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.

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