Online Learning News - 18 January issueby
A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc. (Lakewood)
Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2000 Vol. 2, No. 43
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1. Four ways you get online learning wrong
2. PowerPoint to the Web
3. Fighting the swamp thing
5. Question fest! SAP simulation? Web lunch?
6. Window shopping: EduHound for K-12
HOW TRAINERS GET ONLINE LEARNING WRONG
Ready for a good rant? Patti Shank ([email protected]) has gone
critical -- she's heard too many, er, misguided reactions to
online learning from other trainers.
Shank, an Aurora, CO, Web-based training developer and regular
contributor to Technology for Learning Newsletter, says the top
four professional misunderstandings about online learning are:
o "It's not as good as in-person training."
"That's like saying a fork isn't as good as a spoon," Patti
snarls. "Online learning isn't inherently worse or better than
in-person training. It depends on a zillion other factors. You
still need to know the situation and the available resources
to make good choices."
o "Look! Instant online learning!"
"Just because it's on a Web page somewhere," Patti sighs,
"doesn't make it training." Your human-resources department
posts benefits information each year. Is that training?
o "You need to be a techie to do this."
"What's needed," Patti begs to differ, "is the chutzpa to
shape technology for your organization's needs, and the desire
to work as a team with the folks who know how the bytes buzz.
Needs analysis and instructional design are still the most
critical aspects of online learning. Technology is just a
medium, not the master." Communication, mentoring,
collaboration are processes that work well via the Internet,
she says. "Flash, Shockwave, and streaming video are nifty --
in some cases," Patti adds, "but not always necessary."
o "Online learning will cost trainers their jobs."
"What costs trainers their jobs," Patti growls, "is being
clueless. Maybe technology changes our jobs a bit. But aren't
we the same folks preaching how the people in our
organizations need to adapt to the rapidly changing realities
POWERPOINT TO THE WEB
How do you haul a PowerPoint presentation to the Web?
o Alan Andersen ([email protected]) says: Save the presentation
as a PowerPoint Show instead of presentation and upload it to
a Web site. Then link any other Web page to the presentation.
"Once you click it, the presentation will open in slideshow
mode," says Andersen, who works in software education with
Eastern Maine Healthcare in Bangor, ME. "You can add
navigation buttons to your presentation in PowerPoint. If the
person trying to view it doesn't have PowerPoint, you can also
add a link to download the PowerPoint viewer."
o Steve Franks ([email protected]) adds: "Here is a great
page I found that will guide you through the process of
creating a presentation for the Web. It does refer to a few
specifics such as Netscape Navigator 4, but you can substitute
tools you use in place of these specifics. I used their
directions and it worked flawlessly." Franks, a team
consultant with Allstate Insurance Co. in Northbrook, IL,
says you'll need Office 97 or 2000. The site is:
o Martha Cowley ([email protected]) offers this: Test
your presentation under conditions under real field conditions
-- i.e. no PowerPoint installed -- to ensure that users will
see what you want them to see.
Remember, adds Cowley, a technical writer with office-supply
provider Corporate Express Inc. in Broomfield, CO, "about half the
Web world uses Internet Explorer 3x or higher, and the other half
uses Netscape 3x or higher. So you should test your Web page and
all its functionality using both browsers."
Finally, modest smaller screens only accommodate 640x480 pixels
and 16-bit color. "Your very nifty high-color PowerPoint
presentation will look very different on a lower-resolution
monitor," Cowley warns.
FIGHTING THE SWAMP THING
How do you protect online instructors from getting swamped by
questions from participants?
"Live online facilitation," acknowledges Jennifer Hofmann
([email protected]), "can be a real challenge. You don't
want to discourage interaction. Just make sure it is manageable."
Hofmann, whose online-training firm is InSync Training Synergy of
Essex, CT, suggests a broadcast model: a producer monitors chat
and either answers questions or forwards them to the instructor.
Another broadcast-model advocate is Andrew Shields
([email protected]), knowledge-transfer manager
with PricewaterhouseCoopers' Technology-Based Training Group in
"The main instructor should focus on the delivery of the content,"
says Shields. "A co-instructor should monitor student questions
and issues, and feed that information to the instructor as needed,
or solve the issues."
With classes of 30 or more, Shields says, add a "help-desk" person
to field connection and related issues.
Still another take: "Have additional subject-matter specialists
available to field incoming questions," says Shannon M. Davis
([email protected]), distance-learning consultant with Ernst
& Young LLP in Cleveland.
This lets the instructor focus on delivering content, and not on
typing responses. When duplicate questions arise, those fielding
questions can flag the instructor, who can offer a blanket answer.
"With the team approach, the instructor can focus on the
presentation of the material, and thus prevent too much dead air,"
InSync's Hofmann suggests this way to fill dead air: State at the
outset that the instructor will stop to read participants' chat
questions every five minutes, or after each module, whichever
"Make these Q&A periods a part of your design," says Hofmann. "Say
things like, 'While I take the next minute to read your questions,
I'd like you to write down on a piece of paper the most important
point from the last section. We'll discuss these points after I
finish answering your questions.'"
Don't stop mid-subject to answer a chat question popping up on
the screen. "Always finish your thought, and make sure stopping to
moderate a chat area makes sense," she warns.
If too many students send questions or concerns at once, it's much
like several traditional-classroom participants raising their
hands at the same time.
"Take a step back, breathe, and try something different," Hofmann
Hofmann's TRAINING 2000 presentation is "Live Online Learning:
Need to Know" on Feb. 22. You can register for the show at
... OR MAYBE YOU NEVER WILL BE SWAMPED
Kim L. Mackey ([email protected]) hasn't been swamped yet.
Mackey teaches at the U.S. Army Logistics Management College in
Fort Lee, VA, which provides training and education for military
and Department of Defense civilian personnel.
A virtual classroom feels like a real classroom, says Mackey, who
reports "constant interaction among the students and instructor
through e-mail, a chat room on the Internet, and instant mail."
Mackey's students must complete one lesson per week and discuss it
with classmates and the instructor in the chat sessions. All 107
students get a summary of chat questions and answers.
Chat participation is low, so instructor swamping seems unlikely.
"While students do sometimes ask the same questions," says Mackey,
"it is rare that they ask at the same time."
At any rate, a good redundant-question preventive is to give
participants regular updates on your content and your progress
"It is the instructor's responsibility to be proactive,"
summarizes Mackey, "and to ensure that the students are keeping up
with the curriculum and are comprehending the lessons."
In short, keep those questions coming. "I have never been swamped
by my students," Mackey concludes, "but I have learned from their
REALITY CHECK: LEARNER FRUSTRATION
For a reality check about online learning, go to:
o "Students' Frustrations with a Web-Based Distance Education
Course" by Noriko Hara and Rob Kling of Indiana University:
o "The Future of Multimedia in Education" by Allyn J. Radford,
senior research fellow at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia:
WHY CLASSROOM STILL WORKS -- BUT ONLINE IS TEMPTING
Are good self-paced learners the best candidates for computer-
based training? Alan Lord ([email protected]) thinks so.
"But they are not the only audience by a long shot," adds Lord,
systems analyst and corporate information-systems trainer with
Hadco Corp., a Salem, NH, circuit-board maker.
Most learners, Lord notes, function better in a structured
environment. "We are trained since infancy to work with the
group," he says, "and for most people I think this is all they'll
This is why classrooms and lectures work, Lord argues. "As adults,
we maintain this style. Aerobics classes, training seminars, self-
help groups, all thrive on the fact that, for a large percentage
of the population, it takes the group interaction to get results."
The suggestive exception is the computer game. "Why would a
person sit in front of a machine for hours and 'learn' what it
takes to solve a game?" Lord muses.
"There is no camaraderie with the computer, no sense of 'we're all
in this together,' but still people love to solve puzzles."
That's the key: CBT must "synthesize an environment that leaves
the user wanting more, to reach a target," Lord says.
An advantage of CBT over classroom, says Lord, is its ability to
push learners toward such goals. "Simply by knowing that the
result is possible," Lord says, "people will go beyond their
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
TRAINING 2000 offers these sessions on the foregoing subjects:
o "Introduction to Interactive Distance Learning" is a full-day
pre-conference session at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 20, with
representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of
Energy, Defense Acquisition University, Air Force Institute
for Advanced Distributive Learning, Army Research Institute,
and OSHA Institute for Education & Training, Feb. 20. (This
session costs $195 beyond the conference-registration fee.)
o "Creating Killer Interactions for Online Learning" with Sam
Shmikler, Periscope Organization, Feb. 21.
o "Learning Games: Turn Passive Presentation into Interactive
Instruction" with Sivasailam Thiagarajan and Raja
Thiagarajan of Workshops By Thiagi, Feb. 22.
o "J.C. Penney's Integrated Approach to Using Learning
Technologies" with Deborah Masten, human-resource development
manager at J.C. Penney Co., Feb. 22.
o "Why Online Learners Drop Out" with Eric Parks of Ask
International, Feb. 23.
You can register for the show at http://www.training2000.com.
TRACKING LEARNERS' PROGRESS
Someone asked about tracking learners' progress. A vendor suggests
QUESTION FEST! S.A.P. MIRROR? LOTUS C.B.T? WEB LUNCH?
SIMULATE THIS! "I'm charged with the responsibility to help
reduce dependence on a mirrored-training SAP environment.
Currently, we replicate the production environment in a real-time
training client. This is not a viable long-term strategy for our
"The buzz has been around simulation-training tools. I've
investigated products like STT and On-Demand and feel that they
are not robust enough for our needs. Can you suggest any resources
and/or products that I should look at? The more evidence I can
provide management with, the better."
OLL NEWS SAYS: As it happens, Brandon Hall evaluates a product
called SAPSim and related software in the upcoming February issue
of Technology for Learning Newsletter. To receive the February
issue as the first in your one-year subscription ($195), call
800-707-7749. If you later decide not to subscribe, the February
issue is nevertheless yours to keep.
C.B.T FOR LOTUS? "We're piloting the launch of
information-technology skills on computer-based training through
Lotus LearningSpace. We're using LearningSpace to build a
collaborative learning environment around the CBT. We have an
urgent need for a high-quality computer-based training package to
train our staff in Lotus Smartsuite Millennium Edition products
(especially Lotus 1-2-3).
"The product we're looking for needs to be interactive, easy to
use and cater to users with varying degrees of experience with
Smartsuite products and differing learning styles. Any
WEB LUNCH? "Can you recommend a Web-conferencing tool? I plan to
use it to hold lunch-and-learn's."
EXAM SOFTWARE? "I am looking for exam software to replace the
current program I am using. The exam software must be accessible
via the Internet."
EVALUATION ONLINE? "Can anyone recommend a site that
might offer an evaluation instrument for an online course? I'm
looking for a straightforward, one-page form that could be filled
in online to help us respond to feedback from finishing students."
'ONLINE TUTORIAL?' One reader wonders how others define
"online tutorial." "Do they think an online tutorial uses
performance-based assessment, or non-performance-based assessment,
or either and both?"
FREELANCE JOBS? "I am seeking freelance online tutor/courseware
design vacancies but don't know where to start. Any suggestions?"
If you can offer guidance, please send your response to
[email protected] . Include your name, title, organization,
where it is, what it does, and a phone number at which we can
reach you. No attachments, please.
Use the appropriate headline (e.g., Web Lunch?) as your
subject line, please.
ARE YOU STUCK? Your colleagues may have some ideas for your online
learning-related quandary. Please send your question to
[email protected] . Include a distinctive subject line.
WINDOW SHOPPING: EDUHOUND FOR K-12
EduHound.com! bills itself "a pre-screened database directory of
more than 30,000 K-12 educational links to education-related Web
sites, teacher resources, lesson plans, libraries, reference
materials, adult continuing education and technology." Site
co-developer is Judith B. Rajala of Broad Brook, CT.
... AND FINALLY
Register for a FREE, Live, Online Training Program!
Attend a live Web cast titled "The Age of CyberLearning. Web-based
training: Where are we now? on January 19 at 2 p.m. EST. The
one-hour discussion will include experts Amy Sitze, Managing
Editor, Inside Technology Training Magazine; Dr. Mary C. Gordon,
Executive Consultant and Account Manager, Raytheon; and Brandon
Hall, Ph.D., leading expert in the technology-based training
field, author of "Web-Based Training Cookbook," and editor of
Technology for Learning Newsletter. To participate, simply
register at http://www.trainingsupersite.com/traininglive24 hours