Converting to a Distance Learning Format
The training manager in this week’s scenario is frustrated with the quality of communication in the face-to face training sessions and wants to try something new. The Trainer plans to convert all of the current training modules to a blended learning format. This will provide the trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material. Simonson, Smaldino, and Zvacek (2015) say, “Blended courses can be employed when the instructor feels that the online activities are more productive learning experiences for students”.
The solution proposed by the training manager involves the following components:
- Convert all face-to-face training sessions into a blended format
- Materials will be posted on the server for easy access of resources after the training session
To complete this request the trainer needs to identify the following:
- Pre-planning strategies to consider before converting the program
- Aspects of the original program that could be enhanced in the distance learning format
- The role of the trainer in the distance learning environment
- Methods used to encourage online interaction
Before starting, the trainer should consider what aspects of the quality of the face-to-face format is lacking. To make a change in the modality of the learning requires that there is an instructional problem to be solved. Perhaps the problem is not with the curriculum but with the environment in which it is delivered, the culture of the organization, or with the trainer himself. Before changing anything, the current training should go through a careful evaluation such as the AEIOU Approach, which considers the Accountability, Effectiveness, Impact, Organizational Context, and Unanticipated Consequences (Simonson et al, 2015). If, in fact, the issue is instructional, then the trainer should use the following best practices guide questions to develop the distance education resources.
The training manager should use a systematic design approach when planning the conversion. This approach should include analyzing the content to determine which parts of the course can best benefit from an online environment. Designing blended courses is an iterative process involving content design, course development, course implementation, course evaluation, and course revision (Keengwe & Kidd, 2010). Communication and teamwork are critical. Designers should involve the trainer, technology, and subject matter experts throughout the entire design process.
Otte (2005) says blended courses require that informed choices be made about which medium to use for what purpose. Since the training manager is having problems with communication in the face-to-face setting, asynchronous discussions may provide the flexibility, time, and anonymity students need to become more active participants in classroom discussions (Keengwe & Kidd, 2010). Once the course is active, communication and interactivity will be essential. The training manager should be aware of the changing role of the instructor in the online environment. Discussions must be purposely designed and managed in a timely manner. In an online environment the role of the trainer will change to more of a facilitator versus teacher. In addition, the trainer will need to include a tutorial for the trainees on using the new online system.
The following checklist (Bart, 2010) is a good resource for the trainer to use.
Assessing Online Facilitation Instrument
Bart, M. (2010). A Checklist for facilitating online courses. Faculty Focus: Focused on Today’s Higher Education Professional. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/distance-learning/a-checklist-for-facilitating-online-courses/
Keengwe, J. & Kidd, T. (2010). Towards best practices in online learning and teaching in higher education. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(2), 1-11.
Otte, G. (2005). Using blended learning to drive faculty development (and vice versa). In J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds.), Elements of Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities (pp. 73-85). Needham, MA: The Sloan Consortium.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a. distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.