Sunday, November 29, 2009

Collaborative Book Writing and Learning

Over the weekend I heard an interesting story on NPR about the future of the book industry called Book It. Host Brooke Gladstone spoke with various guests about the changes occurring in the book industry including the growth of self-publishing and e-books. One section of the interview was with Bob Stein of The Institute for the Future of the Book who spoke about "books 2.0" and how the future of books will be a collaborative process between authors and readers. It sounded far-fetched at first, but as he described the process, I was intrigued.

The discussion about books 2.0 had me thinking about the learning industry and how technology has changed and will continue to change the industry. Many of the ideas that Bob Stein discussed can be applied to the learning industry, for example, readers influencing books by collaborating with authors as they write books. This sounds like learners contributing to learning programs by participating in interactive learning experiences such as wikis and web conferences. "Learning 2.0" has come about as a result of technology that allows for more interactive and collaborative learning experiences and it's good news for adult learners. Adults learn best when they are engaged and contributing to the learning experience. The pace of change in the learning industry has definitely picked up and I predict that adult learners will continue to benefit from new learning tools and techniques that focus on collaborative learning.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stream 57's Panel Discussion on Online Training

Stream 57 recently hosted a webcast panel discussion on “E-Learning and Online Training in the Face of the Flu, the Recession and the Demand for Better Education.” The panel shared a variety of insights on how to use technology for learning events and best practices for interacting with online audiences.

Throughout the discussion, a live audience participated by responding to polls and asking questions via chat. One interesting poll question was “What is the best way to successfully keep the audience engaged during teachings and trainings?” The audience responded that polling (42%), testing (38%) and chatting (17%) are good ways to engage an online audience. Only 4% of the audience thought that live video of the presenter is enough. I couldn’t agree more. In my experience those who are new to the area of delivering training via web conference will focus on the live video feature of a web conference. While it’s certainly helpful to be able to see the person who is speaking, if your interactivity starts and stops with a live video, you will quickly lose the attention of your audience.

The panel discussed a related question on how to prepare your instructors for teaching online. Brian O’Donnell from Centocor Ortho Biotech commented that teaching online is a teachable skill. Andrej Petroski from Harrisburg University suggested that instructors need to practice teaching online and think about the learner experience. He suggested attending webinars and paying attention to what you like and don’t like about the experience. I have utilized this method of attending webinars and observing the teaching techniques. There are so many creative ways to engage a learner in an online audience, and from every webinar I attend I can either pick up a new technique to try out or note something that didn’t work well in a session. Step-by-step, this is a great way to master the art of teaching to an online audience. And best of all, you can usually do this for free on your lunch hour.