Sunday, January 25, 2015

EDUC 6135 - Week 3 - Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

Example 1: 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.

Example one is actually very commonplace in the workforce. There are many companies that have multiple offices in different locations, so there is always a need to figure out how to stay consistent in training. When there are hundreds of employees (or even just a few in different places), it can be difficult to get everybody together at the same time to have a meeting. There are many things to consider, such as time zones, general work schedules, and holidays. While no solution will be perfect, there are a few options to make training in different locations easier to manage.

I would first suggest using a teleconference tool. Cisco’s WebEx is widely used, and while it’s not free, it may be good to invest in it so that the training can be repeated yearly, or for any new employees. In order to make the workshop most convenient for everyone involved, I would propose that a sign-up sheet be emailed to employees with multiple time slots for each location so that every employee can choose a time to be sure to receive the training. Once all the information is uploaded, the training can be repeated as many times as necessary. I have actually used this tool as a recruiter when I was onboarding new employees; I can say that it was an effective tool, and I definitely recommend it as a conferencing option.

Brecht (2012) states the following in his article:
Video conferencing is saving businesses time and money; it helps businesses hold meetings and conduct interviews without leaving the workplace. Also, it prevents time-consuming travel and high travel costs to meet others in different areas.  Simply said, videoconferences provide a cost-effective solution to connect people (using advanced technology, software and a network) and bring them together for face-to-face communication or online conferencing wherever they are. (para. 2)

In addition to being a useful tool in the workplace, WebEx is also used by schools for video conferencing in classrooms. Old Dominion University uses it and has created a user guide for the students (Web Conferencing Reference Guide, 2015).

While many people do not consider SharePoint specifically a distance learning technology, I feel I must point out that it is a great tool for this purpose. I work for the Department of State where we train thousands of people a year, and I can say from experience that we use SharePoint on a daily basis for just about everything. In fact, we are the number one user of SharePoint outside of Microsoft itself. SharePoint is so common in today’s workplace that “one in two corporations are now using SharePoint Server and in 22% of the companies, every employee uses this popular Microsoft collaboration tool” (Kerr, 2011, para. 2). If used correctly, SharePoint can be a truly invaluable tool – especially when it comes to bridging location gaps.

Any kind of documents can be hosted on the site, so any and all employees in any location can look up the paperwork they need at any time. This saves the human resources department from fielding phone calls about important paperwork. SharePoint’s use and access does not end in the United States. In England, At the Cheltenham Ladies’ College, all documents are uploaded to a SharePoint site for the students to access, especially in the case that a student will be away for a “prolonged period of time” (Distance Learning, n.d.).


Brecht, D. (2012, March 2). Video conferencing: Benefits in the workplace. Retrieved from TMCnet website:

Distance learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Cheltenham Ladies' College website:

Kerr, L. (2011). Fortune 500 companies using SharePoint. Retrieved January 25, 2015, from Top SharePoint website:

Web conferencing reference guide. (2015). Retrieved from Old Dominion University website:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

EDUC 6135 - Week 1 - Defining Distance Learning

I used to take distance learning at face value. I never thought about what goes into it in order to create a learning experience that’s available to people wherever convenient for them. I searched for a formal definition of distance learning, and this is what I found: “a method of studying in which lectures are broadcast or classes are conducted by correspondence or over the Internet, without the student's needing to attend a school or college. Also called distance education.” I agree with this very basic definition of the phrase, but what stuck out most to me is that the definition clearly states that it can also be called distance education.

After reading through this week’s discussion posts, Marina reminded me that in a previous class we talked about the difference between learning and education. After some reflection, I feel that distance learning cannot be called distance education. Learning can take place anywhere (reading a book, watching television, listening to a lecture, etc), but education is something that the learner wants. The learner must be invested in his or her own education; they usually take it upon themselves to facilitate knowledge.

I believe a person’s view on what distance learning is can be impacted by many different factors. As an undergraduate student I saw it as something that allowed me to complete classes without actually sitting in class (and, honestly, still see it that way on occasion). I had no technical knowledge of what distance learning was – to me, it involved a computer, a textbook, and an Internet connection. As I’ve matured (in general and because of work experience), I’ve grown to have a better understanding of what distance learning is. Or, maybe I should say I’ve grown to learn a new, expanded definition. Since beginning a job where I work with a team of distance learning professionals, I’ve come to appreciate the amount of work that happens before a student can access a module online.  

I did used to believe that distance learning was as simple as listening to lectures or completing assignments in the comfort of my own home (or dorm room), but after gaining more insight and studying this program, I realize it’s more than that. Distance learning is an instructor taking the time to put together a well informed lesson, it’s a student wanting to read the content so that they do well on the quiz, and it’s a new way of promoting topics to those who ordinarily may not have access to a classroom training.

Distance learning is constantly evolving. There will always be new, better ways to do something, and views will always change. Some people in the field might be of “old school” beliefs, which can lead to some pushback on revising delivery methods, while others in the field are fresh out of school with brand new ideas. These people are the innovators – without them, the field of instructional design and technology would never move forward. If we allow more of these types of people to come in and make improvements and try new things, the field can only improve. Some new ideas may fail, but we can learn from our mistakes and advance the field even more. When I imagine my future in instructional design and specifically distance learning, I see more use of technology, more of a sense of community, less laziness on the part of instructors, and a more effective way of delivering lessons to students who are actually interested in their education.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.