WALDEN UNIVERSITY - ROSEMARY DAWSON Best Practices Guide Converting to Distance Learning Stella Quist 2011 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 participation. 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 enhanced. 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 online? 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, 2009). 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. References Durrington, V., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190–193. Retrieved from http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/433631/strategies_for_enhancing_student_inte ractivity_in_an_online_environment/ Piskurich, G. (2010). Facilitating Online Learning. [Online video]. Retrieved December 13, 2010, retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn. Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.