Communicating Effectively

communication

Our assignment for this blog post was to listen to one message, presented in three modalities: written text (email), audio (voicemail), and visual (face-to-face). I was surprised to note how significantly the tone of the message seemed to change in each of these three formats.

The email was relatively straightforward, but impersonal. Although the tone was difficult to read, the subject of the message involved something an employee failed to complete, and could easily be construed as negative. The voicemail seemed aggressive and condescending, almost implying that the employee was being reprimanded. In contrast, the face-to-face conversation was very pleasant and non-confrontational. This is the approach I would have preferred in this situation.

The ability to communicate effectively is an essential skill for successful project management (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008). Lockitt (2000) identifies four characteristics of good project managers: energy, ability, vision, and motivation. Yet none of these traits would result in productive team management without accompanying communication skills. Portny et al (2008) stress that “whatever form communications take…project managers should plan and prepare so their messages are received and correctly interpreted by project audiences” (p. 367).

Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, 2011) asserts that project managers are diplomats, not technicians. Murphy (1994) further states that “a project manager must possess certain characteristics so that the many variables in dealing with people in a group setting can be channeled in the same direction and function effectively” (p. 10). One crucial role of the project manager is to ensure that all project team members are working together productively. This can only be accomplished when the lines of communication are open.

In this example, the project manager should have taken care of the situation before it developed into an awkward message between coworkers. There should be a clearly defined communication process in place to handle any conflicts or disputes that arise.

You may wonder how this relates to instructional design. It is important to note that these two disciplines work ideally together. Lin (2006) states that “project management has been considered as an integral part of a successful instructional design” (p. 2). Allen and Hardin (2008) emphasize that “a project management framework helps instructional designers identify and manage key interaction points between the ISD effort and the organizational environment in which it is being developed” (p. 77). Project management does not replace instructional design, it supplements the process and allows for more streamlined organization.

References

Allen, S., & Hardin, P. C. (2008). Developing instructional technology products using effective project management practices. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 19(2), 72-97.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Communicating with stakeholders [DVD]. Baltimore, MD. Dr. Harold Stolovitch.

Lin, H. (2006). Instructional project management: An emerging professional practice for design and training programs. Workforce Education Forum, 33(2).

Lockitt, B. (2000). Practical project management for education and training. London: Further Education Development Agency.

Murphy, C. (1994). Utilizing project management techniques in the design of instructional materials. Performance & Instruction, 33(3), 9–11.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Learning From a Project “Post-Mortem”

reflection pic

There are numerous personal projects that I have started and never finished—for example: “learn to play the guitar.” Why don’t I complete these things when I start with such good intentions? In a nutshell, I have not been applying the basic principles of project management.

When I compare projects that have been successful, both at home and at work, with those that were unsuccessful, two common themes seem to be prevalent: (1) defining the scope of the project, and (2) having clearly defined objectives with measurable outcomes.

To ensure the successful completion of a project, it is essential to define exactly what the project will accomplish, or its scope. This really boils down to the definition of a “project” itself. The word “project” must be differentiated from a “process,” which is ongoing (Russell, 2000). A project has a definitive beginning and end, agreed upon by all parties before the commencement of any work. To effectively define the “end” of a project, there must be a specific objective and a corresponding desired outcome. This should all be described in the Project Charter, or Statement of Work.

Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) define objectives as “results to be achieved through the performance of a project” (p. 34). They should be specific, measurable and include a benchmark that represents the target goal. “Learn to play the guitar” is much too general and cannot be measured objectively.

These projects always start off strong, but eventually lose momentum and are abandoned at various points before completion. What can be done to maintain motivation until the culmination of a project? Like anything else in life, you have to be able to see results. This depends on developing a consistent schedule of smaller, easily achievable objectives that can be celebrated as they occur—otherwise known as the Work Breakdown Structure. If we enjoy achievements along the way, it makes the entire process more enjoyable and motivation will be intrinsic.

In the business world, many people have to stay motivated to make a project come to fruition. A significant role of the project manager in this setting is to help foster the attitudes needed for successful project completion. For this to occur, the project manager must develop effective communication between all parties involved. Lockitt (2000) asserts that “project managers are expected to enthuse the project team, lead them to a successful outcome, act as a buffer between the team and senior management, and communicate effectively at all levels” (p. 13).

One of the main purposes for creating documents such as the Project Charter, Statement of Work, and Work Breakdown Structure is to ensure that the proposed scope of work is approved by all project team members and relevant stakeholders. This approval should be obtained before the commencement of any work, and communication channels should be kept open throughout the life cycle of the project. Effective communication is the key to successful project management.

 

References

Lockitt, B. (2000). Practical project management for education and training. London: Further Education Development Agency.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Russell, L. (2000). Project management for trainers. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Perceptions of Distance Education

There is currently quite a bit of skepticism about the benefits of distance learning. While everyone can agree on the convenience of meeting asynchronously in separate geographic locations, the quality of online education is repeatedly called into question. This is particularly true for adult learners who are accustomed to traditional pedagogical methods in a face-to-face setting.

The concept of distance learning has been around for many years, dating back to early correspondence classes conducted by regular mail (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). However, the most dramatic changes have occurred during the last ten years, as technology has rapidly advanced to allow greater interactivity in the online environment. In a study conducted by Schmidt and Gallegos (2001), students identified interaction with the instructor and classmates as the most important difference between traditional and distance education. With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, and discussion forums, interactivity has become the focus of newly designed online courses (Simonson et al., 2012).

As George Siemens pointed out, these improvements in technology have made online communication a part of mainstream society (Laureate Education, 2009). As the comfort level with the online environment has increased, so has the acceptance of distance education as a viable means of learning. This type of evolutionary change is easier for learners to accept and embrace (Beach, 2006). In the next ten years, this will only continue and distance learning will become commonplace.

Siemens also asserted that many students prefer distance education once they have experienced an online course (Laureate Education, 2009). This places the burden of successfully promoting online courses on the Instructional Designer, who is responsible for ensuring that such experiences are rewarding and accomplish the learning objectives. As an Instructional Designer, it is my goal to further improve the development of these courses, particularly in the higher education and corporate realms. This will have a direct effect on perceptions of distance education in the future.

 

References

Beach, L. (2006). Leadership and the art of change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Laureate Education (2009). The future of distance education [DVD] G. Siemens.

Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). Retrieved from http://atmae.org/jit/Articles/schmidt041801.pdf

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

The Impact of Open Courseware

In my exploration of open courseware, I found it interesting to compare classes offered by different universities. In particular, I compared the Science and Cooking course offered by Harvard University Open Extension with the Fundamentals of Biology course offered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and found dramatic differences in their presentation.

The Science and Cooking course was actually listed on the Open Culture website (http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses). After further investigation of the Harvard Extension School’s Open Learning Initiative (http://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative), it became evident that all of the open courses offered by Harvard follow the same format. In particular, the courses are comprised of a series of video lectures that are tapes of live on-site lectures conducted at the university. There are no assignments and no possibility for interaction, either with a facilitator or with other students. This directly contradicts the recommendations of Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012), who assert that instructional designers of distance education courses should “plan activities that encourage interactivity at all the sites” and that promote group work to “construct a supportive social environment” (p. 153).

Upon examination of another Harvard Open Extension course, Shakespeare After All, I did see mention of a discussion board but I was not able to navigate to an area where an ongoing conversation was evident. This is an example of what Lambert, Kalyuga, and Capan (2009) would call extraneous cognitive load, which involves the presentation of content and ease of technology used. Extraneous cognitive load “does not contribute to learning and in fact, interferes with learning” (Lambert et al., 2009, p. 152). If it is too difficult to easily negotiate an online course, students will become frustrated and unmotivated.

The contrast to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology open course, Fundamentals of Biology, was substantial (http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/biology/7-01sc-fundamentals-of-biology-fall-2011/index.htm). I was most impressed with the structure of the MIT open course, which was developed using a Course Management System and was complete with a syllabus and multiple assessments. These included practice problems and exams with solutions, along with problem-solving videos for assistance. The link to “join a study group” connected to an OpenStudy.com website that hosts a live discussion forum for the course.  This combination of tasks clearly promotes active student learning and is more suited to the online environment, particularly in the asynchronous setting seen with open courseware. Simonson et al (2012) state aht

One suggestion that I would make for both of these open courses is to modify the lectures for the online learning environment. Although the MIT lectures were much shorter and more manageable than the video series produced by Harvard, all of the lectures included in these classes are simply video tapes of live lectures previously delivered on-site. Simonson et al (2012) assert that instructional designers should “keep in mind that courses previously taught in traditional classrooms may need to be retooled” (p. 153). Moller, Foshay, and Huett (2008) agree, emphasizing that “taking what one is familiar with and/or using what works in one environment and simply duplicating it in a new environment can lead to limited positive results” (p. 67).

 

References

Lambert, J., Kalyuga, S., & Capan, L. (2009). Student perceptions and cognitive load: What can they tell us about e-learning Web 2.0 course design? e-Learning, 6(2), 150-163. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/elea.2009.6.2.150

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Fundamentals of Biology open course can be found at the following URL: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/biology/7-01sc-fundamentals-of-biology-fall-2011/index.htm.

The Harvard Extension School Science of Cooking open course can be found on YouTube at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/course?list=PL546CD09EA2399DAB&category_name=University&feature=edu

Defining Distance Learning

Defining Distance Learning MindMap

A MindMap to Define Distance Education

My initial experiences with distance learning as a K-12 teacher were not positive. Huett, Moller, Foshay, and Coleman (2008) state that “few high-quality evidence based research studies have examined the effectiveness of online learning at the high school level compared to face-to-face instruction, with even fewer studies examining curriculum-specific interventions” (p. 64). This new trend in education seemed like yet another attempt to incorporate technology without the proper training or even an appropriate rationale.

I was also under the impression that distance learning could only be achieved in a synchronous environment. This solves the issue of distance, but does not provide any leeway in terms of time. Because of the logistical complications of conducting synchronous distance learning classes within the K-12 arena, I truly did not see any benefits to this change in education. Yet Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012) emphasize that a successful distance learning program can be synchronous or asynchronous, stating that “interaction should not be the primary characteristic of instruction but should be available, commonplace, and relevant” (p. 34).

As my experience with distance learning has grown, both as teacher and student, I have to come to appreciate this form of education and have found that I actually prefer learning in this format. I believe that I am gaining far more knowledge as an online student than I did as an on-site graduate student completing my first Master’s degree. Much of this is due to the instructional design of my current program at Walden, and in particular to the relevant and challenging assessments. Unfortunately, Moller, Foshay, and Huett (2008) assert that “most of the development work in distance education is being done by faculty with no formal training in teaching of any kind, not to mention training in ID or any of the related e-learning fields” (p. 67).

Participating in an asynchronous learning community forces one to delve into the resources and respond more thoughtfully, especially in the discussion forum. Moller et al (2008) state that “one challenge to ID is to determine how learners interact with the various e-learning instructional models and the contexts in which they do so” in order to develop the most effective teaching practices for the asynchronous learning environment (p. 74). Fostering an engaging interaction in this environment relies on strong instructional design, and my current definition of distance learning encompasses this need. As I have made the transition from online student to online teacher, I can identify most with Dr. Simonson’s description of distance education as twofold—requiring both distance learning and distance teaching (Laureate Education, 2009). I also believe that effective distance learning depends on student interaction. As defined by Simonson et al (2012), “distance education, like any education, established a learning group, sometimes called a learning community, which was composed of students, a teacher, and instructional resources” (p. 33).

I think that my definition of distance learning will continue to grow as the field expands. Our individual perspectives on this changing educational medium can be influenced by both the purpose for its use and by our level of technological expertise. Given that technology changes so rapidly, particularly involving collaboration on the Web, we are bound to see new advances that will further change how distance learning is approached and how these programs are constructed to meet the changing needs of students.

My vision for the future of distance learning involves a widespread educational network that encompasses a larger audience that what we see today. In my opinion, with the abundance of resources and the ease of accessibility we now have available, there is no reason for anyone in the world to be uneducated. I would like to see an expansion of the current network that allows those in third-world countries the same educational opportunities we are afforded in developed countries. This is the only way for us to move forward as a global society.

Resources

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education:     Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–6 7.

Laureate Education (2009). Distance education: The next generation. [DVD] Dr. M. Simonson.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

YouTube Instructional Module

My assignment for EIDT 6110, Advanced Instructional Design, was to implement an instructional module with three learners. I designed and implemented a module to teach adult learners the features of YouTube. My design is a modification of a group project completed in EIDT 6100, which is referenced in the written components of my instructional plan.

Check out the module I created at:

http://yadaveducationalsolutions.wikispaces.com/

Instructional Module Prototype

The following learning module was created as part of a group project for EIDT 6100 Instructional Design. This is a prototype of the third learning module in an instructional unit addressing K-12 classroom management. For more information, check out the group website at:

www.dreamdesigners.wikispaces.com

Click here to view the prototype for Learning Module Three: Effective Classroom Response

Click here to view the Classroom Response Discussion Blog

 

Team Member D1: Yadav (Module Three)

DREAM DESIGNERS: Classroom Management Instructional Unit

Learning Module Three: Effective Classroom Response

Instructional Analysis
The learning module entitled “Effective Classroom Response” is the third component of the instructional unit created by Dream Designers to address deficiencies in classroom management at the K-12 level. Piskurich (2005) recommends that “your end product should pretty much stand on its own as a training package” (p. 183). With that in mind, this prototype was designed to be self-directed, with an interactive discussion component that should be monitored by a facilitator. The discussion is self-paced as well, involving an ongoing blog in which teachers can continue to participate after instruction is complete. This module can be adapted for an on-site instructional setting with little modification.

The module begins with a pretest, the pre-instructional strategy we selected during the Design phase of our project. Piskurich (2005) states that “in some self-instructional programs, particularly those using computers, the pre-test can be a couple of questions that lead the trainee down one learning path or another” (p. 194). The questions on the pretest are intentionally left unanswered, as the goal is to provoke thought and introduce the concepts that will be addressed in the module. Morrison, Ross, Kalman, and Kemp (2011) also emphasize that “presenting material in a personalized style can also aid learner comprehension and transfer, possibly because it increases interest and thus the learner is more likely to engage in cognitive processing” (p. 206). As such, the questions were also created with a personal slant. This is meant to stimulate self-reflection about conditions in the learner’s own classroom.

The body of the module consists of both ineffective and effective strategies used to respond to classroom discipline situations. There are embedded links to YouTube videos that appropriate for each section. The pretest and body portions of the module are self-paced, but can be instructor led in an on-site facilitated setting.

The culminating section of learning module three involves behavioral scenarios in the classroom. Students are asked to read each scenario and post their responses on the Classroom Response Discussion Blog. The blog was set up on WordPress (classroomresponse.wordpress.com) and has a separate page for each scenario. Links to the appropriate pages are embedded in the learning module.

Classroom management is an ongoing issue for classroom teachers and new situations arise every year. It is essential to provide follow-up for this instructional unit to ensure the transfer of information and successful assimilation into the teacher’s own classroom setting. An open forum has been created on the blog site for ongoing discussion about specific classroom management situations. This forum can be accessed at any time and learners are encouraged to continue participation after they have finished the instructional unit. The open discussion forum on the blog as well as a mentor or follow-up observations may also be required for some teachers.

With the development of ongoing discussion, we have attempted to follow the advice of Morrison et al (2011) who emphasize “the designer needs to develop materials to encourage active learning” (p. 228). Piskurich (2005) further asserts that “the quality, and possibly the success, of your training program can be measured by the activities you develop for it” (p. 197). Three of Piskurich’s recommendations have been incorporated into this module: case studies, discussions, and an open forum.

References

Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., Kalman, H. K., & Kemp, J. E. (2011). Designing effective instruction (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Piskurich, G. M. (2005) Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer