Analyzing Scope Creep

Scope Creep 122811_1517_pmfoundatio12[1]_png_w=630As part of Walden University’s graduate course, EDUC 6145 – Project Management in Education and Training, for this week’s blog assignment I will describe a project in my professional life which experienced issues related to scope creep.

One of the first major projects I participated in as an educator in the late 1990’s was developing a proprietary customer service course using a multimedia authoring tool. To maintain a level of confidentiality, I will not reveal the name of the tool, but I will provide a description of my experiences with this project.

Background: As computer based training (CBT) began to evolve, professionals with computer programming experience were the backbone of the development team for these courses (Locatis & Al-Nuaim, 1999). Companies purchased the CBT courses; installed them on local computers; with individual users completing the learning content and printing certificates of completion when finished. One of the first CBT courses used in my organization was medical terminology.

CBT course development became less complicated and less expensive to create with the growing availability of multimedia authoring tools beginning in the late 1980s. Authoring tools made it possible for non-programmers such as instructional designers, trainers, and teachers to develop interactive courseware for use within their own organizations (Allen, 2009). Major players in the field of authoring tools during that era included Authorware, CourseBuilder, Dazzler, Quest, and Toolbook (FAQS, 1999).

The Purchase: By the late 1990s, my department head was ready to enter the arena of creating organization-specific CBT courses. There was a trainer in our department familiar with one of the authoring tools while completing her graduate program, but she did not have direct experience with it. After a careful selection process based primarily upon information provided by sales representatives and journal articles (Mistake # 1), the decision was made to purchase an authoring tool which supposedly was intuitive for trainers. With my budding experience in technology, I was given the assignment of using the new tool to develop an interactive customer service course.

The Training: Believing you have more technology skills than you actually have (Mistake # 2) led to the decision that I would only attend the advanced training sessions. The real reason for this decision was more in line with saving money since the training sessions were being conducted in the vendor’s corporate offices near the west coast and included an airplane flight, hotel, meal and transportation expenses. Even though I struggled with some of the skills presented in the training sessions, I returned to work, energized with a tool pouch of new technology skills and ready to use the authoring tool for many years to come.

The Project: The basic course structure including content, exercises, and quizzes was recently created in two PowerPoint modules by my training colleague. My responsibility was to take the content, add lots of bells and whistles including interactivity, sounds and special effects, audio narration, better quality images, branching, and bookmarking to produce a highly interactive CBT course for delivery on our local area network.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, in reality without a written project plan (Mistake # 3) with deliverables, due dates, software requirements, etc.; and without sufficient resources of people, time, and technology (Mistake # 4), it took me a year to finish the project. The project was plagued with delays. Since my office was next to an overhead speaker for the public address system, all narration had to be recorded in my home office which then caused a secondary issue of ensuring the audio recording software and equipment were compatible with the personal computer in my home. My training colleague resigned shortly after the project started, requiring me to pick up a large portion of her responsibilities which in turn reduced the time I could dedicate to the project.

The Scope Creep: The scope creep was of my own making. In my quest to produce the most interactive course possible, I spent many hours searching for the most appropriate images and sound effects, and re-recording narration clips that had minor flaws. In addition, I spent many hours testing the branching and bookmarking features to verify learners could easily navigate between the modules, and from one lesson to the next without errors. I allowed time to take control of the project and perfectionism to take control of me.

Dealing with the Scope Creep: Admittedly, I did not deal with the scope creep. I just let the project evolve until it was done. Likewise, my department head also did not deal with it. Over time, I lost some of my enthusiasm for the project and my department head moved on to other projects and programs.

The course text shares this important fact, “clients and project team members have a natural tendency to try and improve the outcomes as a project progresses” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer; 2008, p. 346). This was certainly true with me while I tried to improve the finished product as the project progressed. I was the only project team member and I allowed the scope creep to happen.

This issue brings to mind, a line in the “Gone With the Wind” film (Selznick International Pictures, 1939) where Prissy tells Scarlet, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthing babies, Miss Scarlett”. Well, I can honestly say, back in the late 1990s, I did not know anything about project management and scope creep. But, if I had known about these topics, I would have been encouraged by the video program for overcoming scope creep with Dr. Van Rekom, Troy Achong, and Vince Budrovich. In the video, it was shared, “scope creep is inevitable”; and requires the project manager to “build in time and money to deal with it ahead of time” (Laureate, n.d.).

Looking Back: There are always lessons to be learned with past projects, whether they were successful or not. For this project, the finished course was plagued by audio difficulties for as long as it was in use, primarily because the audio files were many and very large. When the organization implemented its first Intranet for employees, the course was not compatible with the software application used to manage the Intranet, and so my department reverted back to using the original customer service modules created in PowerPoint. In addition, because the course was created with an authoring tool prior to the implementation of SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) standards for learning technology (Ostyn, 2003), its components could not be repackaged for delivery through our first learning management system in 2004. In the end, the authoring tool was never used again, and the course created with it, died a relatively quick death.

References:

Allen, M. W. (2009). Who’s creating the e-learning? In Michael Allen’s 2009 E-Learning Annual. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=rP03gi-SIcsC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=authoring+tools+in+1980s&source=bl&ots=pvccE-Ibky&sig=cqMD_4VDImpK343YrxR8ZZxInlI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xl5oUaHCNqi90AGP7oGYAQ&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=authoring%20tools%20in%201980s&f=false

FAQS (1999). Multimedia authoring systems faq 2/3. Retrieved from http://www.faqs.org/faqs/multimedia/authoring-systems/part2/

Laureate Education (n. d.). Practitioner voices: overcoming ‘scope creep’. [Video]. Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/

Locatis, C., & Al-Nuaim, H. (1999). Interactive technology and authoring tools: a historical review and analysis. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(3), 63-75. Retrieved from http://sfxhosted.exlibrisgroup.com/waldenu?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&url_ctx_fmt=infofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&ctx_enc=info:ofi/enc:UTF-8&ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&rfr_id=info:sid/sfxit.com:azlist&sfx.ignore_date_threshold=1&rft.object_id=954925589375&rft.object_portfolio_id=2550000000134356

Ostyn, C. (2003, May). A brief history of SCORM. Retrieved from http://www.uytes.com.tr/eogrenim/Insightsmy.htm

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.

Selznick International Pictures (1939). Gone with the wind, historical romance film. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/#hl=en&gs_rn=9&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=6CK4y2b2Jd__kgcGWMVslA&pq=gone%20with%20the%20wind%20screen&cp=18&gs_id=3a&xhr=t&q=gone+with+the+wind&es_nrs=true&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&oq=gone+with+the+wind&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45175338,d.dmQ&fp=35c22db6eacd6bc5&biw=1280&bih=815&bs=1A brief history of SCORM. Retrieved from http://www.uytes.com.tr/eogrenim/Insightsmy.htm

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.

Selznick International Pictures (1939). Gone with the wind, historical romance film. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/#hl=en&gs_rn=9&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=6CK4y2b2Jd__kgcGWMVslA&pq=gone%20with%20the%20wind%20screen&cp=18&gs_id=3a&xhr=t&q=gone+with+the+wind&es_nrs=true&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&oq=gone+with+the+wind&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45175338,d.dmQ&fp=35c22db6eacd6bc5&biw=1280&bih=815&bs=1

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Communicating Effectively

For this week’s blog assignment, I am interpreting a message delivered by three different methods of communication: email, voicemail, and face-to-face from the multimedia program, “The Art of Effective Communication” (Laureate Education, n.d.). While the same message is delivered each time, its tone and meaning is noticeably different with each delivery. The image below displays a copy of the message text.
Communicate Effectively

Email

Voicemail

Face-to-Face

In this method of delivery, Jane   sends an email message to Mark, requesting a missing report. I read this message three times before I was able to grasp its meaning. Its tone is informal and vague; and without specific date and time sensitive deadlines. The sentence structure is complicated. The use of abbreviations/acronyms in   written text, such as the one used in this example, ETA, should be discouraged because the project manager may   believe ETA means one thing such as estimated time of arrival, and another person may believe it means something else. When I listened to the voicemail version of the same message, I was immediately impressed by the female voice. Her tone of voice was pleasant, calm, and non-threatening. She effectively   used breathing techniques to pause briefly between sentences and phrases, resulting in a well- articulated message. Despite these enhancements, the content of the message remains informal and vague, and without specific date and time sensitive deadlines. The sentence structure remains complicated. While the   abbreviation ETA is used in this example, for some reason it was less noticeable by me. In the third example, the female shares the same information as in the other two delivery methods, requesting Mark to send her a missing report. She is observed to be leaning over a cubicle wall to talk to Mark, with her non-verbal body language leading Mark to believe the conversation is informal and there is no rush in providing the requested report. While her tone of voice is pleasant, calm, and non-threatening, she enunciates her words in a manner that causes some of the words to be drawn out and having extra emphasis where in a normal conversation this would not happen.

For me personally, I found the second method of delivery, voicemail, best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message. This exercise demonstrates that the same words can be interpreted in three different ways based on its delivery method and the audience receiving the message. When functioning as a project manager and communicating with the project team, I need to carefully choose the delivery method based on the team members receiving the message. Stated another way, it is “sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 357).

Here are a few strategies and tools which can be utilized to communicate more effectively with other people involved in project management activities.

  • Project Dashboards: A project management tool used to provide up-to-date information for a project. For example, a brightly colored stop light with red, yellow and green symbols. Green indicates the project is in good shape; yellow indicates the project requires attention; and red indicates the project is in critical condition (Mind Tools, 2013).
  • Project Milestone Reporting: The project manager can utilize a Project Milestone Report to show team members the tasks which have been completed and the tasks still needing to be done according to the timeline in the project plan (Mind Tools, 2013).
  • Keep Repeating the Message but in a Different Format Each Time: According to Chiu (2012, p. 43), the project manager should keep repeating the same message to compensate for the brain’s 20% information absorption rate. To minimize repetition, Chiu (2012, p. 43) recommends putting it in a different format each time. For example, a safety banner, an agenda item for the project meetings, a certificate for a safety award, provides verbal reminders about working safely, or schedule a free safety lunch.
  • Use Both Active and Passive Methods of Communication: It is recommended, the communication strategy determined during the project planning stage should include both active and passive communication methods (Project Management Communication, 2013). Examples of Active communication include face-to-face meetings, video conference, one-on-one meetings, telephone conference, webinars, and stand up presentations (Project Management Communication, 2013, p. 5). Passive communication methods include these examples: pod cast, web cast, email, Intranet bulletin boards, Blogs, Websites, and a project newsletter (Communication, 2013, p. 6).

References:

Chiu, A. (2012). Ten tips for smart project managers. Chemical Engineering, 119 (1), 40-43. Retrieved from http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=70327788&scope=site

Laureate Education (n. d.). The art of effective communication. Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html

Mind Tools (2013, March 21). Project dashboards: quickly communicating project progress. Retrieve from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/new PPM_92.htm

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.

Project Management Communication (2013, March 21). Project management communication – perfection eludes us… Retrieved from http://www.successful-project-management.com/project-management-communication.html

Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

Background

Phase 1: In the summer of 2009, I was a member of the project team implementing Microsoft Exchange in our organization. My role on the team was the instructor for the face-to-face classes which were to be conducted in the month prior to going live with the project. The target audience included all current Internet email users, consisting mostly of management staff, educators, administrative and department assistants, and other key personnel; about 500 total employees. This implementation did not impact the internal communication system used for non-management/non-exempt employees as their conversion to Microsoft Exchange was supposed to occur sometime in the future, though a target date had not been established. For the training, I designed three face-to-face courses, two hours each:

  • Outlook Web Access Mail Skills
    • 16 sessions, maximum number of available seats 224
    • 161 completed, 9 no shows
  • Outlook Web Access Calendar Skills
    • 16 sessions, maximum number of available seats 224
    • 123 completed, 19 no shows
  • Outlook 2007 (Client version) Mail Skills & Calendar Sharing
    • 2 sessions for Administrative Assistants
    • 6 sessions for Department Assistants and others needing to share calendars and delegate access
    • 32 completed, 4 no shows
  • A total of 161 employees (32% of target audience) attending the first course also attended either the second or third course.
  • No further face-to-face sessions were scheduled because employee did not take full advantage of the previously scheduled classes.

Phase 2: Over the next few years, an increasing number of nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers were given an Internet email address in addition to receiving a login for the internal communication system still in use. Face-to-face training sessions for using Internet email were not provided during this time period though all new hires received training for the other internal communication system.

Phase 3: Three years later in the spring of 2012, phase three was hastily implemented to transition the remaining 1400 employees to Internet email via Microsoft Exchange and phase out the antiquated internal communication system. The catalyst for this hasty implementation was the new human resources personnel system and its requirement that every user have an Internet email address. Due to the large target audience, limited computer classroom and instructor availability, the decision was made to design two online courses for Internet email skills and Internet calendar skills which employees were recommended to complete. In addition, a series of open computer times when employees could walk-in to receive assistance from the education staff was scheduled over a six-week period leading up to the Go Live date and afterwards. During the six-week period:

  • 380 users (27% of target audience) completed the Internet email skills online course
  • 98 users (7% of target audience) completed the Internet calendar skills online course
  • 89 employees (6.5% of target audience) attended the walk-in sessions
  • Walk-in sessions for the last available date were cancelled due to low turnout on previous dates
  • No additional walk-in sessions scheduled for current employees
  • New hires receive Internet email skills training during new employee orientation

What contributed to the project’s success or failure?

Despite only training 32% of the target audience, the Go Live date came and went in the Phase 1 implementation with essentially no major issues from an instructional point of view or related to the technology equipment and therefore was seen as a success. Project leaders from the Technology department as well as from my perspective as the face-to-face instructor, believed the implementation went smoothly primarily because the target audience was already experienced with using Internet email, with only the nuances of using the Microsoft Exchange server being new. While I was disappointed with the turnout for the face-to-face classes, I was nevertheless confident knowing I designed and delivered the instructional sessions by focusing on the “need to know versus nice to know” (Murphy, 1994, p. 10) content, enabling participants to attend shorter training sessions and avoiding “information overload” (Murphy, 1994, p. 10).

While Phase 1 was seen as being a success, Phase 3 was more of a failure from an instructional point of view. Participants attending the walk-in sessions were assisted to log on to the Network with their user name and password, register and complete the online course for Internet email skills through the LMS, and assisted to log on to their email account for the first time. Unfortunately, only 6.5% of the target audience took advantage of the walk-in sessions. It was ironic the employees with the least amount of computer skills during this phase were the ones who did not take advantage of the walk-in sessions. A year later, my department continues to receive calls from current employees having difficulty understanding basic Internet email concepts. The online courses for email skills and calendar skills remain available in the LMS but only about 50 employees have completed them after the implementation was finished.

A major reason for scheduling walk-in sessions instead of structured face-to-face sessions for Phase 3 was the same key personnel who could have taught face-to-face classes, including myself, were involved configuration and implementation of the organization’s replacement LMS. There simply was no time available to design and deliver structured face-to-face training sessions.

Which parts of the project management process would have made the project more successful?

For the design and delivery of the online courses in Phase 3, I functioned as the subject matter expert as well as project manager. Looking back on this portion of Phase 3 which I was responsible for, even though I was not aware of it then, I now recognize I loosely followed the life cycle phases for planning a project as depicted in our course text: 1) Conceive phase; 2) Define phase; 3) Start phase; and 4) Perform phase (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 76).

Because Phase 3 was being hastily implemented for the same target date as the implementation of the human resources personnel system, the project leaders in the technology department did not have much lead time to clearly explain to the target audience why this implementation was necessary. They also did not plan well for announcing the implementation to the target audience. At the same time, it was not entirely the fault of the technology department for these weaknesses because they were not aware the human resources personnel system included a required field for email address until after contract signing for the other project.

All in all, I consider Phase 1 to be a success and Phase 3 to be more of a failure.

References:

Murphy, C. (1994). Utilizing project management techniques in the design of instructional materials. Performance and Instruction, 33(3), 9-11. Retrieved from  https://class.waldenu.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/USW1/201340_04/MS_INDT/EDUC_6145/Week%202/Resources/Week%202%20Resources/embedded/Murphy_W2_6145.pdf

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.

Reflecting on the Future of Distance Learning

As Walden University’s graduate course EDUC 6135 Distance Learning comes to a close, I will reflect upon the future of distance learning by answering the following questions:

  1. What do you think the perceptions of distance learning will be in the future (in 5-10 years; 10-20 years)?
  2. How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning?
  3. How will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?

Perceptions of Distance Learning in the Future

When I started this course eight weeks ago, I was not aware of the impact distance learning has had on the history of education, both formal and informal, going back to its early beginnings as a correspondence study advertised through a Swedish newspaper in 1833 (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). Along the evolution time line, it is interesting how many of the advances in distance learning occurred in conjunction with advances in technology. This timeline includes the following milestones: mail order correspondence studies, educational radio, education via broadcast television, and then satellite instructional television (Simonson et al., 2012). Fiber-optic communication systems, introduced in the late 1980s, were the first of its kind to offer, live, two-way, audio and video communication between groups of students (Simonson et al., 2012).

Despite fiber-optics’ unique features, its impact on distance learning was quickly overshadowed by the creation of the World Wide Web in 1991 and as one resource describes it, the “internet changed everything” (Post University, 2012). The bond between distance learning and the internet has grown so strong in the last 22 years, I wonder if it will ever be broken. On the other hand, with the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies including blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, Flash, hosted services, and web applications (MindGrub Technologies, 2010), distance learning moved into a new era, not just for delivering content, but also for creating and sharing content in a global setting, irrespective of time and place.

Distance learning will continue to evolve as Web 3.0 technologies are implemented. Known as the “Intelligent Web with its portability and mobility” (MindGrub Technologies, 2010), distance learners will have access to better searches, ultra-high speed broadband networks, and fourth generation cellular wireless transmissions. Other Web 3.0 technologies anticipated to impact distance learning include: Cloud computing and storage options, Internet on TV, social media on Smart Phones and in motor vehicles, and location enabled social media (MindGrub Technologies, 2010).

In addition to the emerging Web 3.0 technologies, other forces will also impact distance learning in the coming years. As Dr. Siemens reflected in his video, the future for distance learning in the next 5 to 10 years includes a growing acceptance of online communication, practical experience with new technology tools, and a growing comfort with online learning programs. Also, distance learners will have the ability to communicate with a diverse group of global learners, in the corporate world, as well as in education (Laureate Education, 2010).

Distance learning in the future will be impacted by these additional advancements and changes: Continuous learning will be essential for the workers of tomorrow; the operation of traditional schools for K-12 education and higher education will evolve and meld together; and technical familiarity with distance learning skills will have increasing value for students (The International Association for Distance Learning (IADL), n.d.). According to the IADL, these changes are expected in the next decade: partnerships and mergers between learning institutions, publishers, technology companies and learning providers; an increasing percentage of learning will occur online; the instructor role will fade as specialized positions expand such as instructional design, content delivery, learning facilitator, and learner support. Likewise,  demand for top instructors will increase; fewer students will attend traditional on-campus degree programs, and most learners will get a portion of their formal education through online courses. The number of adult students is expected to continue increasing; cultural diversity will be more integrated into formal education; and learners will complete “degrees and certificates made up of courses and experiences from a wide range of private, public, traditional, and online learning providers” (IADL, n.d.).

In the next 10 to 20 years, I anticipate distance learning will look and function far differently than what it does today. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will expand exponentially; adult learners will be in complete control of their educational journeys; and distance learning courses will be fully interactive and realistic. Competency-based education where learners earn degrees by demonstrating competencies instead of completing required courses or credit hours (Western Governor’s University, 2013; as cited in Prometric, 2013) will experience growing acceptance and expansion. Additionally, K-12 online education will be fully integrated into school curricula while technology becomes the classroom instead of technology just being in the classroom (Post University, 2012). Higher education will experience a shift in that technology will be fully integrated into face-to-face programs as well as integrated into distance learning programs.

Improving Societal Perceptions of Distance Learning

As an instructional designer and a soon-to-be graduate of a distance learning program, I have a responsibility to be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning. This responsibility may be accomplished in several ways. On the local level, I can influence other adult learners to consider enrolling in distance learning programs to complete higher education degrees; advocate and play a major role in the design of and increased usage of distance learning in the work environment; and lobby my family and friends to consider enrolling in at least one or two distance learning courses while attaining their educational degrees. Mentoring other distance learners is another way I can improve the perceptions of distance learning. On an expanded level, I can work to improve society’s perception of distance learning by joining professional associations whose core purposes are directed to distance learning. Likewise, I can lobby my elected officials when laws and regulations regarding distance learning need to be enacted or changed.

Being a Positive Force for Continuous Improvement

It is possible to be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education. This can be accomplished by my commitment to maintain and improve my instructional design skills on a regular basis. Having up-to-date instructional design skills however is not enough. I must also be willing to learn how to use new technology for designing distance education as the technology becomes available. In addition, I must also be willing to update my knowledge and skills for the entire distance education process including assessment, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

This distance learning course was extremely challenging and a huge commitment of my personal time to accomplish its goals and objectives, but the knowledge, skills, and dispositions I gained in the learning process far outweigh the inconveniences of long hours of study and preparation, and sleepless nights.

References

Laureate Education (2010). Dr. George Siemens: The future of distance education. [Video Program].

MindGrub Technologies (2010). Emerging web 3.0 technologies you need to know. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/mindgrub/emerging-web-30-technologies-you-need-to-know

Post University (2012). The evolution of distance learning in higher education. [Interactive Timeline].  Retrieved from http://www.evolution-of-distance-learning.com/

Prometric (2013, March 2). The future of distance learning in practice. Retrieved from https://www.prometric.com/en-us/news-and-resources/reference-materials/Pages/The-Future-of-Distance-Learning-in-Practice.aspx

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S, Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

The International Association for Distance Learning (n.d.). What is the future of distance learning? Retrieved from http://www.iadl.org.uk/Article17.htm

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

For the week seven course assignment in my graduate degree program, I created a Best Practices Guide for a training manager intending to convert his company’s face-to-face training sessions to a blended learning format. Typically, a blended format, also referred to as hybrid (Sands, 2002), combines online and face-to-face delivery with 30% to 79% of the content being delivered online (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). While blended courses reduce time in the classroom, “seat time”(Sands, 2002, p. 1) is not eliminated altogether.

The Best Practices Guide includes the following sections of content: Pre-planning Strategies, Choosing the Right Content for the Blended Course, Transitioning from Trainer to Facilitator, and Promoting Communication. This document includes bullet points and sub-headings of essential concepts, graphic illustrations, a table for making the most of each mode, and references.

Throughout the design of this guide, my aim was to provide the trainer with the tools and strategies to assist him with the conversion of his face-to-face courses to a blended format. The intent was not to overswhelm him with everything there is to know regarding blended learning, but instead to provide him with the essential information he needs to be successful during the conversion process.

A PDF version of the complete document is provided in this posting.

References:

Sands, P. (2002). Inside outside, upside downside, strategies for connecting online and face-to-face instruction in hybrid courses. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 8(6), 1-4. Retrieved from http://www.wisconsin.edu/ttt/articles/sands2.htm

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S, Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Best Practices Guide: Converting to a Distance Learning Format

The Impact of Open Source

For this week’s blog, I am evaluating MUSI 112: LISTENING TO MUSIC, a Yale College course on the Open Yale Courses website. The URL is: http://oyc.yale.edu/music/musi-112.

Background:

Yale College began offering free courses on the Internet in 2007 (Open Yale Courses, 2013). While it was not the first institution of higher learning to offer open courses, that award goes to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002 (Feintuch, 2009), Yale College nevertheless joined a growing list of colleges and universities in providing free access to lectures and other course materials via the Internet. Like other educational institutions offering open courses, Open Yale Courses is supported by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company. The foundation’s mission is to “equalize access to knowledge and educational opportunities across the world” (Open Yale Courses, 2013).

MUSI 112: LISTENING TO MUSIC is a face-to-face course about western classical music, taught on the Yale College campus by Professor Craig Wright. It was recorded in a large lecture hall for Open Yale Courses in 2008.

Pre-planned and Designed for Distance Learning:

This course appears to be carefully pre-planned and designed for distance learning as well as face-to-face instruction. On the course home page, learners have access to the course syllabus, links to 23 lecture sessions, a course survey, and an option to purchase the textbook. Unfortunately, the textbook link does not provide access to the Yale University Press though I confirmed, the text, written by the same professor, and its companion music CDs are available for purchase on Amazon.com.

While the course is essentially a series of face-to-face lectures, each lecture has its own web page providing an introduction, overview, resources, and reading assignment. Media links are also available including a full transcript, audio mp3, low bandwidth video, and high bandwidth video. In addition, the lecture videos are divided into chapters, enabling learners to control the pace of the entire course and each lecture within the course.

According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012), issues to be addressed in the planning process should include analyzing the general abilities of the class, analyzing the potential for learner interactivity, understanding learner characteristics, and helping learners understand the context of the learning experience. There is evidence Professor Wright completed these activities at some point in the past. He is animated and personable. Despite the size of the lecture hall and probable large number of students, he interacts with them by asking questions, repeating their answers for the recording, and conducts informal polling with a show of hands.

Recommendations for Online Instruction:

As identified in our text, instructional goals and objectives are important to “match the content of the subject to the needs of the learners” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 158). Unfortunately the syllabus posted on the Open Yale Courses website is limited in scope, and missing essential information, including goals and objectives. It appears this syllabus may be different than the one given to students in the face-to-face course.

In the face-to-face course, it is evident Professor Wright utilized a “linear-designed instructional approach” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 167). He gradually progresses from simple musical concepts to more complex concepts with each lecture in the series. While the distance learner has the option to navigate to the lectures in any order, the content is structured so that one lecture builds on the previous one. This distance course does not use any of these three instructional approaches: “branched- designed, hypercontent-designed, or learner-directed design” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 167-170).

Regarding Bates’ “golden rules” for the use of technology in education (in Foley, 2003; as cited in Simonson et al., 2012), the professor demonstrates teamwork by utilizing media specialists to record the lecture, cue up the audio files, use audio equipment such as wireless hand-held and lapel microphones, and switch from the presentation software to other types of media during the lectures. Likewise, he balances variety with economy, by not using advanced forms of technology when a simpler form is all that is necessary. For example, this course is about classical music. The most effective strategy for learning about composers and their music is to listen to audio clips, followed by illustrations on the piano. Advanced technology is not necessary.

For the distance learner, completing this course in the online environment, learner interactivity is passive and limited to clicking the hyperlinks on the web pages. The learner sits at the computer, listening to the lecture with the use of a headset or ear buds. Learners purchasing the text book in advance of completing this distance course, have the option of writing in the text, underlining or highlighting key points. Also, the lectures are structured in a manner enabling learners to take handwritten notes, or printing the transcript and adding notes to it.

As part of the face-to-face course, Professor Wright includes a field trip to the Saybrook Youth Orchestra, which the students are required to attend. Students are also held accountable for attending the twice weekly lectures and once a week small-group sessions, though I am not exactly sure what is accomplished in the weekly sessions.

Implementation of Course Activities:

Regarding teaching strategies and media selection, examples of classical music, applicable to the course, are played during every lecture through the lecture hall’s sound system, cued up by a media assistant. Professor Wright frequently walks over to the piano to play musical phrases, illustrating musical concepts being discussed. For example, he illustrated the difference between major and minor chords by playing short portions of Beethoven’s 5th and 9th Symphonies. Then with a show of hands, he asked the students in an informal poll to indicate which Beethoven selection made them feel positive and which one made them feel more negative. In some of the lectures, he is seen using a laptop and advancing presentation slides, though most of the slides are not visible on the website due to copyright restrictions. To illustrate where music is processed in the brain, he used an image of the brain written in French because it was non-copyrighted. Since the majority of the presentation slides are not visible on the website, I am not able to access how well the professor complies with visualizing information when content is displayed through the projection system. A limited amount of information is written on a large blackboard attached to the wall and a large portable dry-erase board. Without knowing exactly how large the lecture hall is and the distance from the farthest students, I cannot judge whether these tools are effective.

Conclusion:

Despite the limitations of interactivity and learner involvement, as a music lover and former choir director, and a former student in an undergraduate music appreciation face-to-face course, I enjoyed viewing Professor Wright’s lectures in the MUSI 112: LISTENING TO MUSIC course. Even though the basis of this distance course is a video recording of the professor’s face-to-face lectures, he does not behave in the manner typical of a “talking head” (Schlosser & Anderson, 1994; as cited in Simonson et al., 2012, p. 159), standing behind a podium and lecturing from one concept to another.  As previously stated, the professor is animated and personable, and interacts with students despite the size of the lecture hall. Likewise, he skillfully utilizes the piano as a key instructional strategy.

References:

Feintuch, H. (2009). Knowledge at no cost. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 26(3), 16-18. Retrieved from http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=37584845&scope=site

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S, Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Open Yale Courses (2008). MUSI 112: Listening to music. Retrieved from http://oyc.yale.edu/music/musi-112

Open Yale Courses (2013, February 9). Support OYC. Retrieved from http://oyc.yale.edu/support-oyc

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

Example 1: Collaborative Training Environment

A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

Proposed Solution:

Implementing a training workshop at different times and in different locations is a challenge for the instructional designer, but it is not an insurmountable challenge. I base my proposed solution on the following assumptions:

  • The automated staff information system is a major implementation for this corporation.
  • Employees in all six regional offices need to be equally proficient in using the system.
  • It is imperative staff members learn skills for sharing information through screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.
  • The instructional designer, while it is not stated in the scenario, has completed a thorough assessment in the instructional design process and identified one or two persons in each regional office having the skills and motivation to function as a team leader/instructor during the implementation process.

Given the challenge, I propose the instructional designer utilize a distance learning technology known as web conferencing to deliver virtual live synchronous training sessions, first to the team leaders/instructors then later to the remainder of the staff, with the instructional designer flexing his/her work hours to accommodate training times convenient for each regional office. Advantages for using a web conferencing solution are: 1) Lower internet bandwidth requirements; 2) No need to purchase expensive communication equipment; 3) Reliable in remote geographic locations; and 4) Able to provide audio and video in the same connection (Hudson, Knight, & Collins, 2012). In addition, this format enables teacher-student and student-student interactions for exchanging information and providing a “shared feeling of presence” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 178) among each other. Likewise, the same web conferencing solution may be utilized after the initial training workshops to facilitate ongoing sharing of information and collaboration.

The most widely known web conferencing providers include Cisco WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, and MS LiveMeeting. If the corporation has a contract with one of these major providers, the instructional designer will need to use it. Free web conferencing solutions are available, though they may vary in available features, quality, and reliability. I am particularly impressed by Vyew, a web conferencing solution which offers an ad supported, free version forever with unlimited use for up to 10 people. Costs for adding up to 100 participants or an advertisement-free interface are very reasonable. Vyew does not require installations, is compatible with PC, Mac, Linux, PowerPoints, documents, images, videos, mp3’s, and flash files. Features of Vyew (View, 2013) which the instructional designer may utilize for this collaborative training environment are listed in this table.

Conferencing Features Collaboration Features Content Management Features
Live conferencing – synchronous Persistent collaboration – asynchronous anytime Flexible, PowerPoint-like authoring
Desktop sharing Public and private chat Broad, file-type support (including audio and video)
Change presenters Whiteboarding Native upload of documents
Screen capturing Hand raising, slow down, and other buttons Printing
Session recording Polling/quizzing
Support for up to 100 participants (first 10 are free) Plug-ins such as graphing calculator

Prior to the training workshops, the instructional designer needs to become an expert at using the web conferencing tool. He/she also needs to allocate time for one or more practice sessions and conducting at least one pilot session. For the team leader/instructor sessions, skills for using the web conferencing tool should be included in addition to topics specific to the automated staff information system. When conducting the training workshops for the remainder of staff, it is recommended the instructional designer and the designated team leaders/instructors for each of the regional offices teach the sessions together. The instructional plan must include strategies for teaching all staff how to use the web conferencing tool to share information, obtain screen captures, upload documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration. Considering the need for these additional skills, it is recommended the training be divided into multiple sessions, one for web conferencing skills, and one or more sessions for skills specific to the new automated staff information system. If necessary, wiki sites, a Web 2.0 technology, may be utilized for additional collaboration.

Web conferencing technologies are also used for other distance learning activities, including those in higher education and K-12 education. The Harvard Extension School (Harvard Extension School, 2013), a division of Harvard University, uses web conferencing for continuing education non-credit courses and part-time bachelor and master’s degree classes. Alaska’s Learning Network (Alaska’s Learning Network, 2013) makes education more accessible to students and teachers in remote locations or without advanced resources by using web conferencing and other distance learning technologies. It is a coalition of all school districts in Alaska, providing instruction to high school students, professional development for teachers, and free online resources, lessons, and online courses.

References:

Alaska’s Learning Network (2013, January 26). Making education more accessible. Retrieved from

http://www.aklearn.net/

Harvard Extension School (2013, January 26). Web conference course guidelines. Retrieved from

http://www.extension.harvard.edu/distance-education/how-distance-education-works/web-

conference-courses

Hudson, T. M., Knight, V., & Collins, B. C. (2012). Perceived effectiveness of web conferencing software

in the digital environment to deliver a graduate course in applied behavior analysis. Rural   

Special Education Quarterly, 31(2), 27-39. Retrieved from

http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=

a9h&AN=77758137&scope=site

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S, Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance

Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.