Lessons Learned – Project Post-Mortem

A few years ago I was on a curriculum development team that was tasked with updating lesson plans, student outlines, Power Point presentations, demonstration videos, written and practical application tests, and instructor guides for over 20 courses within the school. The team was made up of 18 individuals and spread out over four different locations across the U.S. Before our curriculum development started, we created an organizational chart on what location would take which documents to ensure we did not duplicate efforts. The plan was to work on the curriculum for 2 months and then submit any recommended changes so everyone had the opportunity to review the recommended changes and then submit any remarks before the changes went into action.

I cannot speak to what the other three locations did with regards to work organization, but I can tell you that within our office there was minimal structure to who would take what document, who would review the document before sending it to the other locations, and to what standard (format) the recommended changes would look like. In other words, there was no Work Breakdown Structure, there was no timeline established other than the planned two month deadline, and there was definitely little communication from management down until just before the two month mark. According to Portny et al. (2008), “To successfully launch a project, everyone associated with the project must understand the roles and responsibilities of project teams and stakeholders. Two planning tools can be critical to project success: The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) summarizes all the work that needs to happen in a project, while the Linear Responsibility Chart breaks down who is responsible for each piece of work” (pg. 76). Due to the fact that the project had a very vague WBS, you can predict how this project was very stressful and handicapped.

There were two frustrating parts during the project: 1st there was no weekly meeting held to iron out issues nor to determine project process and 2nd the PM was away on travel overseas for 75% of the two months to complete the curriculum updates. As a new member of the team, I was constantly coming to others within the group to discuss questions like: Where do I start? What resources are available to me? Who is the Subject Matter Expert on specific courses? What format do the documents need to be in? Looking back on the project, our team would have benefited greatly if we would have followed some project life cycle planning format:
• Conceive phase: an idea is born
• Define phase: a plan is developed
• Start phase: a team is formed
• Perform phase: the work is done
• Close phase: the project ends
(Portny et al., 2008)

If I were the PM or at least the office PM, I would have at minimum created a WBS to identify who would work on what portion of the task and what and where the resources are for each portion of the task, and phases/timelines for each task. Secondly, I would ensure there was a local meeting every day that each member of the team would answer: 1) What did I accomplish yesterday 2) What am I accomplishing today and 3) What impediments, if any, do I have to accomplish task for the day? Lastly, I would have all documents posted in a share point location so that anyone can review the documents when needed to ensure tasks are on track and being done properly. Michael Greer (2010) states one of the more important questions to be answered during the deliverable phase of project management is “Did those who reviewed the deliverables provide timely and meaningful input? If not, how could we have improved their involvement and the quality of their contributions”?

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

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

Distance Education: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Headed, and Societal Influences

Simonson et al. (2012) state, “Recent reports have revealed that over 20% of college students are enrolled in at least one course delivered at a distance, and the U.S. Department of Education has released a meta-analysis that claims that those who study at a distance learn just as well as do traditional learners. Teaching and training the distance student are critical to education in the twenty-first century”. This post will post will discuss past, current, and future perceptions of distance learning and how instructional designers can be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning. With the technological advancements our society has seen over the past 15-30 years, educational institutions and even small to larger corporations have experimented and succeeded with different learning environments to fit the learning needs of their students and employees (Hannay & Newvine, 2006).

Distance learning has advanced tremendously over the past half-decade. Early first generation distance education used correspondence courses utilizing traditional printed material and communication via post and telephone (Hannay & Newvine, 2006). Shortly after, distance learning was beginning to be delivered with more frequently via television followed by universities taping lectures and then showing them to students in different locations called telecourcses. In fact, the method of tele-coursing is still utilized by universities today. For example, many military bases across the world air taped or live lectures to military personnel and their families who cannot attend the university locally. Perceptions from military personnel were positive because they felt they were actually a part of the course and university even if they were half way across the world because they could hear and see the professor give the lecture (Hannay & Newvine, 2006).

With the introduction and advancement of the internet, many universities can now create a distance learning environments for thousands of people across the world simultaneously as Hannay & Newvine (2006) state, “As a result of the development of enhanced third generation distance learning systems that include interactive video, email, and world wide web technologies, distance learning has been redefined to include teacher-student interaction… and because distance learning programs are designed to serve and off-campus population, these distant students will be more enthusiastic about this type of learning environment”. Again, because of the technology advancements, society is becoming more and more accustomed to having information at their fingertips whenever and wherever they want and can access it. As population has increased with technology, online education has become more accepted by both employers and educational institutions. In fact, the perception from both business’ and teachers are positive and supported because universities are focusing more and more on the validity of distance education by employing instructional designers, subject matter experts, collaborative faculty teams, and opinions of both past and current students (Tanner, Noser, & Totaro, 2009).

Along with the growth of online learning has come a variety of research studies based on shared experiences related to the pros and cons of distance learning and online education, often from the perspective of faculty and administrators involved in the design and delivery of web based education” (Ali, Hodson-Carlton, & Ryan, 2004). As an instructional designer, it will be my challenge to improve societal perceptions of distance education by continuing to blend society and learner demands by infusing technology and learning theories designed to capture and keep student attention in a distant education setting. Through the use of wiki’s, blogs, discussion portals, and interactive activities instructional designers can meet those needs of online learners. In addition to these venues, it is important to stress to those who consider distance learning as a viable option to furthering education that there are tools out there to increase the success of attaining a degree or certification. “Students must understand their role in the progress of the learning experiences (Simonson et al., 2012).

References
Ali, N. S., Hodson-Carlton, K., & Ryan, M. (2004). Students’ perceptions of online learning: Implications for teaching. Nurse Educator, 29(3), 111-115.

Hannay, M., & Newvine, T. (2006). Perceptions of distance learning: A comparison of online and traditional learning. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 2(1), 1-11.

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

Tanner, J. R., Noser, T.C., & Totaro, M. W. (2009). Business faculty and undergraduate students’ perceptions of online learning: A comparative study. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(1), 29-40.

Free Open Source Review – Open Yale Courses

Free Open Source Review – Open Yale Courses

For this week’s assignment I am tasked with selecting a free open course website and writing a review on the planning and design of the open course, compare and contrast the recommendations for online instruction as determined by our course textbook, and whether or not the designer implemented course activities that maximize active learning for students. For this assignment I choose to review Open Yale Course, RLST 152: Intro to the New Testament History and Literature.

Before I provide an analysis on the Open Yale Course, I will enlighten you on what exactly the Open Yale Courses provide. “Open Yale Courses (OYC) provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the Internet. The courses span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences” (OYC, 2014). OYC were created to provide people around the world free access to a variety of course topics taught at Yale University. The courses are not designed to provide the means to obtain a degree, certificate, or course credit, but rather to educate life-long learners, graduating high school students, or anyone who may be considering attending Yale University. OYC’s main outlet to teach is through recorded lectures from the classroom posted on YouTube. In addition to the online lecture, OYC also provides a detailed syllabus, suggested readings, information on additional books to buy, and a response survey.

RLST 152: Intro to the New Testament History and Literature is comprised of (26) Lecture videos that range from twenty-eight minutes to over an hour long depending on specific topic. Each lecture has a downloadable “Section Topics” handout via a PDF file. The course has not been carefully pre-planned and designed to meet the standards of distance learning according to Simonson et al. (2012), “The instructional environment should be viewed as a system, a relationship among all the components of that system – the instructor, the learners, the material, and the technology (pg. 151). The main OYC page is organized in a manner that allows for easy access to all Open Courses available through OYC. Once the learner selects the course he/she would like to view, the main course page opens up to another well-organized course home page. The top menu bar provides links to the syllabus, all lesson lectures, books to buy, and a post course survey. Additionally, the course main page provides a course overview and information on the professor teaching the course. The syllabus for this particular course is short but detailed enough to provide the learner with a detailed course description, course expectations, texts required, and a grading scale. There is no schedule or approximate due dates for the course papers (I believe this to be the case because there is no actual beginning and ending time frame for the course). On top of that, there are no particular assignment details other than minimum length requirement and a short topic requirement. Lastly, there are no details on how to turn in assignments to the professor. Simonson et al., (2012) state, “Detailed assignment instructions are imperative. Each component of an instructor’s grading scheme should have its own document easily locatable within the course website” (pg. 134). It is apparent the course content layout was designed well, but not all pre-planning phases were implemented. In my opinion, the OYC was created by using actual Face-to-Face class requirements and Yale just uploaded a Face-to-Face classroom lecture which does not fall within a proper distance learning environment. “The term shovelware has evolved to describe this practice: Shovel the course onto the web and say you are teaching online, but don’t think about it much. Online activities for students should have specific pedagogical or course management purpose” (Simonson et al., 2012).

According to the course text, Simonson et al. (2012), recommend having unit-module-topic guidelines, assessment guidelines such as a written paper or quiz, content guidelines such as audio recordings or video supplied on CD or DVD, and instruction/teaching guidelines such as a weekly reading or threaded discussions. Unfortunately the OYC RLST 152: Intro to the New Testament History and Literature course does not do a good job in following the recommended distance learning guidelines. As stated previously, the course reviewed offered (26) lecture videos recorded directly from the face-to-face classroom, no discussion or weekly readings, or module breakdown. However, the course did recommend books to read related to the topic covered. In addition the course did not implement any activities in order to maximize active learning for the students. What would have been useful and full of knowledge is a “new testament” game or quick question activity to accomplish after each recorded video lesson.

In conclusion, the OYC RLST 152: Intro to the New Testament History and Literature course falls more in line with an “what to expect” if a student would want to review a typical Yale University lecture course. This course does provide a wealth of knowledge on the topic and can be viewed as a distance education course, just without the interaction, discussions, online assignments, grading, digital assignment dropbox, and communication with the instructor. Again, the OYC course fails to meet recommended guidelines stated by Simonson et al., “These recommended guidelines are intended to provide ways to organize courses and be guiding principles that will make courses with equal numbers of semester credits equivalent in terms of comprehensiveness of content coverage, even if these courses are offered in different programs, cover different topics, and are delivered using different media” (2012, pg. 180).

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. (2014). About. Retrieved from http://oyc.yale.edu/about

Distance Learning Technologies

Distance Learning Technologies

By Joseph Sicard

As technology continues to rapidly advance and cultivate, so do the avenues of presenting distance learning. Universities, corporations, and students now have endless opportunities to share information across time and space, with or without the others involved being present at the time of upload through the internet. “As new technologies emerge, instructional designers and educators have unique opportunities to foster interaction and collaboration among leaders, thus creating a true learning community” (Beldarrain, 2006).

This week I was tasked with identifying some distance learning technologies that would best provide a training solution for a new automated staff information system that had to be implemented across six differently located regional offices that could not meet at the same time or location. As an instructional designer or training development lead, I will face “growing pressure to enhance [training] curriculum quality while maintaining equity in education… and accomplish this within the framework of extreme budget constraints” (Bingham et. al, 2000). Right off the bat I see the need for a training video to teach each regional office how to use the staff information system and a file sharing site that users can access to download any documents necessary to complete their task.

“The investment in distance learning technology can turn into long term cost reduction by reducing travel, delivery expenses, while increasing effectiveness and providing the ability to track results” (Bingham et. al, 2000). One of the ways to reduce cost would be to use open source software to share the created training video. “Open source software is intended to be freely shared and can be improved upon and redistributed to others” (Simonson et. al, 2012). In order to provide each regional office with a “how to” training video and stay within little to no budget for the corporation, I would suggest using the open source called CamStudio. CamStudio is able to record all screen and audio activity on a computer that can be used to demonstrate how to use this new staff information system (CamStudio.org, 2013). There are other free screen cast streaming video software sources available, but I choose CamStudio based off of the ability to “choose to use custom cursors, to record the whole screen or just a section of it” and the ability to “reduce or increase the quality of the recording depending on if you want smaller videos”. The staff information system will more than likely be an elaborate system that will take numerous screen cast videos that can be broken up by topic when using the system. The ability to create, save, and possibly send small quality videos to the regional offices will be key. Instead of sending the files via email, media sharing utilities like Citrix Share File, YouSendIt, AMRDEC, and Google Docs.

Media sharing sites “allow you to upload your photos, videos and audio to a website that can be accessed from anywhere in the world” (Affilorama.com, n.d.). Media file sharing is where corporations start to pay to share large multimedia files. Some of the considerations to keep in mind when deciding which type of media sharing site to use are how large is the file to upload, bandwidth required, and storage space needed. If the corporation wanted to use a free media sharing site it can turn to Youtube.com to share its streaming screen casts. YouTube defines its limit of a file to 15 minutes or less, but if the corporation wanted to upload a larger file, it will be subject to YouTube compressing the file.
In conclusion the corporation has many options to share the staff information system instructions it will create due to their employees not being able to be in the same place at the same time. The key will be to use “video and computer based systems” to provide “effective utilization of distance education classrooms…. Teaching with technology to learners who are not physically located in the same site where instruction is taking place requires a different set of skills and competencies than traditional education. Technologies are tools that must be mastered to be effective” (Simonson et. al, 2012).

Affilorama. (n.d.). What is a media sharing site? Retrieved July 19, 2014 from http://www.affilorama.com/internet101/media-sharing

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 139-153.

Bingham, J., Davis, T. & Moore, C. (2000). Emerging Technologies in Distance Learning. Issues Challenging Education. Retrieved from http://horizon.unc.edu/projects/issues/papers/Distance_Learning.html

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

Defining Distance Learning

Week 1 Mind Map JPeg

DEFINING DISTANCE LEARNING

This post is a reflection of this week’s learning resources for distance learning: its definition and how it constantly evolves. I will present to you a formal definition, my own personal definition, how distance learning has evolved, what I think the future of distance learning is.

Distance Learning is defined as “institutional-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson et al., 2012). I agree with this definition except for the “formal” portion. Before starting this course, I thought of distance learning as a setting where a learner is at a desk or on a couch, studying, reading or listening to some sort of instruction (mostly via the web), separated by time and space from where and when the instruction originated. After reading this week’s learning resources I still find that to be true, but I realize there is more to this picture I have painted in my head. There are many universities and companies who provided distance learning to students or employees, but ask them to attend to portions or all of the class/seminar at a specific time and date in order to further the learning through active discussions rather than posting a discussion forum and allowing the students/employees to discuss points of topic at their leisurely pace.

Also, my definition and understanding of distance learning has always been one sided – through the learners eyes. As I found out in this week’s resources, a lot of preparatory work and exhaustive hours come at the hands of at least one instructor (and in many cases multiple instructors). Morrison et al. states, “The very nature of producing an educational process in which the learner and teacher are separated by time and space, communicating through technology, and probably using different instructional strategies is markedly different from traditional face-to-face instruction. It is not simply a matter of the faculty member’s content knowledge. Not only is there a pedagogical difference, but also the inclusion of technology often requires new skill sets, new ways of thinking, new time and resource management skills, new ways of communicating and new communication boundaries, additional workers, and interdepartmental coordination to be done successfully” (2008, pg. 68).

With that being said, I would define distance learning as facilitator led or not led instruction provided to the student, who accesses an interactive learning community full of learning resources, discussions (live or previously posted), and possibly evaluation exercises in order to gain relevant insight and knowledge to further education and experience. This does not only happen in a college or university setting, but rather any forum where education and knowledge is at the forefront. For example, a company can further employee knowledge on the seriousness of sexual assault through an online course.

Technology is rapidly changing and with that so does distance learning. When I was in college pursuing a BS degree, I attended a class where the instructor would post his discussions on the web for students to view later or could not make it to the class. Now classes and degrees are designed solely around this concept and the student never has to leave the comfort of his/her own house and can attend when the time is right for the learner. As technology changes so does the path to provide access to the learner, but there is one foundation that cannot be changed and that is to provide the learner the best opportunity to learn. “Distance learning is a dramatic idea. It may change, even restructure, education, but only if it is possible to make the experience of the distant learner as complete, satisfying and acceptable as their experience of the local learner” (Simonson et al., 2012).

References:
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

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