Experiences in online learning

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7th Mar 2000
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This is the transcript of the TrainingZone Online Workshop held on 7 March 2000 and led by Martine Barclay.

( (Martine Barclay) Hello everyone. Welcome to the Online Learning session. Is there any particular topic that you would like to start off with?

(nick c) Hi Ian thanks for stting me up so I can participate

(ian) How important are standards to open and distance learning systems?

(Training development) The Trg Developer is Bryn Roberts, who says hi to all.

(Martine Barclay) Re standards. I think it is important to have them so that you know where you are aiming for or working from. What standards did you have in mind?

(ian) Well there are some bodies (eg UFI) that define the way training should be delivered accross the internet.

(Tim Pickles) Hello everyone

(Training development) Standards and subsqeuent transferable qualifications allow the learner greater pay back of time & effort invested. The European Computer DL is a good example which has a body to govern/monitor standards.

(alan clayton) good afternoon from ireland

(Martine Barclay) Yes, but then you also need to look at your delivery capabilities, who your audience is etc. Although various groups have standards, I would suggest you use them as a guide as their standards may not always be suitable for your environment.

(nick c) I would also like to discuss some of the technical considerations such as bandwidth and others experience of some of the problems re content,

(ian) Martine, yes, sometimes the standards are rather short sighted and not so standard, even they could hinder a new development!

(Training development) Standards are also linked to market branding. I know I always return to a brand that has offered good quality in a maner that is to my liking.

(Martine Barclay) What we learnt from our implementation is that we needed to take into account the lowest spec machine and use that as a benchmark.

(nick c) There can also be problems with the end user not having the correct plug ins

(Training development) What we insist on is having a 'hot line' route back to the provider to ensure all asspects of plug-ins are available.

(Beryl Cuckney) Hello from Banbury. What experience does anyone have of using distance learning effectively for business skills training?

(Martine Barclay) Yes, That I would imagine is to do with the level of security set on the PCs. Where I work, security is managed centrally and to get around that we had to write a couple of programs (Script it)

(nick c) Martine, What was the lowest version browser you specified

(Tim Pickles) Nick's point about plug-ins is a good one. People get annoyed with error messages about needing to download shockwave, realmedia, etc - it gets in the way of their learning, and they leave. These things will be more acceptable once people are more familiar with the basic ideas. At this stage, it seems to me, we still need quite a lot of "How to learn online" familiarity training!

(Martine Barclay) We are looking into soft skill courses, but we have found bandwidth andaudio to be our biggest problem

(nick c) Hi Tim, I agree but I also think that its vital that trainers are fully aware of content limitations/opportunities

(alan clayton) why not use video conferencing in these situations ?

(Training development) Martine, I suspect the bandwidth debate will be the defining issue over the next couple of years if our experience with the Ufi is anything to go by.

(Martine Barclay) As our online learning is centrally managed, people cannot download courses from the internet which is probably where the error messages would occur. However if a thorough pilot is carried out, those issues show show themselves thenJ problem comes in

(nick c) Alan, I think one of the problems with video conferencing is that both parties need a system/camera

(Martine Barclay) Our lowest spec when we implemented was Netscape 3 & 4 and IE4 browsers and 3.51& NT4 machines

(nick c) Thanks for that Martine

(alan clayton) yes nick...i've done some video-conference coaching and i suspect that woudl be difficult to replicate online right now

(Beryl Cuckney) Business Skills and Management Trainers have a vast amount of experience of how best people learn but lack knowledge of. IT capabilities. How is this experience being used in the e-learning debate?

(alan clayton) hopefully IT people are included in the e-learning project vision from the outset

(Tim Pickles) Beryl - no need to add your name - we can see yours just like you can see ours !!

(Martine Barclay) There are some companies out there who do have courses where the users actions can be seen etc. But I think they are primarily with the PC courses. I think with soft skills training it's nice to have immediate feedback from colleagues and the trainer. And possibly online learning has a long way to go before we use it it in a similar way to IT courses.

(Tim Pickles) Of course, where online should score over video conferencing is that people can select their own time to learn. I'm interested in the support structures which company's like KnowledgePool are then needing to put in place e.g. 24 hour online email coaching support, somewhat like an e-call centre.

(Martine Barclay) It has been recognised by quite a few training companies that there is a certain amount of re-training or new skills that classroom trainers need to aquire to meet the on line learners demands. The IITT has a course in place and I am sure many more will surafce in teh future.

(Beryl Cuckney) Thanks for pointing that out Tim! I'm new to this. I have no doubt that IT people are being included but systems and programmes seem to be developed without maximising Trainers' experience of what conditions create effective learning.

(alan clayton) tim, yes, i believe there is some mileage in that approach as a supplement to face to face programs

(Martine Barclay) Re Support - I think that depends on the company you choose to provide your online learning. We have an agreement withour current supplier which is 24:7. And of course users have people within teh company tehy can conatct as well, in each region.

(alan clayton) also depends on the outcome for the learning. eg some times its about transfer of skills, sometimes it about achieving an objective, i think these are different approaches altogether

(Martine Barclay) To provide mentoring or teplephone support, it is costly at the moment. However in time, I suspect the costs would come down. Our current supplier can do this for us if we were prepared to pay for it. And when we looked into it it was the same for other companies, they can do it, but it costs extra.

(nick c) Tim's point about video conferencing being synchronous gets to the heart of the benefits of on-line traing - in that it should be available at any time and anywhere,

(alan clayton) as a coach i provide e-mail or phone support as a back up to face toface. it is alot less expensive !!

(Training development) Further to my earlier comment about the Ufi, they are specifying that their learning centres will need 8 mbs connectivity to deliver on-line multi-media training. How many of your organisations have that level of connectivity at the moment?

(jake) Does anybody know what's going on here?

(Martine Barclay) It's funny that online learning has tried to replace most things that take place in the training room, but follow up support isn't one of them!

(Martine Barclay) Hi Jake,

(jake) Hi, do you use this often?

(alan clayton) interesting point martine

(Martine Barclay) We are talking about levels of user support available to online learners and also the min. specifications required to run online learning.

(nick c) I think you can provide a good level of support through the medium available i.e. bulletin boards, chat, email, telephone etc.

(alan clayton) maybe its because in the training room the skill does get transfered, its just that it doesn't necessarily get used..hence the need for 'follow up' ?

(Tim Pickles) Hi Jake, to see the conversation before your joined, follow the link at the foot of this page.

(Martine Barclay) I agree Nic. And also by putting people in conatct with others in your organisation also works well.

(alan clayton) nick yes i agree with that

(nick c) I like the idea of using others in the organisation. Thanks.

(Martine Barclay) A good online learning course will have a test at the end of the topic to validate that the learning has taken place. Then I guess it's up to the individual to follow that up.

(alan clayton) after all we didn't have 'on screen' learning when the tv came along did we ??

(alan clayton) martine i suspect that test only measures memory rather than learning which would require demonstration with results

(Beryl Cuckney) What is a ratio of preparation time to learning time when creating on-line learning?

(alan clayton) hugely variable i would suggest

(alan clayton) in my own work i can prepare for as much as 50% of the learning time or as little as 5%

(Martine Barclay) That's righ Alan. After all online learning relies a lot on teh individual's motivation to learn..

(alan clayton) yep ! if the learner has no 'reason' to learn then results will reflect that as in all training

(Frances Sibbet) Hi - I've just joined in. I'd like to ask whether online courses are likely to be accompanied by workbooks, which would be useful for learners not using their own PCs. I've looked at CD-ROM skills courses, but they don't appear to have workbooks with them.

(alan clayton) equally that means that i might do no preparation, but if my client and i really really want to get a result we'll get one

(alan clayton) hi frances, i guess we can produce our workbooks on-line a bit like right now - we just print off the script !

(Martine Barclay) Not many online courses have workbooks to accompnay them as it defeats the object of it being on line. However I would say that soft skills training should have something like a workbook to enable learners to reflect on what they are learning.

(nick c) Does anyone have experience of verifying a candidate on-line when formal assessment is required?

(Beryl Cuckney) What I was meaning was the time taken to create a distance learning session in relation to the time the learner will spend learning. I am currently developing a specific CDROM package for a global client which should take the learner 4 hours to complete. I know how long it is taking me and my IT colleague to create it but wondered if anyone worked to a specific ratio when quoting to clients.

(alan clayton) i simply request an e-mail review of how much of what was intended to be achieved actually was. also its possible to ask for 360 inputs from the clients peers etc

(alan clayton) nick sorry i guess you meant like for an NVQ etc ?

(Martine Barclay) Nick, we do use video conferencing for recruiting purposes but this is usually the interview to decide if we should pay for them to travel to meet us. I do know of training companies who send ot on-line tests from courses to create tailored training for graduate programs for instance and they find it works really well.

(nick c) Hi Alan, yes I did but I like your point about 360 input from colleagues

(Martine Barclay) Beryl, It's difficult to say because it also depends on the architecture you are using and whether it is a case of reading online or if it is going to be interactive.

(Frances Sibbet) To get back to the workbooks issue, I don't think it does defeat the object of online learning, but allows the learner to reinforce what they've done on a computer, to make notes, do planning etc, especially for new online learners.

(Martine Barclay) Is anyone here currently evaluating online learning products?

(nick c) On verification, I guess apart from videoconferencing we are back to the old fashioned exam hall!!

(alan clayton) oh sad daY

(Martine Barclay) Frances, I agree, but suppliers don't neccessarily see it that way. I would suggest to get around that is for the learner to have a 'learning book' in which they make all of their learning notes in etc to refer to.

(alan clayton) couldn't we move to an 'outcome' or objective' oriented style of training, where the value added result more important than the mere skill transfer @

(nick c) I also agree with Francis aqnd Martine and you can have an online notebook too.

(alan clayton) martine yes i'm with you on that one

(Tim Pickles) Martine - we doing a lot of evaluation of online learning providers and products in order to decide which ones to partner with across our eight professional communitites (including TrainingZone). It's pretty confusing. The levels and systems of charging vary considerably. You're having to double guess who will be seen to have the best product and support three years from now!

(Martine Barclay) Alan, in our organisation all training is outcome/objective related. The training may give them a skill but then the skill learnt has a place where the learner needs to apply it.

(Frances Sibbet) Frances again - I'm planning to run some basic IT courses for beginners (adults), but from what I've observed, would you all agree that to get new learners started, you need to attnend a course with a trainer and other learners, until you feel confident enough to switch on a PC and load a course yourself?

(alan clayton) sounds good

(Beryl Cuckney) Evaluation has indicated that on-line learning must not be created like a book, continually scrolling down. The learner must remain in control of their learning at all times. There were many comments on the multi-guess elements and workbook elements that they must allow the learnier to prove a gain in knowledge and allow them to easily refer back to the element of the package which gave them the information . I have yet to be convince that for much training on-line training is completely standalone.

(nick c) Yes I think I agree Frances but would recommend the ECDL modules. Are you aware of them? If not contact me after the workshop and I can let you have info.

(Tim Pickles) On the subject of workbooks and recording, we need to build intelligent tracking systems which capture not just the courses/workshops you've done, but then prompt for learning points, action points, self-assessment, etc. and store this online against your personal profile. We're getting there, but not fast enough yet!

(Martine Barclay) Frances, I have found that the biggest thing to overcome is giving learners the confidence to overcome their fear of the PC first before they can learn much.

(Frances Sibbet) Yes- I've seen adults doing the ECDL CD-ROM modules - with a trainer and a workbook!

(alan clayton) aha !

(nick c) ECDL is now available on-line through Northumberland college

(Beryl Cuckney) Tim, we have tried to work out partnership arrangements with on-line learning providers to compliment our face to face delivery but we have yet to find one who is prepared toconsider a real partnership where we each value the expertise of the other. So often the PC package becomes the be all and end all.. ider

(Martine Barclay) I agree Beryl. I think the best place for online learning is to complement current training. Although we have found that it is also a useful resource for people to refresh their skills.

(alan clayton) anyone got an idea of how to set something like that up as an experiment ??

(Martine Barclay) Alan, what kind of experiment are we talking about?

(alan clayton) where an online process is offered in parallel to 'current training' perhaps specifically to provide the application follow up we spoke of above

(alan clayton) maybe like having an 'applications coach' where the 'putting it into practice' is facilitated on-line

(Beryl Cuckney) Tim, there is an comment coming from a colleague shortly on your question of tracking learning.

(nick c) Martine, everyone thanks for the discussion but I have to go now.

(Martine Barclay) Oh, sorry. We are trying to introduce it, but it is a big culture change. We are suggesting that people vist the courses to ensure thay have the required pre-requisite knowledge for tehir external courses. This is starting to happen but not everyone is so keen.

(alan clayton) bye nick!

(Martine Barclay) No problem Nick thanks for joining us.

(Tim Pickles) Before everyone leaves, can i say a big THANK YOU to Martine for steering this. I'll get the transcript posted shortly to the site.

(Richard Rogers) Tim, I am a software consultant at John Matchett Limited...I believe you had a question about software and tracking of training?

(alan clayton) yes, thanks martine

(Martine Barclay) What I am trying to get going is a 'newsgroup' of people wp

(Tim Pickles) Richard, can you email me afterwards - [email protected]

(Richard Rogers) OK

(Beryl Cuckney) Thanks for my introduction on on-line chat. I'll try and join again and hopefully one of our trainers will run a workshop for you in the not to distant future.

(Martine Barclay) No problem, I really enjoyed it.

(Tim Pickles) I need to be away - thanks to all participants. Beryl, we're always looking for new workshop topics/leaders - come and join us!

(alan clayton) my first time too, and i'm doing a session on 21st march - see you there !!

(Martine Barclay) Beryl & Alan, I hope you both found this useful. If you would like to follow up on anything please drop me a line at [email protected]

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