Thursday, August 20, 2009

Telecollaboration and Project Based Training

I just finished another course in the Ed Tech program at San Diego State called "Advanced Teaching with Tech." Being that the class is called "Advanced Teaching with Tech," I thought we would dive deeper into using technology but unfortunately we didn't dive much deeper than Google Apps and Questgarden. However, I did pick up some new instructional design skills that I will be able to apply at work right away. This post describes a couple of projects I developed for this class and what I learned from them.

Early in the semester we were assigned to develop a Telecollaboration lesson using Google Sites. This was the first time I had heard of a telecollaboration lesson so I was curious to hear about something with such a fancy name. A telecollaboration or telecollaborative lesson is an educational project where participants learn by sharing information with other groups of people over the internet. This is an ideal project for me because a large part of my responsibilities at work involve developing eLearning courses and I am always looking for new ways to facilitate collaboration with others through eLearning. A common hit on eLearning is that it does not have the benefits gained through face to face interaction and collaboration with others that ILT can provide. However, telecollaboration lessons can help eLearning courses overcome the challenge of facilitating interaction and collaboration online.

The telecollaboration activity I designed for this project is called the "Handling Customer Objections Showdown." I wanted to develop something that I could also use at work where the majority of my learners are retail sales professionals. Participants of the showdown will improve their ability of overcoming customer objections by competing to post the best solutions to customer objections on a discussion board. Not only will this facilitate the sharing of best practices but it will also contribute to a database of solutions to customer objections that can be used as a job aid. I've been trying to come up with way's to take advantage of forums in Moodle and this will be a great lesson to do so with. Check it out and let me know if you have any suggestions.

Another focus of the semester was designing project based lessons where participants learn through working on a project in a group or individually. I love this type of lesson because it focuses on learners demonstrating the performance and generally there is not much lecture involved. To sum it up there is less telling and more doing. Project based lessons are definitely something I can take back to work as they work well as part of a blended training approach including both instructor led and eLearning solutions. In the past I have had success using eLearning to teach the pre requisite information that learners need to know before attending an Instructor Led course where they will apply what they learned in the eLearning with a project based lesson.

The Project Based Lesson I created is called "Selling Sleep Disorder Relief" and is designed to help sleep products salespeople improve their performance with customers who suffer from Sleep Disorders. The lesson is designed so that participants are broken into groups according to the retail store or region they work in and are assigned to research a sleep disorder then deliver a presentation about the disorder to the rest of the class. The presentation must include a "Role Play" simulation of an ideal sales presentation for a person with the sleep disorder. This improves learning due to the fact that they are going out and researching the information then forming a hypothesis on their own of how that information can be used back on the sales floor to improve their performance. This lesson personifies the notion of "more doing, and less telling."

Although the class didn't cover as much technology as I was hoping for I did learn a lot about instructional design. Learning about Instructional Design may not be as fun but we have to take our medicine in order to use technology effectively. I look forward to implementing these lessons at work and please leave a comment if you have suggestions.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Personal Learning Network 3

An assignment for my "Tech for Teaching" class at SDSU requires us to follow Ed Tech related blogs on our reader than write up a summary of what we learned from reading these posts and how these lessons apply to our professional goals. This is the third of 3 Personal Learning Network reports on some lessons I have learned lately through blogs I follow in Google Reader.

Over the past year, I have been working on the major project of transitioning my organization from only instructor led training to a "Blended" training approach consisting of eLearning, Instructor Led Training(ILT), and Job Aids. The blog posts highlighted in this Personal Learning Network (PLN) report provide valuable information that will help improve the effectiveness of my organizations training solutions by transitioning to a "Blended" approach. The first article, "When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom" tells the story of a school that is maximizing the potential of a "Blended" approach by banning power point from the classroom and the second post titled, "Best Moodle Modules and Plugins" provides information on useful ways to customize Moodle. Together, these posts provide ideas for improving the effectiveness of a Blended training approach and the tools to help make those ideas happen.

I believe that there is no one best way to deliver training, and that in most cases, a blended approach is the most effective. ILT, eLearning, and job aids have different advantages that when used in combination can result in a more effective training solution. The article "When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom" featured on "The Chronicle of Higher Education" website describes what a Dean at Southern Methodist University is doing to push instructors towards a blended approach. I found this article intriguing because I think it hits the nail on the head of the best way to take advantage of ILT in combination with eLearning. By removing power point from the classroom and taking advantage of computer based resources, instructors are given the freedom to facilitate a more interactive session resulting in an improved learning experience.

A valuable tool in implementing a blended training approach is the learning management system, Moodle. As a Moodle administrator, I am always looking for customizations to help Moodle fit the needs of my organization. The post, "Best Moodle Modules and Plugins" describes tools that can improve the effectiveness of elearning. By using modules discussed in this post such as "Book" and "Questionnaire" we are improving the effectiveness of our ILT courses by making them more interactive. In the past, a portion of the ILT course would be reserved for lecture to introduce the topic. This type of information is now delivered via Moodle prior to the ILT course so that learners are familiar with the topic and ready to practice the skill they are learning when they arrive at the instructor led course.

Migrating to a "blended" training approach from nearly 100% ILT is a difficult battle and the posts highlighted in this PLN report are helping my organization's training dept reach it's goal. By taking advantage of tools such as the modules and plugins described in the blog post, "Best Moodle Modules and Plugins," while embracing the theories discussed in the article, "When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom" we are improving the effectiveness of our "Blend" of training solutions. I can't wait to see how what I have recently learned from my PLN helps my organization get closer to our goal of a blended training approach.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Moodle 1.9 Multimedia

A new book just arrived on my doorstep that I am excited about reading. Much of the reading I do about Moodle has to do with administration tasks I am struggling with so I am looking forward to learning some content development tricks from "Moodle 1.9 Multimedia" by João Pedro Soares Fernandes.

As a Moodle administrator and eLearning content developer, I am always juggling the behind the scenes Moodle tasks while looking for more effective ways to present content. It looks like this book provides a little of both by covering how to make the most effective use of multimedia in Moodle. I mainly use eLearning tutorials developed in Adobe Captivate for my Moodle courses so I am curious to see what other tools are discussed in this book.

I am amazed at the amount of options and tools available for customizing Moodle content to your learners needs and am eager to dive into this book to learn more. I am also amazed at the variety of different methods Moodlers around the world are using. How about you? How are you presenting multimedia in Moodle. Please share by posting a comment.

If you would like to read more about Moodle 1.9 - Multimedia check out the Packt Publishing site. They also have some other good Moodle books

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