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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Selecting Distance Learning Technlogies

Asynchronous Training Scenario

In an effort to improve its poor safety record, a biodiesel manufacturing plant needs a series of safety training modules. These stand-alone modules must illustrate best practices on how to safely operate the many pieces of heavy machinery on the plant floor. The modules should involve step-by-step processes and the method of delivery needs to be available to all shifts at the plant. As well, the shift supervisors want to be sure the employees are engaged and can demonstrate their learning from the modules.

Before I propose a solution, I would want to find out if the actual cause for the poor safety record is related to employees not properly trained on how to safely operate the equipment. I would conduct a performance analysis and observe the employees at work using each of the machinery. I would also check out the work environment, each machine and conduct employee interviews to see what they can provide on what they believe is the cause of the poor safety record. Once the analysis is done and it shows that safety is a problem, then I can start designing a solution. Since the course would have to be available for employees on all shifts, I would recommend an asynchronous type e-learning course. I would set up a two phase training to ensure employees understand the safety procedures on each equipment. The first part would be the online training and the second part would involve an actual equipment hands on portion where the employees would demonstrate and be certified they can perform the safety procedures by an experienced shift supervisor.

The online portion would involve several modules of instructions on each piece of equipment. The modules would show each task needed to be performed to safely to operate each equipment. The best approach to show a task oriented process such as teaching proper safety procedures on equipment is to have a course that has a combination multimedia approach. People learn better from both words and pictures (Mayer, 2009). Employees should be able to get a visual of the safety procedures they must follow along with narration explaining each process. The best way to capture this is by making a video for each piece of equipment with a subject matter expert explaining all the safety procedures involved for the equipment. The video would be added to each equipment module in the e-learning course by converting them to a Flash video or a YouTube type. It’s also important to just provide the relevant information in the videos as well as throughout the course. People learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included (Mayer, 2009). In the video as well as the course in general you want to just give information explaining and related to safety procedures. You don’t want to start giving extra info not relevant to safety such as tips on how to use the equipment since the objective of the course are equipment safety procedures.

Next the course needs to be engaging. A reason for ineffective e-learning is that courses are rushed to be made and the learning is not reinforced by some type of application (Hamtinin, 2008). This will be accomplished in two ways. First, a simulation will be added to each of the equipment modules where the employees can practice what they saw in the videos by doing the safety procedures on each machinery in a simulated computer based environment. These simulations can be created using NGRAIN simulation software or if on a tight budget for this project, Adobe Captivate will work also. The difference between NGRAIN and Captivate is that NGRAIN can provide high quality interactive 3D images that can be rotated and taken apart. After they complete the online course they will start the second phase of their training and the second application. This is when they would be turned over to their shift supervisor and would demonstrate what they learned on the actual equipment. This will ensure that they can perform what they learned on the online course and the performance can be certified by the shift supervisor. This dual channel training should help the company improve their safety record.

Adobe Captivate 7. (2013). Retrieved July 19, 2013, from http://www.adobe.com/products/captivate.html

Hamtini, T.M. (2008). Evaluating E-learning Programs: An adaptation of Kirkpatrick’s Model to accommodate e-learning environments. Journal of Computer Science, 4(4), 693-698. Retrieved from Education Research Complete Database

Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia Learning (2nd ed.) New York/NY: Cambridge University Press

NGRAIN. (2013). Retrieved July 19, 2013, from http://www.ngrain.com/

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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in EDUC 6135 Distance Learning

 

Defining Distance Learning

What is distance education? What does the future hold for distance learning? In this blog I explore the meaning of distance education as well as what the future holds for it. The definition of distance learning has different meaning to different people and even articles on distance learning vary in their definition. The different delivery medium is probably the main reason for different definition and views of distance learning.

When I initially think of distance learning, I see it as e-learning or internet based training. Asynchronous and synchronous type internet training is what I picture when I hear the term distance learning. I probably thought that this was all that defined distance learning because that is the type of training I work developing and is probably the most popular type of distance learning that is currently used today. It wasn’t till I read the history of distance learning in our textbook that I realized that there was more to distance learning then just internet based training. I had forgotten that before computers were popular that there was a type of distance learning that was done through the mail known as correspondence courses. Correspondence type training can be delivered through mail by letters, by audio through tapes or CD’s, and by video through VHS tapes or DVD’s. This type of distance learning still exists today. In the Air Force they still used mail type correspondence training. Airmen in the Air Force need to take and pass what is called Career Development Courses (CDC’s) to advance from apprentice to journeyman. The CDC’s are paper based and are delivered through the mailing system. There are also still colleges and other institutes that offer courses by using and provide instructional material through the mail or video media. Other forms of distance learning that are rarely considered is a programmed television course on a public access channel or a university channel. One thing for sure is that there is more to distance learning then just the type that is found on the internet.

Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek (2012)  define distance learning as an institution based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors. Looking at this definition makes distance learning into something very complicated but I look at distance learning as something that’s simpler.  The definition of distance learning that I came up with is learning that takes place by instruction that is delivered at a distance through various medium. I like this definition because it covers a lot of delivery methods of distance learning. I also think the most important thing is that learning is taking place. A lot of people don’t consider YouTube being distance learning but I think it is because lots of people use it to learn how to do various things. YouTube is not different from having a video showing teaching you how to do something.

Distance learning has evolved through time and advancements in technology have helped to change it. We have seen distance learning go from letter type, video through VHS or DVD, audio such tapes, CD’s, all the way to what we have now which is computer internet based training. Today distance learning is expanding into our cell phones into what is called mobile learning or m-learning. The rise of smart phones has made it a great tool to deliver distance learning. Virtual worlds such as Second Life have also provided another great medium to deliver distance learning. Many colleges and universities have set up campuses in Second Life. It is as close to a traditional classroom as you can get using a computer. Holograms are an up and coming technology which I believe will have an effect on distance learning. Japanese Scientist has already created touchable holograms (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3seTlvQtIgc). Once this technology is fully developed I believe it will change distance learning and take it to a new level. Just imagine distance learning courses where you can manipulate the image you see in a 3D environment.

As you can see the delivery medium of distance learning is what complicates and gives it different meaning to different folks. With the upcoming advancements in technology the definition and the way distance learning is delivered will continue to change. Regardless of these changes the most important thing is that another avenue is available to educate and teach.

NTDTV (2009).Japanese Scientists Create Touchable Holograms. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3seTlvQtIgc

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance – Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

DistanceLearningMindMap