Converting a traditional face-to-face course into a distance learning format
The scenario is as follows: A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.
There are numerous pre-planning strategies the trainer needs to consider before he converts his program to an online course. He needs to decide what type of delivering system he is going to use. He also needs to design a storyboard and a site map and choose the delivery mode (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). The trainer must also have some idea on what kind of activities are going to be used during the course and how he is going to evaluate the activities (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). According to Dr. George Piskurich in the video podcast “Planning and Designing Online Courses” it always comes down to ADDIE when designing new online learning courses (2010). The trainer must also decide upon ratio of the face-to-face instruction versus the asynchronous instruction in the distance learning module as this will be a blended training course.
Converting to a distance learning
There could be quite a few aspects of the original program that can be utilized in the online format. The assignments could be used, either partly or as a whole. The discussion topics in the face-to-face course could be moved into the online discussion forum and made mandatory, increasing the quality of the communication among trainees. The training manager should make sure there are multitude of resources available for the students but must provide a training on how to use the technological components utilized in the distance learning environment (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). According to Durrington, Berryhill, & Swafford (2006), “distance learning can be as effective as traditional instruction when the technologies are appropriate for the instructional tasks” (p.190).
Instructor vs Facilitator
The role of the trainer will change and his role will now be more of a Facilitator. Facilitators do not lecture the students but point out ways in order to improve learning experiences (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). Facilitators guide the learners in the right direction so they will get the most out of the distance learning experience. The role of the instructor as known in the face-to-face classroom is no longer relevant as within the distance learning experience the students are supposed to study the given materials and make their own learning experience (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).
The trainer needs to make sure the participants understand all the technological tools that the student is expected to use within the training course. Some kind of orientation guide should be made available for the students to follow and learn how to use the various tools online environment demands (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). “To promote an open, supportive, and respectful online environment, an instructor can create a discussion area where students post their questions and the instructor posts answers” (Durrington, Berryhill, & Swafford, 2006, p. 191). In addition there should be other discussion areas where students can post questions, assignments and receive feedback from both instructor and peers. An asynchronous discussion forum can be used for a wide variety of assessment activities and students can discuss course material within the discussion forum environment simulating the discussion that takes place in a traditional face-to-face class (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).
The training manager should consider a Course Management System (CMS) where he can store all material in one place. CMS’s have “become the de facto standard” in the online and distance education delivery and are used both for asynchronous, synchronous and blended courses (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 183). There are various options available for the trainer to consider because there are many different CMS systems available. Some are open-source or free to use while others require a paid licence (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). It is advisable to start with a free CMS and see if the transition from face-to-face to the online environment is successful, then the trainer can explore more options if the company is willing to pay for licences and more reliable hosting options.
Durrington, V., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for Enhancing Student Interactivity in an Online Environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190-193.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance, foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA, USA: Pearson Education, Inc.