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Using the features of Live Meeting for Training

2 Feb

This week I was involved in a presentation on using Live Meeting as a virtual classroom. The presentation went well, but what I found most interesting was the audience response to the features of Live Meeting.

Originally Microsoft designed Live Meeting as a virtual meeting tool. However, its features, such as a whiteboard and polls, allow it to be used for training. For many in the audience, this seemed new and surprising. They assumed instead that Live Meeting would just function as a video conferencing tool.

In fact, I would argue that features such as polls in Live Meeting can actually enhance the learning experience (if used appropriately). Let me explain …

Have you ever been in a face-to-face meeting where no-one can make a decision and the issue at-hand goes round in circles? This is not so easy in Live Meeting when the participants are faced with a direct question in a poll that only allows “yes” or “no” as answers.

The same approach can be applied to learning – especially scenario based learning. You can use polls in Live Meeting to direct learners down certain paths with greater clarity. This is particularly useful for those learners who seemingly have less time than others (i.e. in the corporate world – leadership).

Of course, as with all implementation of learning, success depends on the quality of design. To use Live Meeting as a training tool, instructional designers need to become familiar with its features and figure out the best way(s) to deploy them.

However, as I found out this week, using the features in Live Meeting just might enhance the learning experience.

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Reconsidering the advantages of a virtual classroom

22 Nov

We all know the advantages of a virtual classroom – the cost savings, the non-travel, and even the physical learning environment (being able to learn in your own space). But what about the learning experience? Does a virtual classroom always deliver the best learning experience?

Sometimes the answer is no.

Training in a virtual classroom has a number of challenges, not least instructors and learners being unfamiliar with learning in a virtual world. But perhaps the most significant challenge/problem is trying to replicate the traditional classroom in the virtual classroom. Despite the number of virtual classroom tips and tricks out there, the learning experience is undoubtedly compromised by trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

So what can we do? First, we need to figure out what works really well in a virtual classroom and what doesn’t. For me, collaboration works well but lecturing doesn’t. A virtual classroom has the interactive tools that facilitate engaging learner collaboration, but even with a webcam, the talking head format of a lecture is a bore in a virtual classroom setting.

Second, we need to understand that a virtual classroom is an option within a larger blended learning approach to training. When faced with a training problem (opportunity), the solution shouldn’t always be based on cost savings. What about the learning experience? Shouldn’t that be part of the picture?

So, to conclude, a virtual classroom can best serve the learning experience, but it can also hinder. As such, we need to consider the learning involved and whether a virtual classroom would be the best fit.

Lessons learnt while project managing a keynote presentation

26 Oct

It’s been a few weeks since I have blogged, but I’ve been busy project managing the delivery of a keynote presentation on virtual meetings.

By project managing, I mean organizing and re-organizing, arranging and re-arranging, scheduling and re-scheduling everything and anything from meetings, people, and places. Ultimately the process has been one of collaboration with a diverse collective of people (internal/external co-workers/clients) to achieve a single goal – the delivery of an 1 1/2 hour presentation on virtual meetings.

So what have I learnt from the experience? First, when working with a diverse group you need structure. Whether that is organizing a weekly catch-up meeting or simply sending out an agenda on the Wednesday before the meeting – structure means everyone gets the information at the same time and at the same place. Second, you need transparency. With a diverse group the process can become muddy – people going off in different directions, developing new ideas, having separate conversations. But creating a transparent process can help eliminate some of the confusion. For me, that transparent process meant storing all the different elements of the presentation in one powerpoint slide deck. All the work that people did on their own ended up in the slide deck (which was versioned). That way everyone on the project could see how the presentation was developing, from the areas that kept changing to the areas that needed work.

So, how did the presentation go? Well, it’s next week and I’m looking forward to it. By project managing the development of the presentation I’ve become very close to the content, but as the walk-throughs and dry-runs have proved, the presentation should engage the audience, generate some laughs, make people think, and demonstrate how a diverse group can collaboratively deliver a single goal.

W.C. Schutz and Virtual Meetings

2 Sep

In the next couple of months I will be presenting at my organization’s “Management Conference.” The topic of my presentation is virtual meetings. As managers at my organization have to regularly travel to numerous sites over significant distances, the topic is high on the “needs” agenda.

Although, my main focus is technology, my presentation won’t be on technical skills. Instead, it will be based on the soft skills around running virtual meetings. While these managers have years of experience in running face-to-face meetings, I would argue that running a virtual meeting is somewhat different.

But what exactly is different? Recently I’ve been reading about W.C. Schutz’ three basic needs to collaborate: inclusion, control, and openness. All three can be applied to running meetings, but for virtual meetings their significance is heightened. For example, inclusion in a virtual meeting is difficult because of the lack of physical presence. Not “being there” could lead to participants feeling ignored or marginalized. The same problem applies to control or influence. The lack of eye-contact in a virtual setting could lead to participants feeling frustrated by being unable to get the attention of the meeting leader. And of course openness is compromised in an environment that participants feel uneasy communicating within.

So how can we overcome these problems? First, we need a process that embraces Schutz’ three requirements. For inclusion, at the start of meeting participants need to introduce themselves and their location. For control or influence, polls should be set-up to engage participants. And at the end of the meeting, time should be allowed for participants to ask any further questions.

If you have any other soft skills tips or best practices, please add a comment.

The Future of Instructional Design – New Questions for an ID to Answer

24 May

Recently I read a blog post by Tony Bates on an instructional design workshop (Just ID) at the University of British Columbia (UBC). It’s a fascinating read on how Instructional Designers in BC view the challenges facing their profession and its future directions.
Check out the post here:
Tony Bates Blog Post
For me, the most interesting point that Tony Bates made in the post regarded what he called the “elephant in the room” – namely the “the design of campus-based learning experiences when much can be done online.” I would argue that this elephant is also applicable to corporate training/adult education. As more learning technologies (e-learning, screencasting, mlearning, virtual classroom etc … ) become part of the training culture, Instructional Designers will have to develop the tools/models to make decisions about the most appropriate mode or modes of training.
At the moment, these types of decisions are seemingly made with just the budget in mind. But what happens when we begin to think about putting the interests of learners first?

Having a Disaster Recovery Plan

13 Jan

Today I had a disaster – well not quite a disaster, a near-miss.

I was going to run a Live Meeting session using computer audio. Unfortunately, my fellow meeting participants had trouble hearing me. So I needed a Plan B or as some people say a “Disaster Recovery Plan.”

Technical problems seemingly beset every learning project with technology at the centre of  its success. That’s why you always need to incorporate a “Disaster Recovery Plan” when designing a course.

For me this morning, Plan B was the telephone. Plan C would have been re-arranging the session.

Organizing before using LiveMeeting as a virtual classroom

7 Jan

A virtual classroom has numerous advantages over a classroom – for example, no scheduling or travelling issues.

However, a trainer needs to prepare before using LiveMeeting as a virtual classroom. Here is my do list:

  • Test audio/video – confirm with learners that they have headsets etc …
  • Upload material in the Handouts section – inform learners where the handouts are and whether they need to print/read the material before class
  • Carry out a dry-run – have your material ready and run through whether your videos etc … work ok in the LiveMeeting environment.

The preparation before class will payoff during class.

Here are some more tips on getting organized before a virtual lesson:

http://24tips.elearningnetwork.org/2010/12/preparing-virtual-session/