Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

The scenario – 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.

The proposed solution – the scenario presents the challenge of training employees located in different places and at different times necessitating the distant-time (DT) and distance place (DP) instruction/training approach; trainees/employees must be able to choose “when and where to learn and when and where to access instructional materials.” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012, p.10).  In addition, collaboration among the staff is critical. The technologies proposed therefore, need to allow for greater interaction and collaboration among trainees (employees) to enhance the learning experience. Additional consideration is the level of complexity, in terms of user-friendliness, of the technology.  I am proposing two technology tools that are sophisticated yet easy to use, and provide a highly collaborative environment. Let’s check them out.

Schoology – is a cloud-based instructional technology, a course management system (CMS).  Schoology facilitates collaborative learning by securely connecting learners in various locations and various time zones, with an intuitive, easy-to-use collaborative interface.  It allows integration of various multimedia (web 2.0) for discussions, assignments, sharing of documents/files, and for other aspect of the learning process, thereby, fostering the “essence of learner-centered” instruction. (Simonson, et al 2012, p.129).  Its features include: video/audio recording, customizable course WebPages, aggregated calendars, rich text editor, integration with other applications (Google Apps for example), and native mobile applications (for learning on the go).  (Schoology, 2013).  Watch Schoology’s brief introduction video below.

In the given scenario, the instructional designer will deliver the training through Schoology.  The design will include a discussion board where employees can ask questions and/or share ideas about the workshop, videos or graphics that demonstrate the use of the new system, assignments, and simulation exercises/activities, and/or tests to assess the employees’ progress in the training.  Each employee/trainee will create an account (user id and password) for access to Schoology, and attend the workshop from anywhere, anytime, and on any device, eliminating the concern over conducting the training at the same time and the same place.  For examples of application of Schoology, check out Schoology deserves stamp of approval (Atlas, 2012), and Palo Alto Schools Just Bet Big On Schoology (Edick, 2012).  Additionally, you may want to read about case studies and success stories of using Schoology here.

Teambox – is a cloud based collaboration tool.  Described as “the box to rule all boxes” (Endler, 2012) in Information Week, Teambox is a combination of a dropbox and a project management tool. It offers versatile functionalities for efficient collaboration (synchronously or asynchronously) among teams via group chat, conversations (discussions), wiki-style pages, note taking and emails all using rich text (bolding, italicizing, etc.), images, videos, files (including screen captures), and documents.  Teambox supports various mobile devices for “productivity” on the go.  The system is multi-lingual, and customizable to meet the client’s needs. Its interface is easy to use, thus minimizing learner’s/user’s frustration with adaptation of the technology. Documents and files can be shared with others even if they are not a Teambox user. It seamlessly integrates with Google docs, Gmail, and Google Calendar.  (Teambox, n.d.).  Here are several case studies indicating the successful application of Teambox.

In the given scenario, Teambox would be where employees share project documents and files, create and manage tasks, collaboratively create and/or edit documents, and set up live group chats – all relevant to the workshop/training.  To begin using Teambox each employee/trainee will need to create an account (user id and password) in Teambox.  The College of Agricultural Sciences department at Penn State University has created an excellent “how to” guide for users of Teambox.  Click here to see the page.

One of Bates’ proposed “golden rules” for the use of technology is that “interaction is essential.”  (Simonson et al, 2012, p.173).  Teambox provides sophiscated and efficient interaction functionalities. For the given scenario, schoology and teambox complement each other; while schoology addresses the “instructional” aspect, Teambox augments the collaboration requirements (for training, and work).

Thank you,

Marta

References

Atlas, B. (2012). Schoology deserves stamp of approval. The Oracle. Retrieved on February 13, 2013, from http://gunnoracle.com/2012/10/schoology-deserves-stamp-of-approval/ 

Edick, H. (2012). Palo Alto Schools Just Bet Big On Schoology. Edudemic. Retrieved on February 13, 2013, from http://edudemic.com/2012/01/schoology-revisited/

Endler, M. (2012). One Box To Rule Them All. Information Week.  Retrieved on

January 24, 2013, from http://www.informationweek.com/cloud-computing/software/8-cloud-tools-for-road-warriors/240142591?pgno=7

Endler, M. (2012). One Box To Rule Them All. Information Week.  Retrieved on January 24, 2013, from http://www.informationweek.com/cloud-computing/software/8-cloud-tools-for-road-warriors/240142591?pgno=7

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning   at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. (5th ed.).  Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

Schoology (2013). Why Schoology. Retrieved on January 24, 2013, from https://www.schoology.com/learning-management-system.php

Teambox (n.d.). The most complete collaboration tool. Retrieved on January 24, 2013, from http://teambox.com/

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