Confession: This is my second post for my distance learning grad class.

The assignment

Pretend that the following is your hypothetical situation as a distance educator:

A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

With this situation in mind, I am to “consider the needs and requirements of the learning context presented and which technologies could provide solutions in each situation” and “identify one to two distance learning technologies [I] think provide the best solution for the given challenge.” Additionally, I am asked to “provide examples of the use of these technologies…that showcase how these technologies have been successfully used in distance learning.” (Walden Course Project Assignment).

Tackling the Problem

In our textbook this week, Simonson, Smaldino, Albright and Zvacek break down the process of choosing technology for a distance instructional situation into the following steps.

Step 1: Assess available instructional technologies.

Being somewhat of a technology-geek educator, I have a plethora of technologies swirling through my head at this point. But before I begin spitting out my favorite web 2.0 tools, let’s reassess the details of this situation. This is a “major corporation” and not a struggling public school or nonprofit, therefore they may be willing to purchase software to ensure a quality and consistent product rather than deal with the inevitable glitches of free web software. However, this business will likely want to use technology that has been proven effective in business environment, and will not be costly to implement. Furthermore, as the client has mentioned use of “screen captures,” I feel safe making the assumption that each office and possibly each individual has a computer with up-to-date hardware capabilities as well as a broadband internet connection.

Simonson et. al break down instructional technologies into telecommunication technologies and instructional technologies, and further explain the theory of Edgar Dale who posits through his cone of experience that there is a tension between efficiency and effectiveness when designing instruction; a designer should pick learning experiences that “are no more realistic than necessary in order for the outcomes to be achieved” (Simonson et. al, 2009, p.115). Therefore when considering the best tools for this training on the new automated staff system, I should choose the tools that will allow for the most efficient use of time–avoid having one trainer visit each office to train employees in person–but also provide as realistic experience with the learning as possible– don’t simply create a manual for each employee to read and then somehow figure out the system from that abstract experience.

Step 2: Determine the learning outcomes

This step is important for choosing the appropriate technology tool. Simonson et. al define learning outcomes as “those observable, measurable behaviors that are a consequence of online instruction” (Simonson et. al, 2009, p.116). In this scenario the learning outcomes would be the following:

  1. Employees demonstrate proficiency in using the new automated staff information system in daily tasks to collaborate with other employees on relevant projects.
  2. Employees demonstrate proficiency in using screen capture and collaboration software to enhance collaboration through the staff information system.

Step 3: Identify learning experiences and match each to the most appropriate available technology.

The scanario clearly states that employees participating in this training should not be passive learners, but rather actively engaging in sharing documents and presentations to convey information to each others. The learning experience desired seems to necessitate a constructivist approach in which the learning experience is highly differentiated (students are working on different tasks), highly autonomous (students have choices), grouped by task rather than ability, and assessed on individual progress and mastery with varied time lines according to student needs (Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler, 2008).

Another aspect of this learning experience is that it needs to accommodate for physical distance, time distance and a high transactional distance between the students and instructor. Discussions need to be conducted asynchronously and virtually rather than through a video chat or conference call.

The two technology tools that I believe will best match the learning objectives, the learning experience, and the available technology are Google Docs and Camtasia Studio.

Google Apps

Google Apps is a free software suite built for collaboration and sharing on a variety of information platforms. The Apps suite includes email, calendars, website hosting, and the docs collaboration set. For the purposes of this scenario, I’m going to focus on the Google doc capabilities. See the video below for a brief explanation of its collaboration capabilities.

In the Google docs suite, collaborators can work synchronously and asynchronously from any geographic location on a variety of documents and presentations. By visiting this YouTube channel, one can see a brief overview of Google docs, presentations, forms, drawings and spreadsheets. Virtually any way an individual would want to organize and communicate information could be done through the variety of offerings through Google apps with the minimal requirements of a computer with internet access as well as a unique username and password for the account.

The interface is user friendly, and allows great autonomy for learners to choose the way in which they want to participate and communicate their ideas and information.  In this particular scenario, Google docs would allow for continuous collaboration among all six regional offices. The trainer could post instructional materials in a variety of ways that the learners could then interact with and discuss among themselves. The cost is appealing to a company who is looking for efficient training with a low impact to their overall profitability. But, as I mentioned earlier, companies want to know that they are choosing a proven and highly regarded tool. The following videos offer insight into how companies are using Google Apps in their workplace for collaboration and training and educators are using Google Apps in distance learning.

Camtasia Studio: Screen Capture Software

My second technology recommendation is not free, but is a powerful tool for collaboration and training. Trainers can record video presentations by capturing both the instructor and the presentation slides, documents or web resources and allowing this video to be shared in a variety of formats. Learners can view these videos multiple times for understanding, and watch them at any time that is convenient to them. In this way, Camtasia offers the asynchronous training opportunity that also saves time and money by allowing one trainer to deliver the same message to all employees. Additionally, the materials follow the constructivist learning environment that this company seems to want for its employees: learners have autonomy through viewing materials individually, at their own pace and in their own environment; learners have differentiation by viewing as many training modules as necessary and reviewing the presentations at whatever pace is best for their learning style; and learners will be evaluated on their ability to use the information presented in a relevant and individual outcome rather than a public performance.

Camtasia screen-captures also provide as real of an experience as possible without wasting the resources of time, travel expense, and equipment for a trainer to provide instruction in a physical space. Overall, this technology tool seems to perfectly match the learning objectives and environment.

This Camtasia Homepage provides a variety of resources to not only explain the product (better than I ever could!) but also provide testimonials and ideas for its use in both business and education. The images below provide a glimpse of what this screen capture software can provide for the learner.

In this image, the screen capture is instructing a student using annotation boxes (peach) and a split screen between two excel spreadsheets.
In this screen capture, a blogger demonstrates how Camtasia Studio software can be used to instruct on building a website
This image demonstrates how both the screen content and the instructor are present in a screen capture.

Resources and References

Ormond, J., Schunk, D., Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Custom ed.) New York, New York: Laureate.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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