Application: Blog—Selecting Distance Learning Technologies for a
Collaborative Training Environment
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.
This scenario is precisely like one I was exposed to a few years ago. My brother in-law is the head of a human resources department for a large software company. He came to me with a training program widely used for his staff throughout the world. His frustration was that it was “boring” and did not engage the learner. He wanted me to evaluate it and provide some insight. This was before I had enrolled in the Instructional Design course at Walden University but he knew about my history of being a distance learner. The information was vital for the employees to learn and like this scenario, for them to transfer the knowledge to their fellow employees as well. The problem was that it was presented in a pedestrian way with a PowerPoint presentation that was made up of cartoon characters and silly word animation. The presentation did present the material but in a way that made a grown adult agonize about participating in.
While similar, the scenario presented this week needs to be implemented in six offices and it needs to be asynchronous by nature. While I need to be in charge of a training workshop in these offices, I also need to ensure that the staff members being training can share information with their colleagues who are not physically present. In this day and age, that seems quite straightforward. I need to ensure that these professionals can collaborate and in order to ensure this I need to implement distance learning technologies. Distance learning is one of the fastest growing areas in education (Moore & Tait, 2002) and developments in computer science and information and communications technologies have spurred the growth.
Given that this is a professional training we have a lot of educational technologies at our fingertips. I feel this notion of distance education should incorporate a way for the students to engage in discussion with one another and that can be accomplished through a multimedia program. One that involves chat, discussion boards and other ways for the participants to interact with one another. I would implement the wiki OpenTeams (http://www.openteams.com) and a collaborative concept mapping site, Thinkature (http://thinkature.com). Both of these technologies offer collaboration tools that can be used in distance training programs. The Open Teams platform is a great tool for the team members to share documents and to edit and work together effectively. However, it does not really allow for the users to incorporate images, audio or video. This is precisely why I would use Thinkature. Thinkature allows for a computer mediated group. Research has shown that these systems increase the quality of decisions, facilitate a more equal participation, and encourage groups to stay focused on tasks (Finholt and Teasley, 1998).
These tools will allow my students who are participating in the training to interact with each other but most importantly to collaborate. They will be able to exchange ideas and concepts with one another and gain a clearer understanding of how others process information and even receive it. This, in turn, will allow them to pass on their gained knowledge to their peers that they work with face-to-face.
Finholt, TA, & Teasley SD (1998). Psychology: The Need for Psychology in Research on Computer Supported Coopereative Work. Social Science Review, 16: 40-52.
Moore, M. & Tait, A. (2002). Open and Distance Learning: Trends, Policy and Strategy Considerations. UNESCO, Division of Higher Education. Retrieved January 22, 2016 from http://unesdoc.unesco.org