This week we explored the use of technology in distance education. In our learning resources Simonson, et al. (2012) pointed out that “the key to success in an online classroom is not which technologies are used, but how they are used and what information is communicated using the technologies” (p.115). There are advantages and limitations of different technologies that can be used when developing an online course. As an instructional designer it is important to be aware of these when selecting the most appropriate technologies that can effectively serve the purpose of meeting the course outcomes and meeting the needs of the learners.
In being presented with a scenario of creating an asynchronous training for a biodiesel manufacturing plant I approached selecting appropriate technologies by first examining what the purpose of the training was. I then considered the unique needs of the learners and the context in which the training would take place. The course outcomes of this asynchronous training would require that the learners gain the knowledge and skills needed to safely operate heave machinery within the plant in order to improve the organization’s safety record. These course outcomes would need to be supported by activities that would enable the employees to successfully achieve them (Simonson, et al., 2012). Because there are different shifts of employees needing to complete the training it would need to be facilitated as an asynchronous learning opportunity where the employees could complete the course modules at different times.
Approaching this scenario as an instructional designer I would select the use of a learning content management system (LCMS) which Simonson, et al (2012) identifies as being the corporate equivalent to a course management system (CMS) for delivery of corporate training. The use of the LCMS would accommodate the asynchronous needs of the learners within this context so that the course modules could be completed at different times during the shift so as to not impact productivity on the plant floor. Many of the examples in our learning resources this week were CMS options that were geared toward K-12 education. In reviewing the options and reflecting on my experiences in a corporate environment there were some options that would also be appropriate for use in a business or corporate setting such the biodiesel scenario. A few examples of these are Canvas, EDU 2.0, and CourseSites (Capozzoli, n.d.). These examples would provide an opportunity to fully customize and deliver course content and activities to meet the course outcomes of an asynchronous safety training at the biodiesel manufacturing plant. The option I would use in this scenario if the organization was not already utilizing a LMS would be EDU 2.0 as it functions as a LMS that would be useful for tracking the learning needs and outcomes of employees as well as having the capability of delivering content for the training course with fully integrated features that would help the employees successfully achieve learning outcomes (EDU 2.0., n.d.). Another benefit of delivering the course content through a CMS would be the opportunity to create different learning modules. The training course could be set up to use hypercontent-designed instruction where the employees would determine the order in which they completed the topics (Simonson, et al., 2012). This would be useful for this scenario as the employees could start first with completing the modules that addressed the machinery that they most frequently use in their immediate roles on the job.
Some of the technology features integrated through a tool such as EDU 2.0 is the ability to deliver multimedia presentations and create assessments. In selecting media for the training course it would be important to consider the context, the content, the outcomes, and the learners (Simonson, et al., 2012). It is also important to ensure that the quality of the media selected is engaging and technically sound (Simonson, et al., 2012). For this particular safety training scenario I would use step-by-step instructional videos. This could be achieved through the use of video editing software to show employees how to safely use the machinery as well as potentially provide an animated demonstration on the potential dangers that can occur when the machinery is not used effectively. There are many software options available for producing and editing high quality instructional videos such Windows Movie Maker or iMoviee (Widder, 2013). These software programs allow the user to easily edit videos and save them in a format needed for exporting either to DVD, saving to the user’s desktop, or uploading to sites such as YouTube or Vimeo (Widder, 2013). One particular example that I have personally used is the tutorials created by Lynda.com (n.d.). Videos that are available on this website are excellent examples of how step-by-step instructional videos can support an individual’s learning.
Another media option for enhancing learning through technology would be through the use of a simulation through a virtual world. Virtual worlds are useful for allowing the learner to experience real-life practical application of course content that may not be otherwise easily accessible by the learner (Simson, et al., 2012). Virtual reality simulations have been proven to be successful in other contexts such as the medical field where nurses or doctors can experience a model of a scenario that might be challenging or too risky to recreate in real life. For example Farra, Miller, Timm, and Schafer (2012) completed a study on implementing virtual reality disaster training for nurses that proved to be successful in improving the nurse’s learning of the disaster training course content. In the scenario I am examining of training the biodiesel plant employees, a virtual reality simulation could be used to assess the employees by placing them in a real-life scenario virtually. They could exhibit the use of the machinery without the risks associated with having employees demonstrate their knowledge on the actual machinery where if mistakes were made there could be risk of injury or damage to products. Virtual worlds are of course a challenging and costly technology to develop (Simonson, et al., 2012). If I were implementing a virtual world in a training course such as this scenario I would need to consider if the costs, time, and resources would be a worth the return on investment.
The technologies that I explored have the potential for effectively supporting the learning for a safety training course at a biodiesel plant. Whether choosing to use these technologies or any others I would need to ensure that they were developed and implemented in a way that maximized their potential for positively impacting the learners.
Capozzoli, C. (n.d.). Web 2.0 Resources for 21st century instruction. Retrieved from http://web20guru.com/resources/
EDU 2.0. (n.d.). LMS for business. Retrieved from http://www.edu20.org/info/business
Farra, S., Miller, E., Timm, N., & Schafer, J., (2012). Improved training for disasters using 3-d virtual reality simulation. Western Journal of Nursing Research. 35(5) 655-671.
Lynda.com. (n.d.). Learn software, business, and creative skills. Retrieved from http://www.lynda.com/
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
Widder, B. (2013, July 7) No Hollywood budget, no problem: 5 best free video editing programs. Retrieved from http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/best-free-video-editing-software/