Fundamentals Of Learning Technologies: Part 1
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Learning Technologies Fundamentals: Part 1 

Think of how much of your life has been spent learning? Daily learning comes from a variety of sources including coworkers, family, and friends. In schools, learning is much more structured consisting of books, whiteboards (blackboards), teachers, and class schedules. To ensure that learning material is retained by students, the teacher uses a combination of individual exercises, group exercises, and quizzes. Creating this learning material was time consuming and tedious. However, the benefit has always been scalability. Once learning material is created, it can be used over and over again. Not just for one school - lots of schools throughout the country.

Enter digital software and computer hardware technology. Books no longer need to be typeset, learning material can be instantly updated in the cloud, and 35mm slides are replaced with PowerPoints. The restriction of mandated scheduled learning has been displaced by curriculum that can be delivered anytime, anywhere. How we learn in the workplace is undergoing a massive transformation.

And it all starts in the electronic classroom.

The Elements Of Classroom Learning

There are typically three stages involved with the life cycle of live classroom training from conception to class presentation.

Elements Of Classroom Learning: Process Diagram

Instructional Design Production Delivery
Function Create the learning material. Create the learning material for the course. Schedule and hold training with students in a classroom setting.
Role Instructional Designer. Production manager. Instructor.
Participants Subject Matter Experts and compliance reviewers. Production staff, suppliers, and vendors. Students, venue staff, registration managers.
Output Slides and associated documents, code, or other artifacts are created. Produce final courseware material and prepare for printing. Scheduled class of the course in a classroom setting. Each student receives course material (like handouts of the slides, exercise task descriptions, and so on). Slides are projected onto a screen.
Sample tools and technology Microsoft Office apps (PowerPoint and Word) to produce initial storyboards and courseware material. [1] Adobe, Microsoft, and Autodesk tools can be used to finalize professional graphics and layout. Everything to be printed can be exported to PDF format using Adobe Acrobat. PowerPoint, Inateck wireless presenter (WP1002), Casio Green Slim Line Projector (XJ series) equipment. Online student registration logistics are provided by vendors like cvent and RegOnline.
Schedule Takes some period of time. Usually takes less time than Instructional Design stage. Set class times, highly structured.

My company, Leading Software Maniacs, creates and presents innovative live workshops for software developers and managers. Workshops are usually presented as a set of slides that are accompanied with printed handouts for students during a class. Highlights of live training include:

  • Classes take place at a set time and location.
  • Interaction is encouraged between instructor and students. Table arrangement usually accommodates 4-6 attendees per table (round tables work best). Food and beverage service should be provided.
  • Marketing and promotion for live workshops needs the help of local professional organizations hosting the event (PMI® comes to mind). Armed with a trusty laptop and a lightweight projector, there are literally hundreds of agile consultants presenting agile workshops hosted by PMI local chapters throughout the world.
  • Inexpensive software tools and hardware devices gives new meaning to DIY. Now, most anyone can create world-class learning material.
  • There’s considerable effort in handling the logistics: Venue selection, registration, and attendee fee collection. Working with vendors, partners, and attendees takes considerable personal interaction. Even with online software tools.

There can be different folks responsible for each of the three phases, however for most of us, the creator of the course is usually the person producing and presenting the material.

Learning Technologies: Enter eLearning 

As many businesses have benefited from massive automation, learning is going through similar transformations. Educational technology, or eLearning, is possible due to personal computers and the internet. Software apps provide integrated solutions that enhance how to connect learning with computing devices. This software-driven approach allows self-direction, mobility, and even collaboration and evaluation.

Originally known as computer-based instruction (CBI), eLearning offers key dramatic benefits.

Live classroom eLearning
Creation of presentation material Use PowerPoint to create slideshow. Use PowerPoint to create slideshow. Use screen recording software/devices to produce a video for viewing.
Storyboard outline and presentation flow Optional. Mandatory. [1]
Marketing and promotion Local for the event. Social media.
Class setting Classroom or conference room. Work desk, coffee shop, or home.
Class schedule Must be scheduled. Can be scheduled online or self-directed.
Expenses Travel, venue, and registration. Registration only.
Handouts Printed. View in browser, downloadable.
Student/Teacher collaboration Yes. Limited, perhaps through chat room or forums.
Computing device Rarely required. Desktop, laptop, and mobile (tablet).

There must be great opportunity to supply technology for eLearning. According to Capterra, there are at least 500 Learning Management Systems providers in the market. [2]

Learning technologies can provide a mechanism to evaluate how well students are learning in addition to offering more guidance if they fall behind. Even the use of games has become an accepted way to motivate and aid in the retention of information learned. I've posted a quick survey on how you like to learn. The survey is anonymous and will take no longer than a couple of minutes to complete. An analysis of survey results will be included in part 2 of “Fundamentals of Learning Systems”.

References: 

  1. Whitaker, Ken. “Storyboarding Is A Total Waste Of Time.” eLearning Industry. October 25, 2015.
  2. Capterra. “Top LMS Software.” Capterra.
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