Online Learning News - 8 February 2000by
A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc. (Lakewood)
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2000 Vol. 2, No. 46
Online Lab: NetWare 5 network practice is as easy as Web surfing.
See http://nlzlab.novell.comor visit Booth #415 at TRAINING 2000.
1. Pajamas and other chat limits
2. Web-based evaluations
3. Ask Nick, Ask Jennifer
4. Make us an offer
5. More about slacker design
6. When Puerto Rico does it better
THE PAJAMA FACTOR, AND OTHER CHAT LIMITS
Does chat inhibit some types of learners? Does chat work at
all as a learning tool? Can you structure chat?
Some readers have those and other reservations about the
real-time, online, text-based discussion known as chat.
First, the pajama factor: Since chat is real time, it
works best "with a small number of people who do not live
on opposite sides of the planet," offers Corrie Bergeron Jr.
( [email protected] ).
Beyond getting participants during working hours, adds Bergeron,
your chatters must have "a very specific and very time-bound
Chat is bad for some learners, warns Bergeron, learning-systems
architect with Walden University ( http://www.waldenu.edu) of
Bonita Springs, FL.
If you type slowly, you look bad in chat. And, says Bergeron,
"people who can't think on their feet are left in the dust by
the nonlinear, disjointed conversation."
Bergeron adds, tongue in cheek, that "having small children
provides practice in this communication style."
What's a better way? "Asynchronous threaded discussions or even
e-mail is better than chat," says Bergeron, "if you can afford
to spread the conversation out over time.
"Collaborative projects are likewise an excellent way to
demonstrate understanding, especially of complex material."
Another take: John Ellison ( [email protected] ) likes
chat, but finds it most useful in particular ways:
"I have found live chat a great way to set the tone for a
course the first week," says Ellison, teaching at the Distance
Education Centre at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad
and Tobago while on leave from the University of Buffalo (NY).
Ellison also uses a chat room for his Internet course to provide
"office hours" during which distance-learning students can drop
in and ask questions.
The problem with chat is that people get too casual, says
Lisa Neal ( [email protected] ). Subjects tend to multiply
quickly, Neal adds, "making it hard to have a coherent and
Neal is senior research engineer in Lexington, MA, with
information-management firm Electronic Data Services Corp.
of Plano, TX.
She uses chat to supplement audioconferencing. Her main
discussion is in audio, with prompts from PowerPoint slides.
"The advantage of chat is that it gives students another way
to communicate," says Neal -- for instance, to add a comment
that they didn't make in the audioconference.
"I've seen my students use chat in the beginning and end of
class for more social purposes -- to greet each other and discuss
the weather," Neal continues. "I've also used it when I have a
guest speaker as a way of collecting questions."
FIGHTING FOR ATTENTION
Chat's key advantage? "It gives students another activity that
is part of class and it helps keep them engaged," says Neal.
"I always go under the assumption that my students have e-mail
and stacks of paper on their desks fighting for their attention
-- not to mention solitaire. So giving them multiple related
activities is a good way to keep them focused on the class."
Finally, Donald J. Winiecki ( [email protected] ) casts
light on the idea of structuring chat. Chat is most effective,
argued a reader two weeks ago, when it's tightly structured and
the group is five or fewer, ("Better than chat?," Jan. 25).
Winiecki, who teaches instructional and performance technology at
Boise (ID) State University College of Engineering, points to
studies of in-person classrooms for comparison.
o In traditional classrooms with stand-up teachers at the
front of the room and students in assigned seats, the
instructor has control over who contributes. Interaction
o But where small groups of students are working together and
participants can circulate freely, learners talk more openly
Winiecki says his study of text-only asynchronous discussion
in distance learning confirms what you might suspect: Text-only
asynchronous communication resembles the second type. It's as
though participants are working in small groups and free to move.
Asynchronous communication isn't the same as chat, which is
real-time. Nevertheless, Winiecki suggests that chat likewise
probably resembles small-group interaction in-person -- open
and informal, with participants who are more likely to
All this means instructors face a balancing act.
Reader Robin Poncia ( [email protected] ) suggested last
month that chat must be tightly structured ("Better than chat?,"
Jan. 25). Poncia is instructional-design manager with nNovation
Learning Group Inc., a Victoria, British Columbia, online-course
So how do you impose structure on a loose, informal exchange?
If you can do it, Idaho State's Winiecki says, instructor and
participants must start with two things: Agree on a protocol for
instructional interaction. And practice a little.
A reader asked for suggestions of sites with evaluation
instruments for online courses -- "a straightforward, one-page
form that could be filled in online to help us respond to feedback
from finishing students."
Mitchell Jarvis ( [email protected] ), vice president and chief
information officer at Educational Resources Inc. in Merriam, KS,
says he uses Zoomerang ( http://www.zoomerang.com), a free
service, to produce online surveys.
"Zoomerang members can quickly create and customize surveys on
topics such as customer satisfaction, event planning, new-product
testing, and course evaluation," says Jarvis.
"The results are captured and presented in graphically-rich
formats in real-time -- which allow users to measure incoming
responses and act on the findings very quickly."
The single most important feature, says Jarvis: Creation, design
and administration is browser-based.
"The site contains forms for many purposes, including education,"
says Hallden. "As a conference planner, I have used the site
twice to create an online survey to assess membership-education
interests and needs."
Hallden sent out the survey via broadcast e-mail with a hyperlink
to the site. "This is a free service and works extremely well,"
she says. "Several templates are provided and the tool is very
easy to use. This is a good site for an evaluation form, as it
constantly updates the statistics and allows for open ended
Finally, a vendor suggests http://www.clearlearning.com.
ASK NICK, ASK JENNIFER
TRAINING 2000 keynote presenters Nicholas Negroponte and Jennifer
James have agreed to take some of your questions before the show.
Negroponte, director of the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, will speak at the Atlanta conference on
Monday, Feb. 21.
His subject: "What's So Hard About Being Digital?" His premise:
"Like air and drinking water," he wrote in Wired magazine, "being
digital will be noticed only by its absence." In short, the
Digital Age is here, so accept it and make use of it.
Cultural anthropologist Jennifer James of Seattle, author of
"Thinking in the Future Tense," will speak Wednesday, Feb. 23,
on "The Human Face of Technological Change."
Her premise: Knowledge workers have significantly different skills
and a markedly different character than any previous class of
workers. That means managers and the organization must adapt.
In short, stop doing things the old way, and find new ways that
E-mail questions for either to [email protected]. We'll
relay your queries to Negroponte and James, who may incorporate
some of the questions into their keynotes.
Very important: Use one of the following subject lines:
If you don't, your query will be lost in e-mail underbrush.
You can still register for the show through next Monday,
Feb. 14, at http://www.training2000.com.
MAKE US AN OFFER
So you think you can present in this league?
We're taking your proposals for breakout sessions at OnLine
Learning 2000 and Performance Support 2000, concurrent shows
coming up Sept. 25-27 in Denver.
Deadline for proposals is Feb. 15.
Go to http://www.lakewoodconferences.com/presenter.htmfor
information on how to submit a proposal.
DESIGN FOR SLACKERS? YES, BUT ...
The question we've been debating here recently: Is it your job
to design training that prods unmotivated learners? Or is it
the learner's job to be motivated?
Your answers tend to be conditional. For example, Sharon Gander
( [email protected] ) believes in motivating the unmotivated
-- but she wants to know why they're unmotivated.
"Courses should be designed to motivate all learners," explains
Gander, senior learning analyst with Cerner Corp.'s Virtual
University in Kansas City.
"One type of learning audience comes with low motivation. It's
important to know why their motivation is low. Once you know why,
you can design ways to address that motivation."
Fear of technology is one demotivator. Another, says Gander, is
exhaustion from overwork.
Gander says she'll design to accommodate fear of technology.
"On the other hand, I have yet to find a way to motivate someone
who is in sleep deprivation," she says. "I'd rather that they
went home and slept. I have no desire to overcome that motivation
When you do want to motivate -- how do you do it? Gander suggests
using psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. "The lower
the issue is on Maslow's hierarchy, the more active, physical,
warm and personal the interaction will need to be," she argues.
Coaching, small-group discussion, one-on-one training, and highly
interactive sessions will help in sessions that management
mandates but learners see as booooorrrrring.
"As motivation goes up the pyramid, design can be more abstract,
theoretical, and 'cooler,'" says Gander -- chat-room discussions,
ARE WE FORGETTING SOMETHING?
David W. Cory ( [email protected] ) wonders whether we're missing
something. "I can't help but think that those entering this
discussion may have forgotten one of the key principles of adult
learning," says Cory, design and development consultant with AED
Inc., a Woburn, MA, training firm.
"That is, adults will only learn those things they perceive that
they need to learn. All the tricks and gimmicks in the world will
have little or no effect if those doing the learning don't think
they need to know what you are offering.
"Therefore, it seems that the only motivating that really needs to
take place is to provide a good reason for why people should want
to know what you propose to teach them," Cory argues.
"If that reason is sufficiently compelling, you will be all set.
Otherwise, you will be out of luck no matter what."
MAKE UP YOUR OWN GOOD REASONS FOR THESE
Some of the foregoing subjects will come into focus at these
TRAINING 2000 sessions:
o "Adult Learning and Training" with consultant and author Harold
Stolovitch, a one-day pre-conference session Sunday, Feb. 20.
(Cost is $295 additional for conference attendees or $395 for
those not attending the main conference.)
o "Absolutely Fabulous Organizational Change" with consultant
Michael Mercer Tuesday, Feb. 22.
o "You Can't Implement Change Without Guiding Personal
Transition" with Julie Straw of Carlson Learning Co. Tuesday,
Register for the show at http://www.training2000.com.
WHEN PUERTO RICO DOES IT BETTER
It's a challenge familiar to decentralized manufacturers:
facilities far and wide, each with different training standards
-- and no formal mechanism to share best training practices among
Facing that predicament, Pfizer Inc.'s pharmaceuticals division
created a virtual learning team to oversee and promote sharing of
best training practices.
When U.S. and international units of the pharmaceuticals group
merged, pushing the group's size from four U.S. plants to 33
globally, need for such an oversight team grew.
Result: Trainers share best practices plant-to-plant -- and the
training team at the moment is watching the Puerto Rico facility
closely to discern why it seems to have the best training program.
For the full story in our Web-only Training Directors' Forum, go
... AND FINALLY
What next? Find out at TRAINING 2000, with Nobelist Desmond Tutu
and 225 breakout sessions. Register at http://www.training2000.com