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September 10, 2006

Converting In-Class Training to Distance Learning Programs: Challenges and Issues. Part 2.

So, you decided to proceed with converting your class training to the distance education format. What to expect? First and foremost, you must prepare instructors.

Effective distance learning course absolutely requires that it is developed by a professional who understands the medium of delivery, as well as adult learning patterns. Significant time lapse between the “teaching” step and the “feedback” step often disorients experienced instructors accustomed to the immediacy of the face-to-face lessons and abundant non-verbal clues. You really need to address this disadvantage of distance learning by providing opportunities for the feedback and questions (via e-mail, class electronic bulletin boards, or other means). Taping instructor lecturing might be a first step in creating a course. Well-rounded course, however, includes more than just a videotaped lecture.  Technology allows you to incorporate video episodes for students to view, PDF and MS Office documents to study, links to relevant web sites, course-specific electronic bulletin board and to the practice tests and you should definitely use these opportunities.

Preparations being mentioned, nothing helps instructor to better understand the medium and the course better than the opportunity to try his or her hand and then reflect on best ways to deliver the knowledge.  When people hear their recorded voice for the first time, they often hardly recognize it, because we all hear our own voices differently.  Even more surprised are instructors when they see themselves on the video for the first time. This surprise is rarely pleasant, making training “within the media” all the more important.

Technical support issues come to play at full force presenting a two-prong problem: the problems that instructors encounter and the problems encountered by students. Unless you force certain structure to this from the outset, you are run a serious risk of instructor spending most of his time trying to remotely fix somebody’s computer or DVD player and getting angry at not being able to do so while students are frustrated at inability to learn.

In general, building new, more structured environment is extremely important in distance learning – a task often underestimated during the design phase.

Transformation to distance learning also creates new set of new challenges for the students and we’ll discuss next time.

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Alex Heiphetz received Ph.D. in Geophysics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1994. After working for Geo-Mechanics, Inc., a consulting business, he started an independent company in 1997.  Delta L Printing specializes in business services to training companies and educational institutions: training management software, publishing, audio and video production. Dr. Heiphetz can be reached via e-mail alex.heiphetz@deltalprinting.com or through the company web site www.deltaLprinting.com.

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