Use the Medium (A Spork Doesn’t Work That Well)

Use the Medium (A Spork Doesn’t Work That Well)
By: Jessica Rebstock

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When taking an online course, most people are expecting certain things. A website with well organized sections, buttons, and links. Some graphics. Content that’s interesting and relevant. That pretty much covers most people’s basic expectations. An organization’s training modules must look as good or better than any other professional website people visit.

But, does a well organized website create a rich learning environment? Not necessary. Ideally, all online course content should be “born digital.” This means that course content and activities were created for digital display and fully use the advantages of the online environment. You can zoom in on content, you can search, you can watch videos, you can manipulate items on your screen, and you can easily send your classmates messages. Now, your course has that “interactivity” that everyone is always taking about. Your students have the ability to experiment and create. Your students are given the opportunity to connect with anyone, anytime.

Online course content should be different than the same training given in a classroom. Why? Because you should be using the distinct advantages one medium provides over the other. In classroom training, participants should be engaged in that physical space – the content presented on projection screen, the classmates sitting next to them, the instructor right in front of them. Participants can immediately ask questions and get feedback. This face-to-face time should be used wisely and purposefully. And the online medium? Trainers should consider the advantages of the online medium as well. Online learning environments should encourage participants to stay connected to one another through technology, create opportunities for safe practice, and allow participants to have extra time for reflection on course content.

Sometimes training professionals are under pressure to single source training content. Or, we have our favorite training methods and always want to use them regardless of the medium. The medium matters. A lot. You don’t use a megaphone in your house (usually). You can’t read the newspaper while you are driving (please don’t). These things matter.

Consider your medium. Build for that medium.

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Supporting Communities Through MOOCs

Supporting Communities Through MOOCs
By: Jessica Rebstock

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are an innovative and cost effective way for any individual or organization to share knowledge with the community at large. I personally believe that MOOCs should be used to support important community initiatives. Today, MOOCs can be created for free (or at very low cost) using a Google community, a customized WordPress site, an open source platform (e.g. Canvas), or other Learning Management System platform. By attending informative MOOCs, community members can then grow their knowledge and collaboratively problem solve.

Free training modules have been around on the Internet for years, e.g. YouTube videos, website content, etc. MOOCs are different because large numbers of people participate together during a specified timeframe. MOOCs both present expert knowledge and provide tools that allow for collaboration among participants. As noted by Roz Hussin at the Distance Teaching and Learning 2013 conference, motivated learners may even proactively create their own MOOCs in an effort to support their own learning and collaboration interests.

It is important to note that offering a MOOC still requires some specific expertise. High-quality MOOCs have skilled facilitators and offer expert knowledge on course topics. Marketing is also a consideration. Effective MOOCs are highly publicized and encourage participants to actively contribute to the conversation.

MOOCs are yet another opportunity for individuals and organizations to reflect and consider: What is my/our purpose? What do I/we want to share with the world? How can what I/we do benefit the community at large? When looked at through that lens, more people many want to consider offering or, at least, sponsoring a MOOC.