Converting to Distance Learning

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        Best Practices Guide
              Converting to Distance Learning
                                      Stella Quist


                     DISTANCE   LEARNING
  What are some of the pre-planning strategies the trainer needs to consider
                      before converting his program?

       Designing distance learning experiences is a dynamic process that requires detailed

planning and organization, which makes pre-planning critical in the instructional design process.

Not only do instructional designers need to be devotedly aware of learner needs, but they must

understand how to utilize effective instructional strategies and modern technologies that help

content come to life. In order to complete this week’s application assignment, I have generated

strategies that the training manager in the following scenario could consider for converting his

face-to-face training session to a blended learning format.

       A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees

in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s

permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format,

which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn

the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting

all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and

assignments at all times.

       In the article Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment,

Durrington, Berryhill, & Swafford, (2006), proposed diverse strategies that are imperative in

facilitating communication in an online learning environment. The proposed strategies will be

appropriate for the training manager in the scenario above. The strategies will facilitate

communication between student-student and student-instructor in the online learning

environment. The following are the some communication strategies that the training manager

needs to consider for promoting communication in his online learning environment.
                              Post thought provoking questions each week for discussion.

                              Specify guidelines for each assignments.

                              Encourage students to elaborate on their postings.

                              Challenge students to do further research in addition to the
                              provided resources.
                              Ask students questions about their postings to encourage in-depth
                              Encourage students to utilize both "Q & A" forum as well as the
                              student launge.

                              Activities and applicatioins should enhance the content.

                              Put students in small groups for collaboration.

        In addition to the communication strategies above, the training manager also need to

consider some effective pre-planning strategies before converting his face-to-face course to the

blended learning environment. During the planning process for distance learning, he needs to

accommodate all the content, technology, and the learners need. The syllabus must be complete

including breaking down all the resources and assignment such as book, article, video,

discussions, projects, group works, as well as assessments procedures to reflect what the learners

need to be done each week. All of these must be planned ahead of time for smooth learning

experience. Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009) claimed that it is

crucial to plan activities that encourage interactivities at all the sites as it helps students. He also

asserted that when group activities are planned and included in distance learning, it helps

construct a supportive social environment. The following are some pre-planning strategies to be

considered by the training manager.
                            Develop a good lesson plan that meet the
                                        learners need.

                            Familiarize yourself with the necessary
                                       technology tools .

                    Your focus should be more on the activities rather
                                than the content delivery.

                      Make sure the instruction matches the objectives.

                     Remember to ask the designer about good and
                                  effective ideas.
                  Consider having "plan b" as anything could go wrong
                                      at any time.

What aspects of his original training program could be enhanced in
                  the distance learning format?

  Aspect of original training process that can be enhanced in the distance
                              learning format.

  All of the benefits of
                                                    Content aligned with
   the online distance           The learning
                                                   the curriculum can be
 learning environment        environment can be
    can be enhanced.              enhanced .
                                                  The communication can
Social and collaborative        Organized and
                                                   be enhanced using the
 benefits in the fact-to-   sequenced content can
                                                     discussion forum,
 face environment can           be enhanced.
                                                      blogs, and chat.
      be enhanced.
   How will his role, as trainer, change in a distance learning environment?

       Engaging facilitation is absolutely essential to the success of the distance learner

experience. The trainer’s role in the above scenario is more facilitating than training in the online

learning environment because students in the online learning environment should be actively

engaged. Piskurich (2010) discusses the following best practices for facilitators in the distance

learning environment.

1) Have to be familiar with the software that they will be using.

2) Review the lesson plan thoroughly – know how the material will be taught, what the

problems are the students will work on, know when and how to turn it over to the students for

their experience and learning.

3) Go through entire course and understand all lessons ahead of the course beginning – they

should not be preparing for a lesson just before it is taught.
4) Understand that learners learn differently. You must keep in constant contact with students in

online environments. If a student is late or seems disconnected from the course – you should be

in contact with them and draw them into the course interaction.

5) You must participate in all synchronous and asynchronous discussions, constant monitoring

the discussion and following the student progress.

6) It is critical that the learners know you care about their success.

 What steps should the trainer take to encourage the trainees to communicate

       In order for the trainer to encourage the trainees to communicate, he must consider the

following strategies as they are effective in enhancing communication in an online learning

environment. The trainer should encourage the learners to participate in the weekly discussion

using thought provoking questions that are relevant to the content. Additionally, he should

motivate learners with incentives such as grades and bonus point in responding to others post in
analytical and scholarly way. When students are responding to others post, they may provide

feedbacks, ask questions, share insight, offer an opinion, make suggestions, and note a similarity

or difference to the postings. Further, he should encourage students to use other resources for

resourceful and valuable information. Finally, he must also monitor the online discussion to

make certain that students are engaged and on task (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek,


         In conclusion, when converting face-to-face course to a distance learning environment,

designers need to be aware of learners needs, be knowledgeable of various effective instructional

strategies, and be conversant with the innovative technologies of the 21st centuries that are

indispensable in an asynchronous learning environment.

Durrington, V., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student

       interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190–193. Retrieved from


Piskurich, G. (2010). Facilitating Online Learning. [Online video]. Retrieved December

       13, 2010, retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at

       a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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