Posts Tagged 'e-Learning'

Probability Illustrated

Currently, I’m working on a rapid e-Learning solution for teaching probability. I was able to quickly use PowerPoint and some clipart to put both the storyboard and the template for the interactivity. I use the animation features in both PowerPoint and Captivate to create the effects and interactive features for the piece. I’d like to spend more time explaining my process for this, but I will save that for a future post.

I created two presentations:

  • Probability and Dependent Events
  • Probability and Independent Events

Actually, the text of both of the presentations comes almost directly from text written by the Subject Matter Expert who intended to have it read online as one would read a print document. Somehow, it didn’t seem engaging enough to me so I went about creating these visual multimedia presentations. Unfortunately I can’t share the finished product up here, but I can share the images of the storyboards.  Both presentations are included in the gallery below.

Slide 3

Slide 3


Applying Eastern Philosophy to Online Learning

Wu Wei

Wu Wei

A few months ago, I attended this virtual presentation at the 2009 TCC conference that really got me thinking: The Tao of Online Facilitation. I’ve linked my notes from this talk.

I can’t seem to escape the idea that good teaching online requires the online facilitator to be more of a guide rather than a spewer of knowledge.  Much of what the presenter, Scot Robinson, shared falls in line with the idea that Online Learning is most beneficial when it applies constructivist learning practices.  Students can be guided to drawing conclusions or applying knowledge effectively through both hands-on and scenario-based learning activities as well as well-crafted questions (posed by the facilitator or teacher). This all reminds me of this adage I heard once: “Telling is not knowing.”

In his presentation Robinson made the point that facilitators are responsible for directing the flow of energy during an online training. Through their questions, they can help generate meaningful conversations that reinforce and promote extended learning.  They can also engage students in online participation in knowledge building via wikis and blogs. They can design creative activities and applications of these technologies to promote learning via collaboration.

Robinson also cautions we Westerners to ease back on the “active” or “dynamic” approach to doing things.  As he said “Westerners are tuned into action…” and it’s hard for us not to act when we see a opportunity or problem. Instead, the savvy online educator should practice Wu-wei or “actionless action.”  Following the line of thinking that encourages the teacher to contribute to the flow of energy in a learning activity, the teacher must observe the flow and “go with it.”

Bruce Lee put it well when he said… “Be water my friend.”


In my mind, I’ve started developing pictures of the Tao of Online Facilitation looks like vs. what it doesn’t look like:

Frustrated online facilitator: Is very upset that the students are not participating and adding information in the wiki according to her plans.  Keeps on directing students back to the original line of inquiry on the wiki. Sometimes panics when things are not going her way.

Sensei online facilitator: Sees that the students are going in a new direction with their wiki resource posts. Watches and observes the exchange of knowledge before providing feedback. Encourages discussion and collaboration, but still gently nudges the group back on track if they get too far off the mark.

Anyone who teaches online can be taught the behaviors that epitomize the Tao of online facilitation.  For myself, I realize that have some very western impulses when it comes to learning and teaching.  I noticed this when I was teaching a sock-knitting class a few weeks ago.  I had to fight the impulse to pick up one very vociferous and frustrated student’s work and help her work it out. I stopped myself because I knew this would be counter-productive for her learning, and after listening to her complain about a previous class she took where the instructor did the work for her, I wanted to help her understand that she could be successful. I stopped for a while and observed her. I noticed from her words and body language that she seemed a very self-conscious about failing in class. I suggested that she meet with me for an hour session outside of class. I was able to get her started using larger yarn and needles. In the end she was the only student to finish the socks during the class. Now, I’m aware of the fact that I had an advantage over online facilitators who cannot read their students’ body language, but I believe that the online facilitator can use a student’s online behavior to diagnose some possible problems with learning. Also, there are questions an online facilitator can ask or observations they can make to better analyze the student’s success or failure to learn.

Practicing the Tao of Facilitation means training online instructors to break old habits and engage in different ways to “perceive” learning.  You can train people up to a point, but if they don’t buy into the philosophy it will not work.  I’ve seen a few  good ideas and e-Learning projects die because the e-Learning development team didn’t adequately prepare the facilitators or trainers adequately. They didn’t coach them to ‘direct the flow of learning’ or even understand what this ‘flow looks like.’ They used that “If we build it they will come” logic rather than looking long term by providing a plan for assessing whether or not the learning endeavor was a success with measurable results from both teachers and students.

Big Question: What Should Learning Professionals Know Today?

Here’s the Learning Circuits Question for July:

In a Learning 2.0 world, where learning and performance solutions take on a wider variety of forms and where churn happens at a much more rapid pace, what new skills and knowledge are required for learning professionals?

Here’s my list of four things I think are most important:

  1. Valuing and working with company and organization leaders to build a “Culture of Learning” or “Learning Organization” via Peter Senge’s Model. Forget being able to launch the next best thing in social networking or Learning 2.0. If this is not a huge part of your company or organization’s mission and culture. You may find an uphill battle in introducing change. In my experience companies who work without a “Culture of Learning” often end up making reactionary moves  instead of ones built around a vision, achievable goals and a realistic plan. They hire reactionary managers and staff, and at the very worst the company devolves into an environment where ‘fires’ are contantly fought and nothing new is really developed.  How can any group or individual really inspire real change in learning let alone innovate in these types of environments?
  2. Understanding possible flows of learning using social media. The Internet has made us incredibly social and increasingly connected with each other. The problem with this is that there are so many avenues for learning and it may be difficult to assess learning that comes as a result of social learning.
  3. Applying constructivism & collaboration to learning online/offline as much as possible. I think developing both collaborative and constructivist activies is going to be necessary for higher-level educators, many of whom are still bent on the traditional methods of teaching via lecture, and for people who develop training for higher education.  The Internet, Web 2.0, Learning 2.0 foster constructivist (websearches, social tagging, forums) and collaborative learning activities (wikis, online discussion) through the media available online. These are the types of activities that not only engage learners, often they reinforce the knowledge and skills so that they’re more likely to be applied effectively in the future. Plus, I’m sorry folks. Learning doesn’t have to be boring and passive like it used to be in the past.
  4. Accepting that you can’t learn everything “2.0.” It’s too easy to be overwhelmed by the rapid rate of development of tools in Learning 2.0. I think being able to develop a strong set of learning goals and objectives for yourself, your company, or your group is a good place to start. Say you need to market your courses better online, then you probably should start looking at how to effectively use social networking sites like Twitter & Facebook. You probably should also read books like the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell as a primer.

How do you find and implement a new Learning Management System (LMS)?

I’ve been trying to think of some of the projects I most enjoyed over the past few years. I know Christy posted this already in her blog, but I’d thought I’d share our journey to selecting a new Learning Management System with all of you.   This was quite a journey we took to find a new Learning Management system. I have to say it’s been one of the projects I’ve been most proud to work on during my entire career. I learned much more about working effectively with a virtual team on this project than during my seven years at a technology development company.  Of all the highlights of this journey I’m most proud of the work we did to provide a usability test and develop a comprehensive training package that prepared our users for the transition from our old LMS to Sakai.  Overall, we’re very happy with Sakai and our contract with rSmart to house and maintain our LMS (not our content).  As we noted in the presentation we reviewed and tested several LMSs and even several vendors before we found one that met our needs.  For me this was a lesson in the value of thorough planning rather than making snap and uneducated decisions about choosing any type of system or vendor.

A fun note, we used ToonDoo to create slides around a narrative about our story, and we told our story to the slides. Christy even opened our preso by playing the Star Trek theme. Fun times!

Do you have to design learning experiences differently for Digital Natives?

From the Learning Circuits Question of the Month

  • Do you believe that we have to design, develop and deliver instruction differently for the so-called Digital Natives?
  • Are there differences in learning expectations and styles or can we just design good instruction and know that it meets all generational needs?
  • If you have an audience that includes natives and immigrants, how can you effectively design instruction without breaking the bank?

It’s probably best to design learning experiences from a Constructivist approach. Digital natives will become easily bored with traditional essays and quizzes. Why not have them create content in different media. I also believe that engaging more digitally savvy individuals with the less savvy digital immigrants is a good thing. Everyone should be coached to help each other learn and to ‘slow down’ or explain things when someone does not understand. This might help alleviate the feelings of frustration from the digital immigrants.

Some suggestions for learning experiences/projects:

(note this list will probably grow… this is just what I have off the top of my head)


I love wikis because they teach people how to play nicely with each other when creating content in a virtual space.

  • Team built wiki (each group or individual is responsible for a different content area).
  • Media share – every week someone must share a media piece or link to content/info/resources for the class subject in a common wiki area. They provide information on why they chose the item and the classmates post comments on the items in the class discussion for this page.
  • Wiki story – students work together to write a story/narrative in the wiki
  • Virtual Art Gallery – students showcase their artwork (art, painting, video, music, etc.). Other students can provide feedback
  • Research Data – students can link to spreadsheets and text on data they’ve collected for experiments


  • Develop an interpretation or a satirical take on a book or television show
  • Produce a documentary or interview session on the topic of interest
  • Video sharing – have students create video responses to a topic and to each other’s views on a topic


  • Write a regular radio show or drama that discuss or treats the content or subject. I love this idea!
  • Virtual audio responses – students can provide brief audio feedback on assignments and posts rather than written ones. This makes interaction with each other more personal in an asynchronous way.

Second LIfe

  • Develop a playground representative of a period
  • Develop an interactive story area where students can interact and act out a story. They can even create their own interpretation of events in a story and take snapshots in order to retell it
  • Develop a museum dedicated to a subject


My place outside of work to explore and make connections with the ideas and things (sometimes work-related) that I'm passionate about.

My Tweets

Blog Stats

  • 297,150 hits