Consider the following scenario: A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.
- What are some of the pre-planning strategies the trainer needs to consider before converting his program? Converting from teaching in a traditional classroom to facilitating a distance learning class takes a lot of time, research and preparation. One of the most important steps in the process is to know the learners and their learning styles. The trainer must determine who the learners are as well as their background knowledge. It is important for him to understand what they already know and how able they are to learn using technology. The learners’ abilities can be determined through surveys or one-on-one meetings, if time allows. It would be virtually impossible for the trainer to create an online course without having an understanding of the learners beforehand. The trainer must also plan to switch his teaching from a content-centered approach to a student-centered approach. While student-centered instruction is not new to the educational world, it is an extremely important aspect to be considered when creating a distance learning environment. “With the advent of online resources, the student-centered approach to learning fits well into distance education environments. By its very nature, online education demands that students become engaged in the learning process” (Simonson et al, 2012). Getting to know the learners and their way of learning is a key component towards designing a training course that will meet the needs’ of the learners. Another important step of converting a traditional learning environment to a distance learning environment is that the trainer needs to ensure that he is extremely versed on all of the technology that will be used. According to Dr. Piskurich, Principal and Owner of GMP and Associates, the instructor must know the software and technology that will be used so that there won’t be any road blocks during the facilitating” (Piskurich, N.D.). The instructor also needs to know exactly what technology is available for the students and make sure the students are able to use the technology and complete the activities and assignments, while using the technology, in the time specified. Preplanning for any type of technology issues is very beneficial for the instructor and a back-up plan should be available. “It is essential that the instructor be prepared with alternatives for each lesson in case of a system problem” (Simonson et al, 2014).
- What aspects of his original training program could be enhanced in the distance learning format? One of the biggest changes the trainer must make in his training program, to make it ready for distance learning, is to include technology resources that engage and stimulate his learners. The trainer will need to make visually learning a priority since some of the hybrid training will take place at a distance. “Because of the nature of the distance learning and the separation of the instructor from the students, it is essential that the instructor begin to think visually. Too often, instructors do not place enough emphasis on designing and using quality visual materials” (Simonson et al, 2014). Because the learners may not always be together or with the trainer, he must also make sure the students have access to the learning materials as well as the technology resources. Given the fact that the training is work related and more than likely mandatory, the employees would need to be provided with everything they need to successfully complete the training.
- How will his role, as trainer, change in a distance learning environment? The trainer will need to make a lot of changes in order to prepare himself for facilitating at a distance. He will need to design a training module that is student-centered opposed to that of a teacher-centered model. “By its very nature, online education demands that students become engaged in the learning process. They cannot sit back and be passive learners; rather, they must participate in the learning process” (Simonson et al, 2012). The trainer, in this scenario, would need to encourage and motivate employees to be active participants through the use of learning activities that encourage engagement. The role of the trainer would no longer be that of a lecturer.
- What steps should the trainer take to encourage the trainees to communicate online? Communication is an absolute must in a distance learning environment and it will be the responsibility of the trainer to ensure that it takes place. “Sustained, high-quality student participation usually doesn’t happen on its own in the online learning environment. The instructor needs to model participation, create assignments that encourage it, and foster an environment that supports it” (Thormann, 2014). The trainer will need to provide an online learning environment in which communication is the top priority amongst himself and the trainees. This can be accomplished by implementing discussion groups in which participation is mandatory. The trainer should be present and set the tone for what is expected during the discussions. By setting the tone, the trainer should let the trainees know that yes or no answers are not acceptable, as they will never lead to any type of meaningful discussions.
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.) Distance Education: Facilitating Online Learning [Video filed]. Retrieved from https://class.walden.edu
Simonson, M. Smaldino, S. Albright, M & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed.) Boston, MA:Pearson.
Thormann, J. (2012). Encouraging Online Learner Participation. Retrieved August 10, 2014 from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/asynchronous-learning-and-trends/encouraging-online-learner-participation/