Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

Midwest Biodiesel has had a rough year for safety. Executive management hired a training vendor to create a safety training program. The goal is to train all employees as quickly as possible and reduce accidents to zero. The training vendor will work with the subject matter experts on each piece of machinery to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) for safe operation of the equipment. The SOPs will be incorporated into eLearning modules using eLearning with short videos illustrating safe operation of equipment and assessments to measure learning at the end of the module. Remediation will be provided when assessment questions are answered incorrectly. Employees will complete the training in the Learning Management System (LMS). Supervisors will determine the courses required for each employee to ensure the correct courses are reflected in the LMS. Finally, supervisors will administer an on the job test to ensure proper operating procedures were mastered. The assessments should be administered on a yearly basis to ensure continued correct performance.

The two online strategies mentioned above are interactive videos and assessments. Videos satisfy several criteria for selecting media as mentioned by Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek (2015): videos provide accurate and technically correct demonstration of standard operating procedures in an unbiased fashion. Schwan & Riempp (2004) cite a study in which interactive videos – those which learners can start, stop, rewind, and replay – may accelerate skill acquisition. Harrison (2015) found that video alone could be confusing and students required a progress indicator. The online assessments with remediation will show students their progress. According to Di Challis (2005), self-assessment allows learners to “form a reasonable judgement about the extent to which they have met certain criteria and standards.” Once the learner has completed the modules with the required videos and assessments as specified in the LMS, he or she should be well prepared to take the practical on the job skill assessment given by the supervisor.


Challis, D. (2005). Committing to quality learning through adaptive online assessment. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 30(5), 519-527. doi:10.1080/02602930500187030

Harrison, D. J. (2015). Assessing experiences with online educational videos: Converting multiple constructed responses to quantifiable data. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 16(1) Retrieved from

Schwan, S., & Riempp, R. (2004). The cognitive benefits of interactive videos: learning to tie nautical knots. Learning and Instruction, 14(3), 293-305.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education.


Distance Learning: One Approach


“Distance education is still in its progressive and improvement stage” (Peerani,  2013). Distance learning is constantly changing because technology is constantly changing and by definition, technology is used to connect learners with resources and instructors (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015). In addition, knowledge of and capability to use technology will greatly influence a person’s  use of technology. Firmat (2013) found that educators who considered themselves proficient in technology were intensely engaged with that technology, but, trying to deal with everything resulted in lesser knowledge of everything and lack of mastery of anything. And finally, Zuckerman (2005) says that “Even the smallest one-room schoolhouse in the wilds can tap into great teaching on an infinite variety of subjects.” So even before the readings this week I had a very advanced expectation for the technologies used and the capabilities of distance learning. Consequently, my definition has not changed.

Essentially I feel that distance learning will have “made it” when we can recreate the technology implied in the Star Trek holodeck. In this fictional example, the person experiencing the holodeck cannot differentiate between reality and the simulation. According to Gaba (2004), participants in an immersive situation “easily
suspend disbelief and speak and act much as they do in their real jobs.” I believe this type of technology isn’t far off. So, what would we need to build such real life simulations for learning?

My idea is to combine technologies that currently exist with those that are new and evolving. We need to take augmented reality (AR), the combination of three-dimensional computer generated models and real time interaction (Perez-Lopez & Contero, 2013), and build a simulation. A virtual world such as Second Life, currently used in colleges and universities, provides the social learning aspect (Smith & Berge, 2009) of this proposed combination of technologies. In this world, users are represented by avatars and can do or be whatever they want. Holography provides the three dimensional component. Ghuloum feels that the possibilities of 3D Hologram Technology (3DHT) “are still largely untapped” (2010). Add, in gamification as proposed by McGonigal (2010), “many of us become the best version of ourselves, the most likely to help at a moment’s notice, the most likely to stick with a problem as long as it takes, to get up after failure and try again” – we engage in the “epic mission” which will ensure completion of the learning challenge.

Finally, the delivery mechanism for this concept would be the Massive Open Online Classroom (MOOC). According to Daniel, Cano & Cervera (2015), the problem with MOOCs currently is that the attrition rate is high and “they don’t promote adaptive and personalized learning.” The holodeck scenario would solve this problem; the learning now becomes interactive and very personal. And, it’s accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Welsh scientists are actually working on a machine that, while still very primitive, takes a step toward creating the holodeck (Devine, 2009). Their goal is to create a “virtual cocoon” to produce a “fully immersive perceptual experience” including smell, touch and taste. The software will have virtual tourism, business, and educational applications.


Barber, W., King, S., & Buchanan, S. (2014). Authentic Assessment in
Online Learning: Moving Beyond Text to Celebrate Multimodal Measures of Student
Achievement. Proceedings Of The International Conference On E-Learning, 15-21.

Daniel, S. J., Cano, E. V., & Cervera, M. G. (2015). The Future of MOOCs:
Adaptive Learning or Business Model?. RUSC: Revista De Universidad Y Sociedad
Del Conocimiento, 12(1), 64-73. doi:10.7238/rusc.v12i1.2475.

Devine, D. (2009, Mar 27). Star trek’s holodeck is virtually a reality. Western
Mail Retrieved from

USE: A CASE OF EDUCATORS. Journal Of Educators Online, 10(2), 1-20.

Ghuloum, H. (2010). 3D Hologram Technology in Learning Environment. Retrieved

Gaba, D. M. (2004). The future vision of simulation in health care. Quality
and Safety in Health Care, 13(suppl 1), i2-i10.

McGonigal, J. (March 17, 2010). Gaming can make a better world [Video file]
Retrieved from

Peerani, N. (2013). Barriers to distance learning: The educator’s viewpoint.
Distance Learning, 10(2), 29-33. Retrieved from

Perez-Lopez, D., & Contero, M. (2013). Delivering Educational Multimedia
Contents through an Augmented Reality Application: A Case Study on Its Impact
on Knowledge Acquisition and Retention. Turkish Online Journal Of Educational
Technology – TOJET, 12(4), 19-28.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning
at a distance: Foundations of distance education.

Smith, M., & Berge, Z. L. (2009). Social learning theory in Second Life.
Journal of online learning and teaching, 5(2), 439-445.

Zuckerman, M. B. (2005, October 10). Classroom Revolution. U.S. News & World
Report. p. 68.

Fitting the Pieces Together

This week I’m writing my blog from Jakarta, Indonesia. One of the problems with long flights is the lack of internet connectivity. Connectivism is no good unless you can connect.

Initially and without much knowledge of the various learning theories I assessed my learning style to be a constructivist approach. I still hold with that assessment. However, I realize that I’d better change pretty darn quickly to a connectivist approach. I really need to ramp up my use of online technology; especially since I’m pursuing a master’s degree in online learning.

There isn’t one learning theory that can adequately address how we learn so when designing a course, the best approach is to use a combination of activities from multiple learning theories. I noticed that the ways in which I learn come from a combination of learning styles. Although, constructivist type activities dominate the way in which I learn. My goal over the next 6 months is to transition to much more of an online connectivist type presence. While I use the internet all the time I need to incorporate virtual tools into the training I do.

In my train the trainer classes I’m always looking for examples of creative ways to teach technical concepts. The two sites – schoolsworldtv and – provide great examples. I should be able to find several appropriate examples from each of the sites to get the idea of creativity across. I’ll get the chance to test these sites out this week.

Online technologies do not play anywhere near a big enough part in my learning. That has certainly changed since I started my Master’s program. But I have a long way to go and a lot of exploring to do with regard to how I can incorporate more technology.

The first step is to develop a plan for incorporating more technology. I like the idea of a portfolio as described by Stansberry & Kymes (2007). However, I think I can modify the portfolio concept to suit my needs. I’ve put together an action plan to get myself more up to speed with the use of technological tools. The following list is an attempt to outline the steps for my plan.

  1. Post monthly on my blog. The initial topics will be based on research of new virtual techniques and ways to incorporate them into the training I do. Initial sources for ideas will come from the web sites and
    1. Pick an idea from one of the sites.
    2. Explore its use in instructional design or training.
  2. The NMC Horizon Report listed games and gamification as one of the tracked technologies. This topic has always interested me. It would be nice to have a collection of games that I can adapt to various topics. To further this endeavor I have a few things to do:
    1. Develop a list of resources on creating games.
    2. Explore tools to use in development such as Storyline and Flash.
  3. Research the use of holograms.
    1. Research the technology – can I build something?
    2. Investigate what’s out there currently – can I get it?

 The blog posts should be relatively easy to accomplish. The games should be fun but challenging and the holograms – who knows – those should be pretty darn exciting?


The New Media Consortium Publications:

Lim, C. P. (2004). Engaging learners in online learning environments. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 48(4), 16–23.

Web Site: Edutopia:

Stansberry, S., & Kymes, A. (2007). Transformative learning through “Teaching with Technology” electronic portfolios. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 50(6), 488–496.


Learning Mind Map

I love having all this information at my fingertips. Any question you need answered, anything you need to know how to do, anything you want to find is available via the Internet. It’s wonderful. I don’t know how I ever got on without it.

I hate having all this information at my fingertips. I am completely overwhelmed. I find a great link that leads to another great link that leads to yet another link and it doesn’t stop. I find an interesting topic on a blog which talks about another blog which mentions several other blogs. I read an informative article which suggests several other articles, each of which suggest yet more articles.

Sánchez et al (2008) suggest that technology enabled social interaction “covers all the functions” of face to face social interaction. And it very well may. The difference in face to face interactions is that the amount of information is manageable. With technology enabled distance learning the barrage is endless. My network has provided so much information that I have to learn to process it effectively.

Paulo (1999) asks “When is too much information detrimental and no longer powerful?” Paulo cites multiple references which indicate that information overload is a serious complaint.

I want to get to everything. Since that’s not possible, how do you figure out which items provide the most “bang for your buck?” Since blogs are more opinion than fact, is it better to focus on information from valid research such as in books, journals and white papers?

The online library provides so much information it’s a solid resource for me. There’s comfort in knowing that the information presented comes from resources who researched their work. The articles I’ve found have deepened my comprehension.

And then there are my questions on a topic. The Internet makes research easy. But, thorough research takes time. You really have to read between the lines when evaluating the opinions of others regarding a product or concept. And, is the material you’re finding leading to a proper conclusion? No – not necessarily.

I determined that I would buy software to simulate an interactive whiteboard. The new techy tool seemed to be just what I needed until I met a student who had a touch screen. The touchscreen eliminated the need for the expensive software and pen. Just talking to someone and seeing a better solution made the decision clear and easy. My research pointed to the wrong conclusion.

So how do you solve the problem of information overload? Like anything worthwhile you develop a process, practice the steps and hone it continually. The answers seem to be inherent in Connectivism (Davis et al, 2008):

  • Nurture and maintain your connections. Set time each week to review current connections and remove the old and obsolete.
  • Recognize useful connections. Set time to practice. Learn how and where to find valuable connections to add to your network. Devote time to seeking out new sources of information.
  • Develop a filter. Learn to be selective. If it adds value, keep it; if it doesn’t, discard it.

The common denominator in my steps is time. I think setting a reasonable time limit to work the connections will help. There is so much out there to learn and evaluate and time is finite. Adjusting to the amount of information and learning to manage it just takes practice.


Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Sánchez, A. C., Flores Ureña, J. D., Sánchez, R. C., Castellanos Gutiérrez, J. A. (2008). Knowledge Construction Through ICT’s: Social Networks

Paulo, H. F. (1999). Information overload in computer-mediated communication and education: Is there really too much information? Implications for distance education

Useful Strategies for Learning: Brain-based, Student-based and Neurological Tips

This exploration focuses on the brain and learning. For the most part, the articles I found advocate brain-based learning.
Brain-based learning theory is student centered and focuses on the brain. Freeman and Wash (2013) offer “brain-based strategies” for learning success.

Nixon (2012), on the other hand, says that brain based learning is unnecessary. He contends that we learn, not our brains and what we learn is a function of our life’s experiences.
Moffett and Fleisher present effective teaching methods from a neurological point of view.

I need tips, tricks and ideas for creating engaging training in which students learn. My impression is that brain based learning may be the latest “band wagon.” But, it doesn’t matter. I would like to take the strategies offered and adjust them in a way that makes sense for adult learners in a business environment. Combining ideas offered from the three sources provided the most comprehensive list. These suggestions should work in an instructor led environment or online.

1. Build community.
Adults must feel comfortable and safe if they are going to participate in class. I begin my classes with an activity that allows me to get to know my students. I need to learn a bit about their experience so I can adjust to their level and their expectations so I can meet them.

2. Teach to different skill levels, different types of learners (eager, uninterested, etc. ), and different learning styles (visual, auditory and kinesthetic).
My opening activity gives me an idea of skill levels. My course activities address types of learners and learning styles. I have to be prepared for someone who is completely unfamiliar with the new concepts or someone who is extremely experienced and needs tips and tricks from me. Activities should address visual learners (charts, graphics), auditory learners (discussion) and kinesthetic learners (hands on activities.)

3. Use group activities.
Group activities enhance class community, provide variety, and allow participants to learn among themselves. Groups encourage interaction and collaboration.

4. Chunk content.
Freeman and Wash suggest teaching in 15 minute increments. Whether our brains are doing the learning or we are, we can only absorb so much. Chunking is conducive to learning in either strategy.

5. Provide feedback.
Participants need to know how they are doing. This means, allow students to make mistakes. Errors strengthen neural connections.

6. Use music
I found this interesting. Using music to introduce a topic, playing soft music during group activities, and creating jungles to remember concepts are all creative methods of getting people to learn.

7. Provide learning activities that are relevant.
Participants must have time to practice what they’ve learned. They must be allowed to use the new knowledge which helps reinforce the learning.
Activities should provide participants with ideas of how to use what they learned back on the job. Sometimes I partner people from the same company and make them accountable to each other following a class.

8. Provide time for reflection.
The learning needs to sink in. Quick activities to help internalize content include having partners quiz each other, having participants write a summary of what they learned or illustrate what they learned.
A book I’ve found to be full of quick ways to review is “The Ten-Minute Trainer” by Sharon L. Bowman.

9. Make use of technology.
Technology such as smart phones can be put to use in class. In addition there are so many software applications that, when mastered, make for engaging learning. Prezi is great for presentations and Articulate Storyline can be used to produce some engaging online courses to name just a few.

Freeman, Greta G.; Wash, Pamela D. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching. 2013, Vol. 24 Issue 3, p99-120. 22p.
You Can Lead Students to the Classroom, and You Can Make Them Think: Ten Brain-Based Strategies for College Teaching and Learning Success.

Nixon, Gregory M. Review of Higher Education & Self-Learning. Summer2012, Vol. 5 Issue 15, p69-83. 15p.

Moffett, Nelle; Fleisher, Steven C. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching. 2013, Vol. 24 Issue 3, p121-151. 31p.
Matching the Neurobiology of Learning to Teaching Principles.

Zakrajsek, Todd D.; Doyle, Terry. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching. 2013, Vol. 24 Issue 3, p1-6. 6p. Teaching for Brain-Based Learning: A Message From the Guest Editors.

The Doorway to Professional Learning Communities

This is my first blog post and blogging is entirely new to me. I haven’t even read a blog before this. But, I have to admit, it’s pretty cool.

iddblog is provided through Depaul University in Chicago. I chose it because I used to teach at Depaul. I give credit for finding it to Amy Bouhall. I read about it in her post.
The blog provides instructional design tips and information regarding online learning.
I have been creating a lot of online course of late and I found two posts in particular that will be extremely helpful to me in evaluating my content and adding some creativity. The first is UX for Online Courses by Dee Schmidgall. In his post Schmidgall writes about consultant Peter Morville’s User Experience Honeycomb diagram. He summarizes each of the items in the honeycomb with an easy to read description. I’ll use the honeycomb going forward. It’s a very visual method for helping me to create a good course. For me, the tips apply to instructor led as well as online courses.
The other post I found quite useful is Cool Creative Commons Collections for Class by Jan Costenbader. Costenbader writes about Creative Commons, a non-profit that helps clarify the usability of content found on the web. This is a huge concern for me. There is so much available on the internet and I must respect copyrights so as not to put my clients at risk.

This blog is written by Guila Muir. She has 25 years of experience do the same types of things I do and she’s written a book about instructional design. In her blogs she writes about many of the things I encounter on a daily basis. The blog is geared toward her clients with tips to help them become better trainers.
Her post “Providing Right After Lunch Break?” explains an activity I will absolutely use in my next training session to energize my group. It’s both physical and mental and seems like it should be really fun and engaging. Of course, I’ll know better once I try the exercise for the first time.
I read through a few of her other posts and didn’t find them useful to me. However, the value of the one tip I did find makes this a blog worth following. If I find only this nugget, it’s still well worth perusing.

Onlinelearn, the third blog I chose to write about, doesn’t necessarily have tips or tricks I can put to immediate use but Bruce Graham posts his opinions about what’s going on in the instructional design blogging world.
I really feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I think this blog will provide me with validation, insight and ideas as to how to approach blogging. I look forward to his posts in helping me get up to speed.
The other thing we have in common is Articulate software. He is a freelance professional using the applications. I use Articulate Storyline and I’m new to it. His mention of Storyline is what caught my eye. It reminded me that I need to add an Articulate blog or two to my list.
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