Expert Panel: The Next Evolution in eLearning – 2008 and Beyond
These are my liveblogged notes from the opening presentation of the WebEx/eLearning Guild Online eLearning Summit. My comments are in italics.
- Brent Schlenker, the Emerging Technologies Analyst, The eLearning Guild
- Dr. Michael Allen, Chairman and CEO, Allen Interactions Inc.
- Jennifer Hofmann, President, InSync Training
Q: Where do creative ideas for e-learning come from? How do they develop and why?
A (MA): He tries to collect the best examples because we need better models for what we do. There are exciting things being done out there. You can use the ID models to collect information, but then you have to ask what you do with it. Too often, e-learning just ends up being putting content on the screen.
We used to say “Knowledge is power.” Now he feels that knowledge is nice, but skills are power. Knowledge alone isn’t enough unless you can do something with it.
CCAF: 4 components of Interactivity
Start at the end–what skills do you want learners to apply right after the training. That leads you to the activities you will create as the performance practice. Practice is often underrated. Just recognizing good performance isn’t the same as doing it; you can recognize a great violinist without ever picking up a bow. I like this metaphor for learning by doing.
What kind of challenges are people really up against? What kind of messy problems do they really have? It isn’t interesting to solve boring problems, so give them a meaningful context. Feedback should let students see what the effects of their actions are. Don’t just tell them it’s nice; show them the impact of their choices. Some delay in feedback can also be good; in the real world feedback isn’t always immediate. The effects of our actions take longer to appear.
Work backwards, and keep working backwards. Start with the final piece, then create the enabling piece, then keep going backwards doing this cycle each time.
He thinks that many people can do this, but they have trouble coming up with the idea to start.
Similar to the Stephen Covey “begin with the end in mind”; you have to know where you’re going. Learning too often starts with the boring facts and background that you have to trudge through before getting to the good stuff.
Is there risk to putting students in a situation without having all the background info? Yes, there is, but he’s a believer in that. Giving them some risk makes it engaging so they appreciate the guidance and learning.
Q: If you had a magic wand to make e-learning more effective what would it be?
A (JH): She wishes she did have a magic wand. She wants to move things from just presentations to true learning. If you want quality online learning, go back to what works. Meet the same learning objectives that you meet face-to-face.
About 30% of learners are auditory–not a majority–yet we do auditory lectures rather than hands on training. Too much talking at people.
What about using breakout rooms to do small groups? That lets the participants help create the content and learn from one another than just listen to experts talk. They can listen to recordings of experts; let them use synchronous time to work together.
Instructors are afraid of losing control. Try sending students out online to search or research and bring content back to share with the class.
Leader materials: InSync has full-blown leader materials with activities rather than just slides. Most people just do slides, and slides make experts talk more rather than encouraging participation.
Participant guides: Not just the slides, or people won’t interact during the session.
Collaborative tools are underutilized in synchronous classrooms. Training is mostly an interactive and human event. Make sure people get the training to know how to use the software–companies spend lots of money buying software that people don’t even know how to get the most out of it. Teach people the etiquette of being participants–how to ask questions, how to raise their hands, how to participate.
How do you judge the “body language in the bandwidth”? You can’t see whether people are paying attention or not by body language, so you have to use other methods.
Rehearse for online presentations and design for learning just like you would for face-to-face. If you don’t rehearse and design, it isn’t the technology’s fault if it doesn’t go well.
Train manager too; they need to know how to be coaches for online learners. Give them the tools to support learners.
Watching someone else create something isn’t the same as doing it yourself. Creative design may be needed to get hands-on practice.
Online classrooms aren’t about putting content online so people can see it and read it; it’s about the interaction between people.
This webinar is informative, not really training because it isn’t really interactive. In real training, keep students active every 3-5 minutes so they do something–even if it’s just clicking a green checkmark.
Lots of people don’t use the full capability and value of online training, but blame the technology for any problems.
Q: What do you see as the emerging technologies that can really bring e-learning to life? Where are we headed?
A: One answer is that all of the technologies help empower our learners. This is a human process; we’re talking about connecting people so they can learn together. Whatever technology you’re talking about, it’s about connecting people for learning.
Blogs, wikis, RSS have been talked about before, but they will become more mainstream. Organizations have struggled with what this means to them, but the technology has taken a stronger foothold and innovative companies have proved they can work.
Social networking gives learners and employees a voice and empowers them. Every company orientation says employees will be empowered, but most of the time there aren’t really channels to do that. The technology can provide those channels and change the organizations. Who is allowed to speak out? Now, everyone can go out and talk. How much do you allow employees to talk publicly? Learners are taking more control in general.
Two personalities: the ones who understand how to go out and get their own needs met, and the ones who still want to have their hands held and be shown what to do. Technology can help both.
We can design so learners can eventually take responsibility for themselves; ultimately they have to engage themselves.
Mobile devices will have a strong sense of location with them (GPS, bar code scanning). As you walk around in the environment, mobile devices will detect where you are and decide what you might need to know. Instead of just-in-time learning, this is almost just-in-place learning.
There have been failures with these technologies. We’re trying to use radically different technologies without changing the organizational structure, and that won’t work. These technologies have major changes.
We create these online artifacts–they should have all of these features to be powerful:
He includes commenting as “editable”; maybe there’s a better word for this. Comments and interactions are included in that editing. Hmmm…. I like these 5 characteristics as a whole though. It’s a nice summary of what makes the Web 2.0.
Someone in your organization has seen the power of these technologies and can convince others. This technology doesn’t work well from the top down as a mandate. Having some champions for the technology is good.
Don’t use the technology because it’s cool; use it because it’s the right solution for your organization. (Moderator)
Many of these technologies are fairly inexpensive, so you can get a lot of value out of a technology even if it changes quickly. If you wait too long to try things, you’ll miss getting that value. Let your employees experiment and see what they can do; you don’t lose as much by investing in trying new stuff as you would have with older software.
Q for Michael Allen: What guide do you recommend for starting with the end result?
A: Happy to throw out the crutches we’ve used in the past, like starting every unit with objectives that make sense to designers. You can write objectives in a different way so they fit with a context of why you want to learn something. There are better ways to do some of the things we’ve been doing. You can just throw some of that out though. Think like a learner. Give them a challenge at the beginning so they experience what they have to learn instead of just telling them what they need to learn.
Q for Michael Allen: What types of learning does this apply to?
A: Procedural is a good fit. He uses it for soft skills and problem solving; he’s had success teaching sales skills. This type of approach isn’t aligned to just one type of learning, but works for many types of learning.