Thursday, October 29

Drop-By-Learning (DBL)

I hated every minute of training, but I said, "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion." - Muhammad Ali

Have you ever...
  • Attended a Training/Workshop (T/W) session where you learned everything except what you really came for?
  • Attended a T/W session where the facilitator spoke/illustrated too fast?
  • Left during a T/W session, because you had to attend to other urgent matters?
  • Missed a T/W session, because it was scheduled at an inappropriate time?
  • Fallen asleep during a T/W session because it was utterly boring and irrelevant to you?
  • Been overloaded with too many new things to remember anything relevant.
  • Felt that the T/W session was a total waste of time!
  • And we could go on, but let's move on to...

Yes, it is frustrating attending or participating in T/W sessions that are not tailored to exactly what we really want or need to learn, especially if our time is really precious (which is the case for most educators!). On the other hand, it is quite difficult to tailor T/W sessions to meet all the requirements and expectations by all the participants, especially if the group size is substantial (say 25-40 participants), or consist of participants of diverse learning fields and backgrounds.

But, let's face it T/W sessions or large lectures are quite efficient methods in disseminating information and knowledge. But are they really effective in facilitating relevant or authentic learning?

Assume that for example we want to train educators (teachers and lecturers) to use new learning tools, apply instructional design principles, master online facilitation methods, and rapid e-learning skills. What could we do besides the typical scheduled T/W sessions mostly tailored for larger groups (15-40 participants)?

For starters, developing user manuals or content development standards and guidelines would probably be high on the list. Let's create these guidelines, and hope that educators would actually use their precious time to actually read, reflect and practice all the super tricks and tips we share. DREAM ON!

You certainly need to develop (or reuse) manuals and guidelines that includes best practices, tips and tricks (including quick reference guides), but that alone will not transform educators into rapid e-learning pro's. Unless you can make these learning aids really short and super intuitive, many educators would probably never go beyond the attractive front-page cover (alright they will scan through the table of contents!).

Besides manuals and guides, we could develop online FAQs, which are searchable, allows comments, suggestions, ratings and rankings, etc. Now surely that would help, and it probably will. But again, how many educators actually use FAQs to improve their teaching and learning skills?

What about experts systems or know-it-all 3D avatar chat bots? Cool, but unless they are really smart and not insulting to human intelligence, though... If we could simply feed it with content, and it could synthesize and come up with the most appropriate suggestions, now that would be really efficient and useful. Any really good artificial intelligence 3D talking teacher tools to suggest?

Why not screencast or record everything an educator might want to learn? Now that would be really efficient way to disseminate skills training, and perhaps it could turn out to be effective. Record once for everyone at any time (Try Screenr!). Cool! I love learning through screencasting sessions, but unless the tutorial developer is reasonably good at it, it can sometimes get really annoying.

Say I want to learn how to 'bold' some text, but then have to go through a 5-minute step-by-step video tutorial, now that would be really annoying. It is just like calling an automated customer service system, which will take you on a roller-coaster ride for 5 minutes to get you where you want to go. If we could actually talk to a real person instead, it would probably take us 5 seconds! Also, unless the video tutorial has a comment section, or is linked to a Q&A forum, how is it going answer the next question to clarify this and that.

As it might take a life time to screencast everything an educator might want to learn, we should perhaps instead (or in addition) use a web-conferencing tool such as Adobe Connect (educational pricing is reasonable) or DimDim (open source and free) to conduct live online tutorials, whereby we interact and do exactly the things that educators might want to learn. Better yet, we could record and archive these online tutorials as learning content. You want to learn this, watch this recorded learning session. Wow! But then again, some educators will never bother or find the time to gobble through a short or long recorded online tutorial to find what they want to learn.

Besides these alternatives discussed, we could facilitate online forums, join learning communities, immerse our learning into Second Life, use wikis and blogs, reuse/link to free learning tutorials, etc. until we go blue, but some educators still want to learn the art of using technology to facilitate learning through face-to-face learning. So, let's deal with it!

So, in the coming months, we at IMU (or the e-learning department) will be introducing something I refer to as Drop-By-Learning. It is not very different from just-in-time-learning (often used in relation to corporate learning), so I suppose it is not an innovation, except for perhaps the way we will approach it.

Besides the scheduled weekly 1-hour e-learning sessions (exploring new learning methods and tools), major e-learning workshops and our juicy Learning Innovation Lab (interactive online learning resource/discussion space organized according to learning tools and methods), we will select one day a week (rotating the days), whereby our educators can drop-by to learn exactly what they want in small learning nuggets.

Of course, we don't know everything, so we will provide a learning nuggets laundry list of all the things that they can learn from us. In addition, they can always suggest new learning nuggets to include. If we don't know and cannot learn within a reasonable time, we can always link them to a free online tutorial out there (if any).

To avoid us wasting time, and educators dropping by at the same time, we will encourage them to e-mail or call us to book a learning nugget session (5-30 minutes). As our e-learning team is rather small (currently only 4 staff catering to around 200 educators), and have tons of other tasks to deal with besides training, we need to be efficient with our time.

Yes, we also manage the virtual learning environment (Moodle), facilitate content development, do research into new learning tools and approaches (more practical, less paper!), and involved in several e-learning projects blossoming here and there at IMU. We are enjoying the e-learning passion blossoming at IMU, but let's hope we can manage the increasing workload. I am predicting an e-learning exploration tsunami at IMU over the next 12 months (can feel it!). So, we kind of got our hands tied down hard in a stimulating and motivating way.

To make the drop-by-learning sessions really near to my desk, and to avoid all this booking computer labs time-consuming nonsense, it is set up closely, approximately 3.5 meters from my desk. A notebook with a projector and small whiteboard will be ready for action at any moment.

Of course, it would be cool to drop-by the educator's place to facilitate learning nuggets, but at IMU we have adopted an interdisciplinary open learning cluster approach, whereby most educators do not have their own rooms, but sit in open clusters (cubicles) to facilitate open learning and sharing. So, having dudes like me going to educators and making some noise (kind of loud!), might not be appreciated by others, who are not requesting for drop-by-learning.

If a small group wants to come for a learning nugget session, we have 5 learning spots (at the moment only comfortable chairs) ready for action. Also, we provide free candy to stimulate the brain (something like Google in small chunks!), and have set up a dartboard within striking distance, should they be stressed or lack focus.

This is certainly not an efficient approach to facilitate new learning and facilitation skills and methods, but when we soon add drop-by-learning webinars (using Adobe Connect or DimDim), we can slowly facilitate a more effective learning environment, whereby educators at IMU learn..
  • Exactly What they Want
  • How they Want
  • When they Want
  • Wherever they Want

Today, educators seem busier than ever juggling teaching, research, and administration, and by providing them a drop-by-learning option, it will hopefully enable and motivate more educators to learn the skills needed to facilitate effective learning in the 21st century. Can drop-by-learning be implemented effectively? ...Until we have tried, we will never really know :)

P.S. This article and approach is still under construction, but nice to share as it learns (from you) and improves. So, please share your valuable thoughts and ideas. Thank you :)


Nor Fadzleen said...

I'm a teacher and I think the drop-by-learning concept is brilliant! I'm still a novice in e-learning but I'm learning my ways to integrate it in my lessons. Thanks for sharing.

ZaidLearn said...

Dear Nor Fadzleen,

Thanks for the feedback and good luck on your e-learning adventure.

Just remember to make it relevant and engaging, and have lots of fun while doing it.

Simple as that!

Salams Zaid

Rozhan said...

Brilliant idea .. this makes technogogy more relevant as we seek to prepare the 'nugget' or learning objects .. may be we can write a paper together about this ... you game?

ZaidLearn said...

Dear Rozhan Idrus,

Thanks for brilliant feedback :)

I was thinking of presenting this approach at your conference next year :)

Just need to add the literature review, practice the approach, dot down the findings and reflections, and synthesize the areas to improve further.

And finally write it in a academically oriented way with a lot of objectivity my _____ :)

For sure we can write together or something, but for now the most important thing is to practice what I have preached :)

So, do I have one slot (out of 10) for the Technogogy session :)

Getting a keynote session would be excellent (beyond my dreams!). Then I probably don't have to write so academically inclined, and get more time to smash in some juicy learning nuggets, or how we can technogogize the academic world more effectively using the drop-by-learning approach.

Awesome! I love it! Hopefully you do, too :)

Thanks and Salams,


Anonymous said...

Online study groups have a very interesting methodology employed which makes learning fun and also a more interactive activity. These study guides were one such deal for me.

Seti@wan Dirgant@Ra said...

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Nice day