Technology is everywhere around us. Next time you’re riding any form of public transportation, take a moment and look around you at the collection of iPods, iPads, tablets, smartphones, Bluetooth headsets, and fitness bands that envelop you. It is little wonder that tech has invaded the realm of learning. In this week’s blog, I’m going to take you through five different technological advances in learning and examine their influence and impact on learners. First up, we will look at the podcast.
The Podcast, which derives its name from Apple, Inc’s innovative iPod, is described by Noe (2013) as “web-based delivery of audio and video files.” Usually, podcasts are themed by the author and often assembled in series formats. The podcast enables the learner to search either the open internet or app stores from Apple, Google’s Android Play, or Microsoft’s Windows store for a wide range of content, putting quick learning snippets on the student’s computer or mobile device. They can either be streamed or downloaded for future use. One of my favorite podcast sites is https://www.ted.com/talks/browse. The site, hosted by TED (the name stands for technology, entertainment, and design), currently has over 1700 talks on a variety of subjects, each spanning 18 minutes or less.
Next, we look at Computer Based Training (CBT). While Noe (2013) notes that CBT can include technologies such as CD’s or DVD’s, it is most often associated with online learning. Online course work can be hosted on any number of learning management sites – I use www.coursesites.com. Creating an account there is easy, and the site, once you learn how to use it, has a robust feature set for course creation. CBT is at the heart of many corporate learning strategies, including my company’s, primarily because of its ability to put learning on-demand. Further, CBT is used by many universities, including Walden University where I attend. Much like the podcast, CBT places the learner in control of his or her learning schedule, with the added element of instructor input and opportunity for two-way interaction.
The third stop on our tour of learning technology is the Webcast or Webinar. The primary difference between a podcast and a webcast is that the webcast is generally delivered live, where a podcast is recorded. That said, many webcasting software packages, such as Adobe Connect (www.adobe.com/connect ), provide tools for recording sessions so that learners who cannot attend the live session can listen later. Andy Nilssen and Alan Greenberg, writing for ConferTel (n.d.) offer some excellent discussion of why company trainers are turning to webinars to deliver training content, among them the simple fact that webinars allow learners who could not otherwise attend training to do so, live. See the references below for a link to their discussion. I offer a word of caution regarding recorded webcasts, however, as one who designs and delivers many of them for both meetings and training where I work: the webcast is almost always geared to the live delivery, and often includes dialog and activities designed to engage the learners in that live environment. Listening to a recorded webcast removes that interaction from the experience, and can result in a loss of content retention.
Our next-to-last stop on our journey through learning technology is the web log, or Blog. Blogging, as it has come to be known, features web pages where “the author posts entries and readers can comment.” You are, of course, reading this exploration of technology on my blog, hosted by www.wordpress.com. Thomas (2008), writing for www.openeducation.net, offers several tips for using blogs to enhance learning, noting specifically that blogs can “enhance the ability of students to self-reflect and process concepts.” While other students can read and comment on their colleagues’ blogs, Thomas notes, it is important to understand that the blog is an individualized learning tool, and the teacher is seeking collaborative input from a large group, a wiki is a better tool.
A relative newcomer to the technological learning toolbox is Game-based Learning. My company just started working with a company called M-Level (www.mlevel.com) to create learning games that can be played on mobile devices. These games, which can help sales reps learn new products or practice positioning statements, are designed to be played quickly when the employee has a few extra minutes. M-Level and others have incorporated a mission-based learning game with robust reporting tools to not only give the learner a fun learning experience, but also to give the company a solid base of understanding regarding learner retention and return on investment.
There are many other technologies available to training professionals, each with its benefits and drawbacks. The key to using technology is suitability. Ask yourself whether the technology will actually help the learning achieve the learning objectives. I close with this quote from www.openeducation.net: “The first critical consideration for teachers is whether or not the tool being used is necessary to the learning process. In this regard teachers must be unequivocally clear; if teachers do not effectively contextualize the use of any web 2.0 tool, then students are not likely to see the tool as being of benefit to the learning process.”
CourseSites by Blackboard. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.coursesites.com
Health Podcasts | MemorialCare Health System | Orange County | Los Angeles County. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.memorialcare.org/events-education/podcasts
Nilssen, A., & Greenberg, A. (n.d.). Why Trainers Are Turning to Webinars | ConferTel. Retrieved from http://www.confertel.net/support/resource-library/why-trainers-are-turning-to-webinars/
Noe, R. A. (2013). Employee training and development (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Irwin/McGraw-Hill.
Stolovitch, H. D., Keeps, E. J., & Rosenberg, M. J. (2011). Telling ain’t training: Updated, expanded, and enhanced. Alexandria, Va: ASTD Press.
Thomas (2008, October 10). Using Blogs to Enhance Learning – Some Helpful Tips. Retrieved from http://www.openeducation.net/2008/10/10/using-blogs-to-enhance-learning-%E2%80%93-some-helpful-tips/