Distance Learning: A modern approach to educating across larger organizational platforms

We are rapidly approaching the year 2020 and in the current and more modern educational industry, there are more institutions and learning platforms that are accommodating distance learners, participants, and overall audiences. Apart from the technological advances in education we have had over the past decade, these modern day practices are becoming more common to satisfy larger groups of learners, participants, and those organizations with educational needs.

I am a faculty adjunct professor at a technical college, a lecturer of computer application systems, and a training consultant for Invista Performance Solutions (IPS), as well as a huge advocate of distance learning practices. I have instructed and spoke on various speaking platforms from in class face-to-face instruction to distance learning. Although it may seem there is a disconnect with the audience via distance learning, it is quite the contrary. The technology incorporated in this process has become very efficient, effective, and more popular especially among corporations that have several brick and mortar businesses in various locations of the country.

The Technology:

A Dictionary defines “Distance Learning” as a method of studying in which lectures are broadcast or classes are conducted by correspondence or over the internet, without the student’s need to attend a school or college; also called distance education (William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 2012).

In modern-day education, we have used everything from ezTalks (ezTalks, 2018) Cloud Meeting to WeVideo (WEVIDEO, 2018); from YouTube to Skype and now larger technology corporations like Cisco Systems or Oracle have innovated various platforms to meet the increasing demand for more distance learning opportunities.

One-Way Communication:

Probably This is (one-way communication) the easiest practice presenters have been using thus far; it is cost-efficient and typically requires very little technological know-how or any complex set up. These typically come in the form of an instructional video or tutorial provided to an intended audience. This is where speakers records themselves and the listener, audience, or student in this case simply watches and learns with a multitude of tools and commands that will assist them in watching (i.e. slowing down, pausing, repeating, etc.).

The advantage to creating a one-way communicative instructional video, or voice recording may be some of the following but not limited to:

  • The Instructor can create as many videos or sound recordings as they want.
  • The Instructor can elaborate and effectively speak on a subject matter without interruption.
  • The Creator can edit, modify, post, and even provide limited access to video or voice recordings; nowadays many programs created to perform these functions have incorporated numerous efficient features that allow creators and instructors to construct a very cohesive educational piece for their intended audiences.

The disadvantages to creating a one-way communicative instructional video or voice recording may be some of the following but not limited to:

  • The instructor or creator will not be able to answer any real-time questions being asked by the audience. They may be able to eventually get to the questions being asked via a blog, FAQ feed, or discussion thread; however, if the listener or participant has a question right away the instructor will not be able to answer immediately.
  • It is hard to measure or gauge the understanding and/or comprehension of the audience.

There are probably numerous more advantages and disadvantages of creating one-way communicative pieces for a distance-learning course; however, I have named a couple I have encountered doing this thus far. I have utilized one-way communicative devices before and after courses I have taught for students that missed the lecture or presentation and/or students that are not able to attend due to the geographical location. I have found that this is extremely useful and helpful in assisting students with reinforcing subject matter concepts.

Two-Way Communication:

Creating a video or even conducting a conference call where everyone attending has an opportunity to input ideas, questions, and/or critique is probably the most powerful way to conduct a distance-learning course. I have had the pleasure of conducting a course facilitated by IPS at the Goodwill of the Olympics & Rainier Region in both the Tacoma and Longview locations.   They have one of the most sophisticated distance learning theaters I have had the pleasure of lecturing in. The lectures I performed here are broadcasted between two alternate locations within Washington State where the students of the alternate locations are able to interact with the theater in real-time.

A two-way communicative platform is not only the wave of the future, but has been incorporated among numerous organizations in modern business.

Advantages:

  • Students and/or participants feel included
  • Presentation(s) are taught in real-time
  • All participants have an opportunity to get inquiries answered right away

Disadvantages:

  • Potentially larger audience therefore the ratio of instructor to class size is ill proportioned
  • More complex systems involved
  • Could potentially be more expensive than your traditional one-way communicative device

Again, two-way communicative learning platforms can be very advantageous for both student and instructor; however, they also can be very technologically complex and not very cost efficient. I always recommend an organization invest in this type of platform if they have a dedicated training and development program or system into place and foresee a future of training opportunities consistently throughout the life of their organization.

Best Practices:

Every instructor or lecturer you meet will have their own style of teaching. However, when dealing with distance learners or lecturing in a distance learning platform, one must be cognizant of the following in order to create a successful and conducive learning environment for all attending:

  • Have all materials easily accessible via a shared drive, or in a cloud drive (i.e. Google Drive, iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Network mapped shared drive, etc.)
  • Construct an on-line meeting place for class discussions, questions, or to allow all participants to collaborate with each other. I have used many of Google Products to assist in this matter. It helps with keeping a running dialogue with your student body as well as provides your faculty and staff updates and climate of the instruction thus far.
  • Physically send out necessary printed materials (simply as a backup). All the technology works great, however, with adult learners and a very diverse student population you will find that some prefer a printed copy or guide to follow along. This will also come in handy for classes where your student population is not very computer savvy.
  • Invest in a proper microphone system rather than the one built-in to laptops or desktop computers. A generic microphone like the built-ins will pick up all kinds of artifact; a dedicated mic will remove background noises making the speakers voice clearer and more concise.
  • Always try to conduct a distance-learning course or lecture over strong Wi-Fi network signal rather than a hotspot or cellular.
  • Make sure your students can see you at all times. If you are presenting something, I always recommend to split-screen with the lecturer in one screen and the presentation in another split across one monitor.

Continuity:

Consider educational institutions like University of Phoenix, University of Maryland, and Treehouse to name a few and take a closer look at why they have adopted these distance-learning platforms. You will find that they sought to meet the need of an exponentially growing workforce where the traditional learning environment was not an option due to the forever-changing logistics of modern business, and a new workforce. With distance-learning platforms created and adopted by pioneering educational institutions like these, they have created a standard that provides their learners, participants, and student body a continuity of care, customer service, and training expertise.

Utilizing distance-learning platforms to present or broadcast information, when available, is not only the future of education and training and development, but almost inevitable in modern business today. By incorporating such practices aforementioned, any organization can increase their exposure, make processes and procedures leaner, save time and money, and ensure a workforce continuously stays abreast on the training and educational needs of the organization.

This was a guest blog written by one of our many talented facilitators, Vincent Calip. Click on the link below to read another fantastic blog Vincent wrote titled “Computer Literacy in Modern Business.”

References:

ezTalks. (2018, June 20). Retrieved from ezTalks: https://www.eztalks.com/

WEVIDEO. (2018, June 20). Retrieved from WEVIDEO: https://www.wevideo.com/

William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. (2012). Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. HarperCollins Publishers.

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