Thursday, March 22, 2018

Effective Communications

     This week’s blog is about how to communicate effectively with others.   I visited a website from the Walden University site which presented examples (Laureate Media, n.d.).  The site presents Jane, who is trying to communicate with Mark, a coworker, concerning information she needs from him in order to finish an assignment she is working on.  She has obviously been in contact with Mark about this previously, as there is some urgency in each of the three different communications, but it varies depending on the modality used. 

     The first was through email.  It was straightforward.  Jane started by acknowledging Mark’s busy schedule but reminds him of her need for the report he failed to give her earlier.  She says that, if he can’t send the report in a timely manner, she would be satisfied with the data he included in it.  She is grateful for the help she anticipates from Mark.  The message was repeated three times.  It was clear.  The purpose of the email was stated up front and included possible solutions – either send the email or send the data contained in it.  Jane followed Dr. Stolovich’s advice well (Laureate Education (Producer), Communicating with stakeholders, n.d.).

     Jane’s voicemail message says the same thing as the email but I can hear some anxiety in her voice.  She sounded a little frantic at the beginning.  The last sentence sounded grateful, but also pleading. 

     Her face-to-face meeting with Mark showed how she felt.  There was emotion on her face.  She is leaning over the cube wall.  Her eye contact was there but she would look away frequently, as if she was very uncomfortable having to talk with Mark this way.  Jane starts out smiling, saying she understands how busy Mark has been.  When she gets to the part of the message about Mark’s email containing data she needs to finish her report, the wording changes from the email and voicemail versions.  It is more personable and less formal.  Jane uses hand gestures, pointing to her left to emphasize her need for the data.  It’s almost as if she doesn’t know she is pointing, as if she may not be doing it on purpose.  This form of communication best conveyed the meaning of the message, as it showed her anxiety about needing Mark to get the email or data to her right away. 

     Effective communication conveys the message to the person in a way where they understand the message as we want them to.  Often face-to-face is the best form for this.  Sometimes face-to-face is not the best method, though.  Face-to-face communication may, in some emotional situations, promise to lead to a confrontation that won’t end well for either party.  An email or voicemail may work better.  This would be one of the situations Dr. Stolovich meant when he was addressing communication concerns and recommended asking for advice (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).  It may also be better to communicate with a different person, one that the other person trusts (Laureate Education (Producer), Practitioner voices: Strategies for working with stakeholders, n.d.).  Sometimes communication is easy but there are times it is very difficult.  This is the reason we need to strategize how best to get our message across.


Laureate Education (Producer) (Director). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Motion Picture].

Laureate Education (Producer) (Director). (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Strategies for working with stakeholders [Motion Picture].

Laureate Education (Producer) (Director). (n.d.). Project management concerns: Communication strategies and organizational culture [Motion Picture].

Laureate Media. (n.d.). The Art of Effective Communication. Retrieved from


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Project Post-Mortem Reflection

Project Post-Mortem

     The project I was working on involved a new product being made by a company I was working for.  Most of our product team (including the Project Manager (PM)) was new to project management so there was a steep learning curve.  I supported the project by providing technical advice to ensure it could be serviced by a technician with the least time and cost to service, repair or replace components.  When reviewing the Generic Project Life Cycle Phases (Greer, 2010),(pp 42-43).  Phase 1 passed the first question because it was determined that there was a need and the project was feasible.  It failed the second question.  In the beginning of the project there were no unnecessary deliverables, but that changed after launch.  Phase 2 was to Create a Project Plan.  This company wanted estimates to be realistically close to what the team thought actual costs would be.  Since most of the team was new, we complied. 

     This is where Phase 2 started to fall apart.  The product manager wanted to add items after launch that should have been stopped.  If they had been part of the original plan, money could have been incorporated in the estimate to cover them.  I learned from this that there is almost no way to stay on budget if the PM doesn’t stop scope creep.  Scope creep is very common (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).  There were several times the group let scope creep in because each idea sounded good and would have benefitted the project.  Add to this, people from senior management wanted some of the scope creep items added to the project.  We were new to this and thought the ideas would benefit the project and the company.  Some of them made the project more successful but added a few months to the project and about $20,000 dollars in extra cost.  Fortunately, senior management approved this because they had asked for the extra items to be added to the project. 

     Phase 3 also started well in that product specifications were detailed in the beginning of the project.  The different departments involved in the project were represented and the different players provided valuable input into the project.  We could have improved the work process by meeting with senior management and the product director at the same time and asking about any added features they wanted.  We could have then discussed the ramifications of adding features and how they should be documented and approved by the team and by senior management using a document called a Change of Scope document (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).  This would have kept us on track because the time and cost would have been changed and approved by all involved in the project.

     Phases 4 (Create Deliverables) and 5 (Test and Implement Deliverables) followed the path of scope creep.  As parts of the project were completed, additional features were added due to scope creep.  These features needed to be speced, added and tested.  This is where time and money were added to the project.  The outcome was a project that worked well and fit a market niche.  It has sold well, so the company was able to recuperate the money spent on the extra features, which is fortunate.  The project taught all involved a valuable lesson about adding features after a project has been scoped.  They started using the Change of Scope document more and more.


Greer, M. (2010). The Project Management Minimalist:Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects! Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer) (Director). (n.d.). PM Concerns: Scope Creep [Motion Picture].

Friday, March 2, 2018

Distance Learning Reflections

     This has been an interesting course and has taught me a lot about different aspects of distance learning.  This blog deals with the future of distance learning and how Instructional Designers can impact it.
     Dr. Siemens talked about the reasons for the growing acceptance of distance education and its future (Laureate Education, n.d.).  One of the biggest reasons, he says, is because of the increase in online communication around the world.  People in many countries communicate with friends by texting, so they are used to being online and talking with others.  This is just a short hop away from online discussion in a class.  Their classmates may either be or become their friends, as many people “friend” strangers on social media.  Currently, more and more people are accepting online education as a new norm so that perception should grow as technology improves.  One of the problems with it now is that learners need good Wifi connections to be able to take classes.  It isolates those without good Wifi (Naidu, 2014).  Yet people can communicate with others around the world on smartphones without the use of Wifi.  Within 5-10 years, I think this will be normal for computer communications also.  You’ll be able to connect the computer/laptop to other laptops through phone towers instead of Wifi.  This will open the doors to many more people and even allow them access to free education sources, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs). 

     Virtual reality is still in its infancy and is growing in popularity.  I’d like to think that it will be available and popular enough to be a normal part of online training around the world, but I think it will not.  The main reason for this is the same reason online courses aren’t more popular around the world, the lack of availability to countries that do not have good Wifi.  So what will online education look like in 10-20 years?  I think it will be more popular than classroom training.  More and more Ivy League universities are offering online courses and degree programs today (Naidu, 2014).  If more students start taking online courses, colleges will spend more time and effort in developing and improving them.  Traditional classroom instruction may become a thing of the past.

     Instructional designers (IDs) should be proponents for improving how society views distance learning.  One of the ways IDs can help is to design and develop courses that meet the needs of the students.  When they learn the material in an online environment, are able to communicate and discuss the material with people from all walks of life in far-away countries, and feel challenged but not overwhelmed, they will spread the word about the experience.  Word of mouth advertising is the best kind because the people they spread it to will tell others and so on.  The same holds true for negative experiences.  The problem is that positive experiences tend to spread far slower than negative experiences. 

     Working in a corporate environment affords me more opportunity to have a positive impact on distance learning than many who work in the school education field.  The reason for this is simple economics.  Schools are much slower to spend money on changing course development or on technology because there are other more pressing concerns.  Corporations look at the bottom line, ROI.  They will spend money on course development and technology if it looks like the ROI will be substantial enough.  Have students take courses online at their locations and save the money in travel, hotel and meals for them to travel to a different location.  The technicians’ time away from billable work remains the same. 


Laureate Education,  (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance learning [Motion Picture].

Naidu, S. (2014). Looking back, looking forward: the invention and reinvention of distance education. Distance Education, 263-270.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Best Practices Guide to Converting Classsroom Instruction to Online Instruction

Best Practices Guide: Converting to a Distance Learning Format

A training manager is frustrated with the lack of communication between the learners in the face-to-face classes he facilitates.  He talks with his supervisor and gets permission to work on a blended training program with both classroom and online sessions.  This, he hopes will change the dynamic and get the learners talking with each other.  He wants to allow the learners access to the course material on a server so they can work at whatever hours they want.  This guide will help him strategize, organize and put together a blended course that will meet his requirements. 

This is a Best Practices Guide to help him complete his mission. 

1.   Preplanning strategies 

Putting time and thought into the preplanning strategies and activities will pay off tremendously when it’s time to start building the online program.   

A.   Consider the needs of the learners.  A job task analysis should be done to determine what is involved in converting material to online format.  The results may point the trainer to keeping more of the training in the classroom because it is better suited for those lessons.  It may be difficult to convert some of the material to online formats.  Are we looking at putting PowerPoints online because that is what is used in the classroom?  Overusing PowerPoint has been pointed out several times as causing learners to lose focus (Hedges, 2014). “Death by PowerPoint” is something all trainers want to avoid.   

B.   Consider putting the training material on a server.  Several considerations need to be addressed.  Are there any proprietary material concerns that need to be protected?  How secure is the server?  Who has access to it besides the students?  Does it matter?  If this doesn’t create problems, it is probably a good idea as learners may want to work on assignments at different times of the day. 

C.   Choosing a Learning Management System (LMS) is the next important task.  A LMS is a site that allows learners to access course material, interface with the instructor and other students, complete and submit assignments and receive feedback on performance.  It is set up so that the learners can access and use the course material that has been set up by the instructor.  It also lets the instructor set up the material. 

There are several things that go into choosing a good LMS.  Choose a technology that both the teachers and learners can learn and use.  Just because the teacher knows how to use it doesn’t mean the learners will be able to.  Determine the technical level of the audience (Pappas, 2015).  Then determine how easy it is to use the LMS to set up courses.  Does it walk you through the process or do you need to be an expert?  Then determine how much support may be needed for both teachers and learners to use this LMS.  Do you need 24/7 support or will normal business hours be OK?  Can the site provide that level of support and will it be cost prohibitive?  The training manager wants to convert all training to a blended format which will use the LMS.  Is there a charge per course on the LMS?  Carefully consider and choose the LMS that best accommodates these. 

2.   What can be moved into the online format? 

One of the biggest questions to consider is how the chosen material or method will include the learners (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015).  Activities will be the biggest step forward towards enhancement.  There are already activities in the synchronous classroom setting.  Some of those can be converted to an online activity that serves the same purpose.  Perhaps an activity involving group work in the classroom can be converted to a synchronous online activity involving the same group members.  Now everyone can participate on their computers, which is more comfortable with some people than face-to-face in a classroom.  Times should be agreed on by the learners, as long as they complete the activities on time.  The key is for the trainer to think of active rather than passive activities for the learners so that learning takes place (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015).    

3.   How will the classroom trainer role change online? 

Many times teachers are in front of a class lecturing.  Online teaching is more of a coaching role (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015).  He will encourage the learners to collaborate with each other to complete activities and in discussions.  This will help them learn actively instead of by reading and listening to lectures.  The activities should be built so they require maximum participation from the class and so that no member can sit back and watch everyone else do the work.  This is the coach’s job, to ensure this kind of participation.  It requires the coach to be online often to monitor the monitor the discussion boards and participate in the discussions (Laureate Education, n.d.).  The trainer needs to offer timely feedback so the learners know where they are doing well and where they need to improve. 

4.   How can the trainer encourage discussion between the learners? 

The trainer should provide the ground rules in the beginning class materials.  The syllabus can spell out the course schedule, grading system and how participation in discussions will be measured (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015).  Students know up front the criteria and what is expected.  If they do not participate the trainer should grade accordingly, reinforcing the criteria and encouraging participation.  Of course there will be exceptions  and the trainer will take those into consideration on a case-by-case basis.

The activities mentioned earlier can help get the students to communicate better online.  Adding humor has proven to be effective in influencing student participation (Anderson, 2011).  It can turn a dreaded course into a lively one by getting learners to talk.  It has also shown to increase learning by promoting greater recall.  So humor gets a big thumbs-up. 

These practices, combined with the curriculum the trainer is currently using in the classroom, should get the learners communicating better than they have been.  Once that happens, the instructor can build on it by seeing what works well and what doesn’t.   Slow progress at first is better than no progress. 


Anderson, D. (2011). Taking the Distance out of Distance Education: A Humorous Approach to Online Learning. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(1), 74.

Hedges, K. (2014, Nov 14). Six Ways To Avoid Death By PowerPoint. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, (. (Director). (n.d.). Facilitating Online Learning [Motion Picture].

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and Learning at a Distance, Foundations of Distance Education, 6th Edition. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My New Distance Learning Definition Mindmap

     It's been awhile since my last post so I'd better catch up.  I'm in a new class at Walden called Distance Learning.  It is covering the meat of why I started this program so I'm looking forward to where this takes me.  With that in mind, let's look at distance learning, just a little.
     Distance learning has been defined differently by different people in the same historical timeframe.  This is due to the way the individual uses distance learning and the technology they employ.  Over time those definitions evolve as technology and the way it is used evolves.  Distance learning was defined by Simonson as “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015).  This is the newer definition because it involves telecommunications.  Yet distance learning was around generations before telecommunications. 

     I started taking distance courses about 30 years ago with an electronics correspondence course.  I mailed the lessons in and received feedback by mail.  At that time this scenario was my definition of distance learning (Laureate Education, n.d.).  The military did not afford me the opportunity to go to school full time and online courses were not available as home computers were just starting to become popular.  I took a few college courses in the traditional classroom setting over the next few years and finished an AS degree through a local community college before retiring from the military.

     After retiring I started working for a major forklift manufacturer.  After several years they afforded me the opportunity to take classes towards a degree.  Online courses had come about and advanced quite a bit by then.  The demands of my job made it difficult to take traditional classes but online classes were a good alternative.  The first couple of classes were difficult because I needed to adjust to a self-disciplined study regimen.  After adjustment, they became easier to manage.  I discovered that online classes covered all of the subjects of the degree.  This was most impressive when I took chemistry.  Conducting experiments at home, discussing the results, and comparing notes with classmates changed my definition of distance learning profoundly. 

            Walden University is my latest stopover in the pursuit of a Master’s in Instructional Design.  The format is similar to that of Empire State.  The familiarity has been helpful because the discussions and assignments have followed what I have done in the past.  Technology has been the biggest difference between Empire State and Walden.  I have been using several Adobe programs in the assignments and projects, programs I was unfamiliar with prior to this degree program.  The great advantage with Adobe is that the programs can be used together to form a project.  This is an area I am just scratching the surface of and hope to dig deeper into as the degree program progresses.  Again, my definition of distance learning continues to grow as I employ more technology.

     Technology is the largest factor in redefining my definition of distance learning for the future.  The company I work for has an excellent training department.  The instructional designers (IDs) work with e-online courses, converting existing courses and developing new ones for different groups within the company.  We are looking into developing courses using virtual reality (VR) technology. Currently VR training is available for lift truck operators.  We are designing courses for technicians.  These will allow the tech to point to different parts of the truck to obtain parts breakdowns of those parts.  It will aid the tech in determining the root cause of a symptom.  The overriding motivation behind developing this technology further is economic (Moller, Foshay, & and Huett, 2008).  It can save the technician valuable time in determine and repairing problems with equipment, which will save the company money.  I am glad the company is looking ahead and embracing newer technology as it becomes available.  I look forward to seeing what the future holds beyond these developments.


Laureate Education, P. (Producer). (n.d.). Distance Education [Motion Picture].

Moller, M., Foshay, W., & and Huett, J. (2008, May). The Evolution of Distance Education: Implications for Instructional Design on the Potential of the Web. TechTrends, 52(3), 70-75.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and Learning at a Distance, Foundations of Distance Education, 6th Edition. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Reflection on Learning Theories

Here's some thoughts on the course I am finishing.  I learned a lot and thank Dr. Artino and my fellow learners for helping me gain a lot from this course.  I wish you well in your future endeavors and look forward to continuing this educational journey with many of you.
Many years ago I was taught learning styles, such as hands-on (tactile), visual and auditory.  These relate to how people learn and remember things.  They relate to the method of instruction that appeals to a particular individual.  I remember that when we read in order to learn something, such as how to make bread, our retention is about 10%.  It increases to about 25% if we add an auditory component, such as someone reading instructions to us.  If we watch someone perform the task our retention is up above 50% and when we perform the task with someone retention is around 90%.  So we taught that when developing training around a topic, the training should incorporate all of the learning styles to increase retention.  We did not teach that the training should be interesting or that it should motivate the learner.  The learners had all of the motivation they needed because they were assigned (ordered) to the training.  This was my adult introduction to learning.  When I went through instructor training I learned how to keep my hands out of my pockets, keep one hand behind my back while pointing with a straight hand towards the object I was discussing.  It was very rigid. 

It’s refreshing to be in a different arena and to learn that training should have a motivation factor built into it to get the learner to want to learn.  I’ve moved from learning styles to learning theories.  Where styles are geared more to the mechanics of training development, theories are geared to the Why of development.  The theories align with how I like to learn.  Behaviorism has a feedback system built into it which appeals to most people (Jeanne Ormrod, 2008).  We like to know when we are doing well as well as when and in what areas we need to improve.  This is how I like to start learning a new subject, especially one that I will be using almost immediately.  Cognitivism is the use of the brain in the learning process, based on the inputs it receives.  I like how Bill Kerr says that “It seems to me that each  -ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete….” (Atkisson, 2010).  There are several –isms and they all have value when used in the right scenario and with the right group of learners.  I find that I like each of the theories when used properly. 

Competency is a term that has gained ground over the years.  It refers to people’s aptitudes or mental strengths and is useful when developing training.  The training needs to relate to these “intelligences”, as they were called by Howard Gardner (Armstrong, 2009).  They are linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist.  Gardner explained that each of us has each of these intelligences to varying degrees.  Some of us are stronger in one or two areas than the others but these intelligences can be improved on.  When we focus training in a weak area we can improve on it, just as we can make a strong area stronger.  When we are learning something new, we tend to want to learn it using training that favors our stronger intelligences.  We can learn using our weaker areas but that is not preferred.  As Dr. Ormrod said, “It is more productive to implement strategies to help people learn effectively than it is to try to design curriculum that appeals to a particular learning style” (Laureate Education, 2016). 

It really doesn’t matter how much I know about learning styles and theories if I don’t have a way to motivate the students to want to learn the material.  Motivation is key to getting students to learn anything.  The instructional designer needs to find a key to unlock their “want to” so the student will pay attention.  Their must also be a way to keep their attention.  This falls under the “what’s in it for me (WIIFM)” box.  Students need to know that the material will benefit them in some way.  For kids in school this usually falls into the category of “testable material.”  For adults the reasons are usually job/career related.  In either case, the instructional designer (ID) needs to get student buy in to keep them glued to the subject. 

This course has taught me that instruction needs to be designed to help people learn effectively.  It needs to appeal to the audience it is going to be delivered to.  Instructional designers should use the most up-to-date material available for the cost we can afford.  We should use the most modern technology we can to deliver the training, also for the cost.  We need to motivate our audience and ensure they understand the material we are delivering.  And we need to train in such a way as to help them retain as much of it as they can.  That is why we become instructional designers in the first place.  That is why we love this field.


Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (3rd Edition). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Development.

Atkisson, M. (2010, Oct 12). Behaviorism vs. Cognitivism. Retrieved from

Jeanne Ormrod, D. S. (2008). Learning Theories and Instruction. New York: Pearson Custom Publishing.

Laureate Education, P. (Director). (2016). Learning Styles and Stretegies [Motion Picture].