Say What You Mean: Defining Learning Lingo for Your Organization.

June 6, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all heard (and regularly use) terms like e-learning, webinar, web-based training, virtual training, digital learning, and distance learning.  However, ask ten people what e-learning means and you’re likely to get ten different answers.I’ve had the pleasure of working with all sorts of clients, large and small, with varying degrees of sophistication within their learning and development departments. Working with different clients means learning their learning culture’s unique language. Even the simplest of terms may mean something different to the client than it does to me and the Mondo Learning Solutions team members on the project. To make things more confusing, terms are often used interchangeably, even though technically, they do have different meanings. If you are in a situation where an outside professional is assisting you with the development and delivery of learning programs, establishing definitions is important. If that weren’t enough, let’s consider the other internal folks outside of our profession. While the learning terms used may be clear to everyone on your learning and development team, it may not be clear to your learners or stakeholders. Taking from my personal experience, I think of this issue a little bit like the different terms or words for items used all over the country. The same terms to name certain items in Wisconsin, where I’m based, might be called something completely different in a different part of the country.  A few examples: bubbler and drinking fountain, shopping cart and buggy, or even pop and soda. Not having moved here until I was 24, imagine my surprise when someone asked me where the bubbler was.When defining terms related to learning delivery methods, you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. Let’s take a quick look at the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) official definitions for the following terms: Web-based Training (WBT): Delivery of educational content via a Web browser over the public Internet, a private intranet, or an extranet. Web-based training often provides links to other learning resources such as references, email, bulletin boards, and discussion groups. WBT also may include a facilitator who can provide course guidelines, manage discussion boards, deliver lectures, and so forth. When used with a facilitator, WBT offers some advantages of instructor-led training while also retaining the advantages of computer-based training. E-learning: A wide set of applications and processes, such as web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, intranet/extranet (LAN/WAN), audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, CD-ROM, and more. Webinar: A small synchronous online learning event in which a presenter and audience members communicate via text chat or audio about concepts often illustrated via online slides and/or an electronic whiteboard. Webinars are often archived as well for asynchronous, on-demand access. ILT (instructor-led training): Usually refers to traditional classroom training, in which an instructor teaches a course to a room of learners. The term is used synonymously with on-site training and classroom training (c-learning). Asynchronous Learning: Learning in which interaction between instructors and students occurs intermittently with a time delay. Examples are self-paced courses taken via the Internet or CD-ROM, Q&A mentoring, online discussion groups, and email. Synchronous Learning: A real-time, instructor-led online learning event in which all participants are logged on at the same time and communicate directly with each other. In this virtual classroom setting, the instructor maintains control of the class, with the ability to "call on" participants. In most platforms, students and teachers can use a whiteboard to see work in progress and share knowledge. Interaction may also occur via audio or video conferencing, Internet telephony, or two-way live broadcasts. While these may be the official definitions for the profession, organizations across the country have their own “dialect”.  This is where it can be challenging.As you can see, virtual instructor-led training (vILT) is not defined independently by ATD, but that is the term, we here at Mondo Learning Solutions, use to define what others might call synchronous learning, a webinar, or even e-learning.I agree that official definitions are helpful, but what is more important is that everyone is on the same page. Existing company vocabulary and semantics might mean your company refers to a web-based training as a webinar, or a vILT class as e-learning, and that’s ok. As long as everyone is aware of those semantics and what is actually being defined. What about you? Has definition differences of common training terms caused any problems within your organization? We’d love to hear your stories.  

Dress Rehearsals…A Non-Negotiable in the Virtual Classroom

June 14, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
We’ve all been there. You’re attending a conference. As the presenter takes the podium to begin, it happens. The lavaliere mic doesn’t work, and a blue screen illuminates the room where a presentation should be. Everyone is thinking….”Didn’t they test all this beforehand?” For musicians, artists, and, yes, even virtual facilitators and virtual producers, the dress rehearsal is an important step in making sure your first live delivery is a success, and not technical torture for all involved. Your team has spent countless hours creating killer content that involves the participants in the learning process and uses the technology to its maximum capability.  Session expectations have be en well communicated, pre-work is in the participants hands, and it seems that the only thing left to do is have that first live session. But this scenario leaves out an important element, the dress rehearsal. A tempting corner to cut that often becomes a regret. A dress rehearsal gives every key player involved in the session, a chance to work through the kinks, test equipment, and practice “hand-offs” planned during the session. It is also an opportunity to communicate last minute changes and adjustments, eliminating any surprises or miscommunications during the first live session. For experienced facilitators, the technology is the part that needs to be tested and practiced. The words and content come easy. It’s the virtual delivery in the actual platform that can be challenging. Each virtual learning platform comes with a myriad of tools and functionalities at the presenter’s disposal. If you’re working with a technical host, you may not have to know exactly how they all function, but it’s still a good idea to understand the capabilities of the virtual environment and test them out together. Here is a checklist of items we typically test. Presentations should be loaded so transitions and animations can be checked and double-checked. Any video clips should be streamed to test for sound, accuracy, and playback quality. The session audio, presenter headset, and other equipment should be tested, as well as web cameras if they will be used. Slides, polls, and other content can benefit from a second or third set of eyes checking for errors and flow.  Breakout room transitions and transitions to other planned activities within the session should be practiced.  A walk-through of specific activities that are new or complex. The opportunity to practice verbally setting up the activity and the giving directions of how the participants will participate will identify any minor verbal changes that are needed. Clarify roles. If you are working with a host, use the dress rehearsal to confirm who will be responsible for monitoring chat, welcoming participants, and other minor details. Review the flow. Flow is important in a virtual session, and running through the content ahead of time can help determine if the presentation is as relevant, clear, and organized as intended. It might be temp ting for experienced facilitators to want to skip the dress rehearsal, but more times than not multiple items surface in the process that could have had a negative impact on that first live session. Even if everything turns out to be perfect, and no mistakes are discovered, we all sleep better knowing we’ll avoid the infamous blue screen because we’ve tested and re-tested during the dress rehearsal.

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Learning | Practice | Virtual Learning

Design Matters: Graphic Design Tips for the Non-Designer

June 8, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters
At this point, many of us are well aware of the benefits Virtual Instructor-Led Training (vILT) brings to organizations. The list includes cost savings, user convenience, extending reach to distant audiences, and faster deployment of new programs, just to name a few. The use of virtual learning technology also requires an elevated level of time and attention be given to the visual elements of all course content. While some Learning and Development teams are equipped to support this visual need with graphic design talent on staff; many are not. Many are forced to wear multiple skills hats to develop new courses from concept to delivery. Great outside resources are always wonderful to come across. Here is one I wanted to share.Tim Slade, an e-learning professional, author and speaker for Artisan E-Learning and E-Learning Uncovered, says good graphics are what brings your content to life. Design can be the difference between boring and memorable; the difference between a waste-of-time and beneficial. Slade recently published an article that outlines three basic graphic design principles that I feel provide an excellent outline for beginners and even non-designers. Slade discusses the importance of fonts, colors and the use of cohesive images, and graphics to enhance the quality of your content. He encourages practitioners to think about the information being presented, and decide what emotions are evoked. “Whether you realize it or not, you have an emotional response to different types of fonts,” Slade says in the post. “This emotional response either supports or contradicts the tone of your content.” Pairing different types of fonts for different pieces of content can also bring cohesiveness to the document and make things easier to understand and comprehend.  Slade recommends thinking about colors of your presentation in the same way. He outlines several ‘emotions’ that can be inferred from various color combinations including friendly and cheerful for orange or strong, dependable and trusting for blue. Strategic and proportional use of color and cohesive images can add a sense of personality to your documents as well, says Slade. Slade outlines several additional tips in his webinar recording found here. The virtual space provides many opportunities but it often requires those of us in this business to wear multiple hats- including sometimes the creative hat of a graphic designer. With practice, the right resources, and a little ambition we can all become more skilled at the art of design. Or at least enough to be dangerous.  

Building Bulletproof Online Training Programs

June 5, 2014 08:03 by Dana Peters
When talking with clients new to virtual instructor-led training (VILT), I am often asked: “What do we need to get absolutely right to be successful training our employees online in the live virtual classroom?” From our perspective, when the following four components are “done right” an organization is in the optimal position to deliver high-quality virtual learning programs that meet the intended learning objectives. Here they are: Well-aligned virtual platform tools and technology With over 100 virtual classroom platforms, and growing, available on the market today, learning and development departments are not short on options. Selecting the most appropriate tools and technology to meet your organization’s unique programing needs and to achieve your learning program objectives is an important component to positioning your program for ongoing success. A well-aligned learning platform and any related technology tools will be more than capable of meeting the needs of your designers, your delivery team, and your learners. A meticulously prepared facilitation team Everyone involved in the delivery of virtual classes needs to have the appropriate skills necessary to meet and exceed their duties in this environment. Whether it be as the facilitator or trainer, the producer or host, or as the technical support person. Well-defined roles, a solid training program, opportunities for skill practice with feedback and coaching, and an extensive preparation process is required for each person involved to perform at the level necessary for a best-in-class virtual training program. Solid content design, especially created for the live online environment In order to deliver an engaging virtual instructor-led training (VILT) learning experience, the instructional design of each course needs to be specifically created for the VILT environment. Materials from other delivery modalities are good resources, but they will not stand alone successfully in the virtual classroom. They need to be transitioned to take advantage of the delivery tools and functionality your learning platform offers. Structurally, courses will be segmented differently, activities and exercises will be approached differently, and the application of pre- course work, in-between session work, and post-session follow-up components will be applied. A culture and climate that encourages, supports, and prepares online participants Often organizations spend all of their time and energy selecting the right technology, grooming their delivery team, and creating instructionally sound classes, yet their virtual learning program is not meeting their expectations. The energy and demand they anticipated for the program is flat. Why? Often what is overlooked is the time and effort necessary to create a culture and climate that encourages, supports, and prepares online learners. This means marketing the program internally, taking steps to garner executive-level support, and implementing steps to adequately prepare learners to learn in the virtual environment. I would love to hear your thoughts on these components. Is this dead on from your experience or is there something you would add?

Making the Move: Transitioning Face-To-Face Courses to the Virtual Classroom

April 23, 2014 12:10 by Dana Peters
Repurposing, redesigning, transitioning, transforming, or converting. No matter what label you give it, moving a face-to-face classroom course to the virtual classroom is more complicated than it initially appears. At first glance, it seems quite simple. The learning objectives are defined, the course has already been developed, the PowerPoint is ready to go, and the facilitators could deliver the session in their sleep. Transfer all this over to the virtual classroom in a few days and we are ready to go, right? Wrong. In order to design and deliver an engaging virtual instructor-led training (VILT) learning experience, many elements need to be taken into account. Let's explore a few. Back to the Beginning Take a look at the face-to-face course with a fresh set of eyes. Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the face-to-face course currently in place will allow you the opportunity to make improvements and leverage what is working well when you design your VILT course. Consider doing the following: Walk through the learning objectives with the stakeholder, the subject matter expert, and the face-to-face classroom trainer to update learning goals. Review the results from the course as it stands now. Is the current training meeting these goals? Gather feedback from recent course participants. Ask questions like: What concept, process or idea were you able to apply back on the job? What did you like most about the training and why? What was the least relevant item covered in the course? Simply ask all parties involved how this course could be better. Taking the time to review, evaluate, and redefine the course objectives prior to transitioning a course to the virtual classroom sets the stage for success. Delivering a class in the virtual classroom is a whole new ballgame. Facilitating learning in a virtual classroom requires a different set of skills on the part of the trainer. There are several common delivery mistakes we see trainers make as they move from working the traditional face-to-face classroom environment to the virtual classroom. Why not learn from those mistakes and avoid some of the following pitfalls: Lecturing. Listening to someone talk for an hour in the face-to-face classroom doesn't work so why would the virtual classroom be any different? Trying to do it all. Managing all the tools and technology while trying to deliver content, facilitate collaboration, share experiences, and connect with your learners is often too much for one person to handle. Especially when the VILT landscape is a new working environment for you. Consider enlisting the support of a producer (aka host or moderator). This second pair of helpful hands will allow you to focus on facilitating learning, not resolving technical issues. Reading from a script. This lulls participants to sleep or drives them to multitasking. A script is a good tool to help you get comfortable with the material and work seamlessly with your producer, but you will lose your participants very quickly if you read from it during your session. Eliminating the exercises and activities. All too often the hands-on learning gets lost in the transition from the face-to-face classroom to the virtual classroom. Think about how you could use the virtual classroom tools to create collaborative exercises to meet your learning objectives. Not using your annotation tools to focus attention. Sometimes facilitators get so caught up in the point they are trying to make verbally that they forget to use the pointer, highlighter, and drawing tools to help focus participants' attention on what is being discussed. Being too controlling. Be flexible with how your participants are interacting and encourage activity that promotes sharing and involvement in the learning. Consider allowing participants to chat with each other at any time and encourage this communication. Also, avoid asking participants to hold their questions until the end of the session. Make the Most of Your Time Time is a precious commodity in the virtual classroom. It is important to make sure that the time that you have in class is used to drive home the key learning points and make the learning relevant to your participants. To do this, keep the following in mind: Assign pre-course work. If some of your exercises will require participants to bring ideas and thoughts to the table, give them the opportunity to do this thinking and exploration independently before they come to class. Pre-course work is also an excellent way to assign reading and to allow participants to become familiar with basic information on the learning topic. Break things down into small chunks. These shorter bite-sized pieces will keep your session moving and help maintain attention from your participants. Every slide, question, activity, game, and discussion should serve a purpose that works toward the learning objectives. We have outlined just a few of the elements to consider when transitioning face-to-face classes to VILT. What else would you add?    

Engaging Learners Through Text Messages?

October 16, 2013 15:23 by Dana Peters
We have a new principal at my daughter’s high school. As you can imagine, change is in the air. One initiative has caught my attention: the principal directly communicating via text with the entire high school community. This has engaged me with the high school at a new level. When something engages me personally, I think about how it might be applied to the learning and development space. Here’s the story. Around mid-August, I received a simple email inviting me to sign up to receive the principal’s high school community text messages. Using a mass text program, the principal was going to be interacting with the high school community as a whole (students, teachers, and parents). I liked this idea because: 1) I wanted to get a feel for this new principal from a distance and 2) I didn’t have to work very hard to do it. (I am busy, not lazy). I signed up and my daughter did too. Almost immediately the messages started dribbling in, one or two a day. Sometimes it’s just a link to the daily announcements or a reminder about a big upcoming event. Other times, to recognize a student interest club’s accomplishment or just a random thought or observation the principal thought worthy of sharing. As the receiver, here is what I like about this means of communication: Important information is coming to me instantly and to a place where I am (so to speak).  I don’t know about you, but text messages are front and center on my communications radar. I see them before I read an email or listen to a voice mail. It’s brief and to the point. One sentence tells me what I need to know. The provided link is there to dive deeper if I want to.  Sometime I click on the link for more information, sometimes I don’t. This level of brevity also makes it very easy to search for a specific message or nugget of information at a later time.  The tone of the messages has a very personal touch. As a result, I feel more in tune and more connected to what is happening at school and with the high school community as a whole. I also have a better sense for the principal and his approach to leading the school. So what if we applied this to the learning environment? Our learners could receive timely information quickly, in a place they are already paying attention to (where they already are), their text messages. One sentence communicates the high level message. A link is provided if they want/need more detail and is easily retrieved later, when needed. Messages could be targeted to the right people. We would want to keep it relevant, casual, and give it a personal touch. Would our learners feel more in tune and connected? Have you used technology in this way? I would love to hear your stories, please comment and share below.

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eLearning | Learning | Learning Trends

In the Dark About Lighting? Tips from Our Video for eLearning Expert

June 19, 2013 16:10 by Dana Peters
In working with Greg Owen-Boger from Turpin Communication (one of our Learning Partners), I discovered this little nugget and I wanted to share with you. If you struggle with lighting when producing “talking head” video, this clip is a must see: [More]

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eLearning | Online Learning | Turpin Communication | Video Production

Getting Your Arms Around Virtual Instructor-Led Training (4 of 4)

May 23, 2013 13:37 by Dana Peters
Well here we are; the last post in my four part series. If you have been following along, you already know this series was inspired by a recent phone conversation with a colleague in which we talked through several questions she had as she approached her upcoming Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) program implementation project. [More]

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eLearning | Online Learning | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning

Getting Your Arms Around Virtual Instructor-Led Training (3 of 4)

May 9, 2013 11:39 by Dana Peters
If you have been following this blog, you are probably aware I am in the midst of 4 part series addressing a set of questions that came from a recent phone conversation with a colleague. The objective of her questions was to support her planning efforts as she was deciding how to proceed with implementing Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) in her organization. [More]

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eLearning | Online Learning | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning

Getting Your Arms Around Virtual Instructor-Led Training (2 of 4)

April 23, 2013 17:48 by Dana Peters
This post is a continuation of my last post, the second in a 4 part series. You may recall, I shared a set of questions a colleague requested input on as she was deciding how to proceed with implementing Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) in her organization. Our conversation is the inspiration for this series of posts as her questions are not uncommon and I thought you might find value in what was shared. [More]

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eLearning | Online Learning | Virtual Instructor-Led Training | Virtual Learning