Communicating Effectively

Effective communication among all project team members is essential for a project’s success. How someone communicates with different stakeholders is of equal importance to the content of the communication. It can also influence how a message is interpreted.   After watching “The Art of Effective Communication,” I found it quite interesting that the same exact message could be interpreted three different ways based upon how it was delivered.

The first message was delivered via email.  Jane asked Mark to finish up a project because she needed his data to complete her portion of the project.  When I read the email, I felt that Jane came across and desperate, panicky, and not very organized. In my opinion, the email portrayed Jane as unprofessional due to both the structure of the letter and her inability to complete a project. Because of my own experience with similar emails, I perceived this message to feel very pestering.  The second modality, voicemail, was, in my opinion, very effective in relaying the message to Mark that Jane was in a bit of a jam until she received his data.  Hearing her voice, I felt that she was sincere and I felt bad for her. She was polite and by the end of the voicemail, I really wanted to help her out.  I have been in a similar situation to Jane and hearing the emotion of her voice helped me to relate back to my own similar experiences.  Finally, I interpreted the face-to-face conversation as very casual.  Jane’s attitude was very laid back and not-demanding.  If I were having this face-to-face conversation with Jane, I would not feel pressured to complete the data that she was requiring. Body language helped me to perceive the message in this manner. Because I am not Jane, I do not know exactly the true meaning and intent of the message.  However, if she needed to retrieve some data, the voicemail was the most striking for me.

As a result of this exercise, I have found that tone of a message has a lot to do with how it is received. Dr. Harold Staolovitch (n.d.) believes that the approach is more important than the actual words being used.  Because of prior experiences with the each modality, stakeholders may have some preconceived ideas before they even here the message.  These pre-held ideas may be a roadblock to effective communication.  This is why important communication is best delivered live and all team members present (n.d.).” In the future, if I were to have any oral conversations with stakeholders, I would want to document all that was being said. In addition, if I were going to communicate through written means, I would do the following:

  1. “Be clear with the purpose.
  2. State with the situation
  3. Include possible solutions
  4. Indicate if sign off is required
  5. Specify the form that the response is required to take.
  6. Keep the tone of all communications business friendly and respectful (n.d.).”

In general, all communication should avoid vagueness and uncertainty (n.d.). It should keep in mind tone, language and attitude. In this situation, I believe a response time would have been important to mention since she seemed to be on a time crunch.

Stolovitch, H. (n.d.). Project management concerns: communication strategies and organizational culture. Retrieved November 17, 2011 from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6051999&Survey=1&47=7555398&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

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Blog Assignment: Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

It is rather easy for me to recall a project that I coordinated, which, in my opinion, did not produce optimal results. One of my responsibilities at my job is being the Race Director of an annual 5K fun run/walk.  It’s a charity event where community residents, parents and students come together to remember a tragedy that happened in our community almost ten years ago. As I have learned now, there is a lot of work and many people involved in the planning and implementation of this “fun run/walk.” 

In May 2006, I began planning for the event.  I made a list of all the “Things To Do” three months before, two months before, one month, two weeks before and things to do the day of the event.  I then held a face to face meeting with all the managers that were involved.  I gave them their department’s responsibilities, which they all agreed they would take on. In September, two weeks before the event, I checked on everyone to see how things are going and there was total chaos. T-shirts were not ordered, volunteers were not arranged, and athletic trainers were not confirmed.  I spent the last two weeks prior to the race working ten hour days. I was doing not only my job, but other people’s job.  On race day, we had minimal volunteers, ran out of t-shirts, not copied enough registration forms and raised a small amount of money because we were so disorganized.

There are some things that went well during the planning process. For example, the detailed “Things To Do” list.   I believe it provides a good, overall picture of what needs to be worked on. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008) state that “preparing a written description of the activities is helpful for assigning people to project roles.”  I also liked that we held our pre-race meeting in May. This meeting assembled all of our stakeholders and got them on board for the project.  I am also very appreciative that I did check in with my stakeholders two weeks before the race. These processes are still relevant and still resurface every year.

After the event, we conducted a “post mortem” review of the project and found there were many areas that could easily been improved upon.  For example, during Phase Two:  Creating a Project Plan, all stakeholders could have discussed time, money and volunteer estimates, not just the Race Director.  Stakeholders could have claimed which roles that would have liked to have been involved with.  During the months prior to the event, I could have been communicating more with each department.  Even if we did not meet face-to-face, I could have developed a project progress report.  This report, which I would have emailed, would have “reviewed what has happened during a performance period, describe the problems and the corrective actions needed, and previews what is planned for the next period (2008, p. 361).”  This type of communication would have avoided all of the last minute problems.  It would also have probably produced more participants, more money and a confident and positive attitude from all staff involved. 

Luckily, after this event, which happened five years ago, my employer allowed me to keep my job as Race Director.  This experience has taught me to keep communicating with all parties involved.  It also motivates me every year not to repeat the “Race to Disaster.”

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc

The Future of Distance Learning

Reflection

The U.S. Department of Education recently reported that were 12.2 million students enrolled in online courses in the 2006-2007 academic year, a remarkable increase over the 3,077 million student enrollments in the 2000-2001 school year (Mortagy, & Boghikian-Whitby 2010). The convenience of online learning is becoming more attractive to the busy adult learner. While there are still many skeptics, I believe that distance learning is going to gain worldwide acceptance.  As an instructional designer, it is important to promote our field in a positive and optimistic way. 

I believe the perception of distance learning in the future will be one that the quality is equivalent to that of a traditional classroom. As the number of people who are required to use a computer increases, so will their comfortably on the internet. Futurist William Gibson has been quoted as saying “the future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed.”  George Siemens (n.d.) believes that because there is an increase of online contact, useful experience with new technology, users feeling at ease when online, and the ability to talk to with a diverse audience, it has made online education more acceptable. New communication technologies, contribution by experts from around the world and the increase use of multimedia games in the upcoming years will help change the perception of the purpose of the internet and help make distance education credible and more prestigious (n.d.).

As an instructional designer, I can advocate for improving societal perceptions of distance learning by talking about and designing quality courses.  Courses should have clear goals, focus, appropriate assignments, media and assessments (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009).  Instructional Designers should also listen to evaluative feedback from their students (2009).  In addition to quality faculty, distance learners are interested in high level curriculum, supportive classrooms, good reputation and flexibility (Gambescia, & Paolucci, 2009). IDs must keep these factors in mind when building a class.  If designed successfully, students will become the IDs advocate for online learning, telling friends and co-workers about great learning experiences.

I will be a positive force for continuous improvement of the distance education field in many ways.  First, I will continue my education in this field.  Before taking enrolling in Walden, I had not been a student for 15 years. Because of all of the new knowledge I have learned, I realize the importance of returning to school.  Both my students and colleagues have benefited from the knowledge that I have shared.  Second, I am going to be proposing our first distance learning courses at our high school. I want to have alternatives for students who may fail the traditional course.  Finally, I am currently and in the future, going to talk about the integration of technology and education.  By positively promoting distance learning, it will help not only introduce skeptics to online learning, but it will indirectly improve the quality of distance learning because the student will be able to choose from a variety of credible institutions.  I look forward to the future and my up-in-coming design experiences. 

References

Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html

Malamad, C. (2009). The future of learning design. Retreived October 28, 2011 from http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning_design/future-of-learning-design/

Mortagy, Y. & Boghikian-Whitby, S. (2010). A Longitudinal comparative study of student perceptions in online education. Retrieved October 26, 2011 from http://www.ijello.org/Volume6/IJELLOv6p023-044Mortagy684.pdf

Siemens, G. (n.d.). The Future of Distance Education. Retrieved October 26, 2011 from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5693697&Survey=1&47=7555398&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Best Practice Guide: Converting to a Hybrid Course

A7TricoliJennifer 

Introduction

Transferring face to face courses to a hybrid course has the potential to increase student learning outcomes compared to that of the traditional classroom (Dziuban, Hartman, Moskal, 2004).  Although many definitions of hybrid and blended learning exist, there are three key points “(1) web-based learning activities are introduced to complement face-to-face work; (2) “seat time” is reduced, though not eliminated altogether; (3) the Web-based and face-to-face components of the course are designed to interact pedagogically to take advantage of the best features of each (University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, 2011).” This best practices guide will include ideas and tips that could assist you in facilitating communication and learning among your students.  The guide should be useful to anyone who is converting a program from entirely face-to-face to a blended learning format.

Pre-Planning Strategies

The following is a list of questions that trainers need to ponder when transferring a face-to-face course to hybrid course.

  1.  “What are the course objectives (Delaney, n.d.) ?” Posing the question will ensure the new blended course will be based on the actual learning goals, not technology.
  2. “What are you doing in the classroom to meet each of your objectives (n.d.) ?”  List all of the activities that you currently use in the classroom setting. Be specific about the objectives that are being met with these activities.  This list will help with the redesign of your course.
  3. “Which of those activities can best take place online (n.d.)?” Think about what is working well in the classroom and what can be done differently or even better online (n.d.). There are several activities that can be enhanced using an online format.
  4. “How will the online activities integrate with the face-to-face activities (n.d.)?” A hybrid course is the integration between two courses.  If not converted well, students will find the online course will to be busy work unless it compliments what is being taught in the classroom. 

Objectives That May Be Enhanced with Distance Learning

After reflecting on objectives and activities that are currently in your face-to-face classroom, it is time to examine what can be enhanced online. The challenge is to have the content of the course adjust to the needs of the learners (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009).  Discussion boards are one of the most important aspects of online learning.  Threaded, relevant conversations need to be had to inspire students to retain their new knowledge. Below is a picture illustrating the importance of the discussion board (Buis, 2011).

 

Facilitating Communication and Learning Among Students

“The syllabus can become an important communication vehicle for the instructor in clarifying expectations related to appropriate use of language in all communications”(Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009, p. 166). The syllabus provides the frame work for contacting the instructor, technological difficulties, and most importantly, having the students understanding their role in the hybrid course. Some of aspects of online learning that may enhance communication are email, wikis, blogging, social networking and virtual worlds (2009).   The following chart is a list of tools that shows the current and emerging tools currently being used by higher education institutions (Gregory 2008).

 

Role of Distance Learning Instructor
The role of face-to-face teacher to hybrid teacher will go from teacher-centered to student-centered.  Student-centered learning will engage students in the learning process (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009).They will need to interact with both the teacher and other students in order to be successful in the course.  The chart below outlines some of the traditional roles of the teachers with that of a hybrid teacher (Rivas, 2010).

 

Conclusion

For a hybrid course to be successful, pre-planning, objective building, communication and understanding of instructor roles are all a vital part of the transformation from face-to-face to blended course.  Trainers need to imagine, create and support this type of course to invoke higher level thinking and retention rates.

References

Buis, K. (2011).Transmission of knowledge learning framework. Retrieved October 20, 2011 from http://www.ferviddesigns.com/kenbuis/page/2/

Delaney, S. (n.d.). Converting a face to face course to hybrid a course. Retrieved October 20, 2011 from http://id.highline.edu/online/converting.to.hybrid.pdf

Dziuban, C., Hartman, J., Moskal, P., (2004). Blended learning. Retrieved October 20, 2011  from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERB0407.pdf

Gregory, S. 2008, Virtual Classrooms. Retrieved August 13, 2011 from  http://www.virtualclassrooms.info

Rivas, N. (2010). Towards an e-pedology: changing roles. Retrieved October 20, 2011 from http://nlenidijohanna.blogspot.com/2010_04_01_archive.html

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. (2011). About hybrid classes. Retrieved October 20,2011 from http://www4.uwm.edu/ltc/hybrid/about_hybrid/index.cfm

The Impact of Open Source

An Open Source is when an educational course is “open and freely available worldwide for non-commercial purposes such as research and education, providing an extraordinary resource, free of charge (TechTarget, 2011).”  In the relatively short time it has been available, it has revolutionized our society. For example, Wikipedia is one of the largest and most available sources of information on the internet (Opensource, 2011).  Contributors can post and comment on other’s postings.  Employers like Whole Foods have begun to use open source applications to show transparency in their wages, items to stock and staffing decisions (2011).  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) decided they were going to lead all educational institutions and make their courses and materials available to the public, free of charge. This year MIT OpenCourseWare, considered the pioneer of open source, celebrated its 10th anniversary of open sharing and educating nearly 100 million people worldwide (MIT, 2011).  I have decided to analyze the  MIT course, Ecology I:  The Earth System.   The url is:  http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/civil-and-environmental-engineering/1-018j-ecology-i-the-earth-system-fall-2009/

 

When reviewing this science course,  I wanted to analyze it through the eyes of an Instructional Designer/Instructor.  I first looked at signs of pre-planning and design. The course provides a class syllabus, lecture notes, additional reading lists and exams. The site seems to be aesthetically pleasing and structured in a very organized way. I found it easy to navigate through the site.  However, when I took a deeper look at the class, I felt that this class is indeed an online version of what happens in the traditional classroom. When reading over the course notes, it reads like it was written down from a classroom presentation.  In my research, I found little to no images or animations, mainly text. In our text, it states that “courses previously taught in traditional classrooms may need to be retooled.  The focus of the instruction shifts to visual presentations, engaged learners, and careful timing of presentations of information (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright &Zvacke, 2009, p. 127).” In my opinion, while there was a wealth of information available, there was nothing that tried to grab and retained learner’s attention.  The course website seemed to be a site where all course information is parked. 

When analyzing the site from an online instruction point-of-view, I find that it does meet some of the recommendations that are listed in our course text book.  The following is a list of Online Teaching Fundamentals that this site does follow:

1.  “Organize the Course and Make the Organization and Requirements Clear to Students (2009, p.248).”  The course is neatly and efficiently organized by class topics.  The requirements as well as the assignments are easily found on the left side of the page.  The purpose of the assignments and the intended audience of the assignments are just two of the ways that the requirements are made clear to the students.

2.  “Test Applications, Not Rote Memory (2009, p.250).”  The course outcomes are stated on the course syllabus.  I found that the applications are real-world situations that can assess the students overall understanding of the subject matter.

3.  “Integrate the Power of the Web into the Course (2009, p.250).” There are additional resources and readings that are suggested that can be found on the web.

4.  “Apply Adult Learning Principles with Nontraditional Students (2009, p.251).”  Because this is a non-credit course, the majorities of students taking the course are self-directed and most likely have specific reasons for taking the course.  Students can achieve their own learning goals and learn as much or as little as they need.

The following is a list of Online Teaching Fundamentals that this site did not follow. 
1.  “Avoid ‘Dumping’ a Face-to-Face course onto the Web (2009, p.248).  As discussed before, it seems that this is a shovelware site.

2.  “Keep Students Informed Constantly (2009, pg. 249).”  Because this is a non-credit and non-interactive course, there are no announcements, emails, or any other contact between the student and the institution. There is however, a student study group where students can voluntarily post questions and comments to others also taking the course.

Finally, I believe that the course designer did not implement course activities that maximize active student learning.  The group projects that I saw were intended for the traditional face-to-face student working with other classmates.  The projects looked interesting and fun. However, they could have been easily modified for the online OpenCourseWare student.   Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, (2009) state that group work “helps construct a supportive social environment.”  This aspect of distance education needs to be improved in order to maximize learning.

Overall, I believe the MIT Ecology I:  The Earth System course is  a valuable tool that can introduce students of all ages to the online environment.  I believe all students should be aware of open course websites that offer free courses.  It is a great way to continue one’s life-long learning.

References
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2011). MIT OpenCourseWare’s first 10 years: 100 million served. Retrieved October 8th, 2011 from http://ocw.mit.edu/about/next-decade/

Opensource.com. (2011). About opensource.com. Retrieved October 8, 2011 from http://opensource.com/about

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

TechTarget (2011). MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW). Retrieved October 8, 2011 from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,,sid9_gci540010,00.html

Defining Distance Learning

Distance Learning Mind Map


Distance learning is currently defined as “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009).”  According to the “Distance Learning Timeline Continuum,” distance learning is continuingly evolving due to technological advances in our society (Distance Learning Timeline, Laureate, 2010). This timeline documents the changes in distance learning over the years from 1833- Present.  What began once as a European mail correspondence class has developed into Web 2.0 technologies.

There are many factors that drive the definition of distance learning to change. While in the past, distance learning may have been looked upon as a casual alternative to traditional schooling, I believe in today’s economical society, it is transforming into a mandatory need that many adults have when trying to retain or find work.  The bottom line is in today’s economical situation, people are looking to conserve money. E-learning is the most cost-effective solution.   It helps reduce the costs of gas, babysitting, health-related and corporation related expenses.  “Over the past twenty years, businesses of all kinds have greatly increased their productivity by reengineering their business processes to exploit information and communications technology (Moller, Foshay &Huett, 2008, p. 70).”

While distance education began its focus on full-time employed adult workers, it is currently being changing to those who are out of work looking to get ahead when the job world rebounds (Simonson, 2009). I do believe that these changes are based upon the professional changes in our society.  The US Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that 61.5% of allUS jobs were white collar (managerial, professional, technical, sales and office) (2009). Most of the professions today use technology to help them in their job field. Technology advances to better fit the needs of these workers.

Before I began this course, my definition of distance learning was relatively simple:  learning from a distance.  The student enrolls in a course away from school grounds and completed on their own time.  In 1996, I took a “distance learning” college class, which consisted of a text book and questions, which were all self-paced. Upon completion of reading the text, I was to arrange for one of my superiors at work to administer a test and send it to the university.  Time has definitely changed the face of distance learning.  I do appreciate the current definition of distance learning and agree with all aspects of it, including being separated by time.

Technology is speeding up at an unbelievable pace.  For example, the iPod, which was so ground breaking just a couple of years ago is almost obsolete with the revolution of the iphone which can include the iPod, internet access and phone usage.  Distance learning will continue to evolve with the rest of the world.  I envision a time when people will no longer know how to write (cursive or printing) because of computers.  It is possible that a computer program may even write papers and complete the project for the student, as long as the student provides guidelines and boundaries detailing the expectations.  It is also possible that instead of using heart rate monitors and other phone apps, people will have computer chips implanted in them in order to provide the most accurate information.  They will then be able to hook themselves up to a computer and learn about what is going on in their body from a variety of medical resources.  I am not sure about my predictions, but I am sure that the state of learning as we currently know it will continue to change.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston,MA: Pearson.

WaldenUniversity. (n.d.).  Distance Learning Timeline Continuum [Multimedia Program]. Retrieved September 10, 2011 from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5693697&Survey=1&47=7555398&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2009). Databases, tables and calculators by subject. Retrieved September 10, 2011 from http://www.bls.gov/data/#unemployment

EDUC-6135-1 Distance Learning

This blog is designed to provide readers my thoughts about learning, educational technology and instructional design.