two key functions carried out by an Instructional Designer. The first is what I see as the true Instructional design process; that is analysing content to determine a logical flow, breaking content into manageable chunks and designing activities appropriate to the learning outcomes and the delivery mechanism. The second is more of a consulting function, advising on content packaging and delivery solutions. For the most part this post will discuss the first function.

I work in a financial services organisation. We provide training on a range of business and finance topics via face to face training, CD ROMs and online, we are only beginning to dip our toe in the waters of user generated content and Web2.0. We use a range of SMEs to write our ‘content’; this is the technical information that the learners need to know. In many cases these people have a wealth of professional experience and are generally recognised nationally or internationally as an expert in their field. However many of them do not have the skills to write a well structured ‘training manual’. They certainly do not have the skills to write a well structured storyboard or make use of a rapid development tool. Instructional Design is crucial in my organisation, without it we simply have reams of text with little or no opportunity for interaction.

If an SME has the skills to effectively structure a product and write a training manual or use a rapid development tool, they are way ahead of the pack. In our environment the authors (there are a few) who have both instructional and ‘technical’ knowledge receive much more work than those that only have the technical skills.

If an SME has, rapid development tool skills but is lacking ID skills I believe there are two key areas they need to understand before creating a product. The first is content chunking and sequencing. My IDs spend more time on chunking content down and organising it into a logical flow than almost any other task. An SME must also understand how to link relevant topics and when to insert breaks and activities.

These are the areas where the ID can add real value to a project; when determining how much involvement from an ID is required the first question that must be asked is “What type of product are we building?” If we are looking to produce an information product, for example a briefing sheet or a presentation then ID input is minimal, as the goal of the product is simply to bring together relevant information, the user will then determine how to make use of it.

If we are looking to create a learning product that contains opportunities for practice, interaction with peers, examples, case studies and activities then we may need to look to someone with ID skills to help the SME to determine the most effective activity types for the content and the optimal sequence and structure for the session / program.

I believe that the value an ID brings to a project is to look beyond the content to the learner. To think through how the learner will interact with a piece of content and determine the most effective means for them to find their own meaning and understanding.

Some products must be created quickly and cheaply. If an ID can take content, determine an effective delivery framework then assemble the product, that is fantastic! It is an extra skill that makes them more appealing to potential employers but it is not the primary function that they will offer.

In my experience when ID is not included in the development process the quality of the end product is severely compromised. After saying that this post has ignored the ‘new wave’ of collaborative user-generated online learning. That’s intentional, we’re only just starting to think about how we can encourage our members to share their knowledge and experience and create their own content.

To go back to the original question:
If – Absolutely!
When – Whenever a learning product is designed to provide more than a simple briefing or resource.
How much – This is the tricky part, it really depends on the ID skills (as defined above) of the SME, it could range from a simple review as part of a QA process to a complete overhaul.

Micro / Nano Learning?

5 February, 2008

Tram Stairwell

I’m sitting in the stairwell of a tram on my way home while writing this, I love technology!

Anyway on to the point above. Nano Learning is a term we have been throwing around our team for around 6 months. I have the feeling we came across it in one of Elliot Masie’s (still trying to find the link!) newsletters. It was a term that really captured our imagination, we have traditionally dealt in very large, very text heavy (at times very dull) e-Learning products, this term presented us with the opportunity to throw these traditions away and come up with something that was short sharp and too the point!

I’m now faced with making this concept become reality. In thinking about what this will be I’ve been wondering how I can manage  to create an engaging online learning program that can be completed in 10 – 15 minutes.

I have come up with a couple prerequisites:
* It must be interactive
* Those interactions must challenge the learner to apply something
* Each ‘Nano Learning’ object must have a clear objective and that must be achieved.
* The value must be visible to the learner.

I know the last couple of points cover kind of the same ground but I think they are important. I’m very conscious that these types of programs can become gimics; more about the multimedia developer’s flash prowess than the learner achieving something.

Too make sure I avoid this happening my first step is to cull the content, I’m dealing in an area of regulation so it is easy for SMEs to go into a LOT of detail! My aim is to have the SME define the must know points for anyone working within the particular regulation, I am also developing a larger scale e-learning product that will get into the details of the legislation so I should be able to get away with keeping it pretty high level.

In the I’D stage I’m very keen to ensure we build in many opportunities for practice. As the content relates a regulatory framework a business must work within, I should be able to come up with some good scenarios that will ask the learner to make decisions about appropriate courses of action.

Finally I think I need one 10 min module dedicated to reviewing the key points covered in the previous 3 – 4 modules.

The question is: will this result in a meaningful learning experience or will it feel like a rush job with insufficient detail? Donald Clark recently wrote about the Nintendo DS as a learning console; he commented on the way it uses short frequent practice opportunities for language, maths and memory training. Can a similar approach be adopted for a detailed regulatory environment?

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