Converting to a Distance Learning

Preplanning-01

Scenario

A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.

Pre-planning Strategies

Involve the learner

Do not just the future learners but also the learners who have previously completed the standard training program. Ask the past learners what was successful and what was confusing, laborious, or didn’t contribute to job performance. After you have solicited input from the current employees, look for ways to involve the learner outside of the standard classroom or via on the job training environment. Think beyond just reading procedures and watching videos. Instructors can incorporate authentic activities that connect real-world relevance and content knowledge. Authentic activities can range from examining case studies to creating problem-based scenarios in which the students research the problem and create solutions or address gaps within the problem (Rottmen and Rabidoux, 2017).

Promote Collaboration

Blended learning is different as part of the course is asynchronous – where the learner drives and participates online – but this doesn’t mean they are alone. Early collaboration and team work can be enhanced using a blended format that utilizes various forms of communication with fellow learners and instructors throughout the course. Assigning group projects that allow learners to pair up and use numerous communication channels like email, discussion boards, video conferencing, group phone calls, etc. promotes cross-collaboration and communication adaptability. For example, an instructor might assign a section of learners to a project so each can contribute something different. This allows other team members to collectively create a final product/project.

Develop a clear roles and structure

The role of an instructor who is transitioning to a blended course remains the same; however, it must be communicated on various platforms. In case it is easy to establish a role as an instructor but online you must function as a virtual moderator, technology help desk, and the voice of reason. Creating a course that has a simple structure, easy to access content helps contribute to a holistic feel will help aid in intuitive navigation and clear learner expectations.  An effective way to develop learning modules is by planning backwards. Instructors can look at all the content they want to cover, and then identify thematic chunks of information. The thematic chunks become units or learning modules that are a short-term approach to long-term planning (Rottmen and Rabidoux, 2017).

Online Communication

When communicating online with learners you must ensure that your contact information and availability are prominently posted and easy to access. Further, put some personal flair there and write up a brief “About the Instructor” section. In Kristen Wilson’s article, Best Practices for Communicating with Students in Online Classes, she says to set expectations for how quickly you will respond to e-mail. (e.g. most instructors find 48 hours is reasonable). The same holds true when sharing a phone number and be sure to let learners know if they can text you! Lastly, don’t forget about social media. If you choose to engage via Twitter, Facebook, etc. ensure to set expectations and reasonable boundaries so you are not at every learner’s beckon call.

 

Rottmann, A., & Rabidoux, S. (2017, March 15). 4 Expert Strategies for Designing an Online Course. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital learning/advice/2017/03/15/4-expert-strategies-designing-online-course

Wilson, K. (2017, May 30). Best Practices for Communicating With Students in Online Classes SPS | Distance Learning. Retrieved from https://dl.sps.northwestern.edu/blog/2017/05/best-practices-communicating-students-online-classes/

 

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