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Personal Reflection on Learning Technologies

I have greatly enjoyed learning about and trying out new technologies and exploring how they can be used in education and training. In this post I’ll talk about which of this tools I could realistically implement in my professional life, which involves developing and delivering training to my corporation’s clients, and in my personal life.

Web 2.0 Technologies

I work for a large multi-national corporation. However, I am not in the position to advocate for a blog at the corporate level. Rather, my department operates almost as a small business. I think it would be nice to produce a blog related to the training we offer. We could certainly take a marketing approach and essentially use the blog to promote upcoming courses. But Cho and Huh (2010) found that corporate blogs are increasingly topic-oriented. I think we could author periodic blog posts related to new technologies and trending topics to supplement and connect to the training that we offer. The challenges would be finding a place to host the blog and having the resources to maintain the blog. Currently we try to drive traffic to our external-facing Learning Management System (LMS), where our online courses are hosted and where clients can register for instructor-led courses. I believe we could enhance the LMS to include a blog. Getting the resources to maintain a blog would require that my management buy into the idea of a blog and can find the funds to hire resources to write it.

We could use podcasts very similarly to the way we could use a blog. Anderson (2010) talks about the use of podcasts as part of a training program in the military and suggests that podcasts are useful for the one-way transmission of information but not for collaboration. We could use podcasts to disseminate information on trending topics just as we could use blogs. But with a podcast, I think it would be fun to have a conversation between an interviewer and a subject matter expert, where they discussed what was going on with a new technology or initiative. We would also need a place to post podcasts. I don’t think we would want to put them on a podcast platform such as iTunes or Stitcher because the general public is not our audience. Our audience is really just clients of our company. And there is a big possibility that these podcasts would cover topics that are made available to clients, but not to the general public. Perhaps we could post these podcasts on our LMS along with the blog. However, there is some content that would be appropriate for the public that we could make available elsewhere. I think that’s something to look at in phase 2 of podcast implementation.

Social Media and Collaborative Learning

My company has a Facebook page, but I don’t see Facebook as being a good training environment for my department. However, my department does have a page on LinkedIn. At this point, all the postings appear to be announcements about upcoming courses. Cooper and Naatus (2014) talk about LinkedIn as a tool for relationship building and as a sales tool for identifying potential clients. I believe if we included a little more substantive information on our LinkedIn page, instead of just marketing messages, we could improve relationships with our existing clients and find new clients.

Also, I’m impressed with how social media promotes discussion. While I don’t see us using Facebook for conversation, I would like to see us do more with discussion boards, particularly with our multi-session courses. We have the ability on our LMS to attach a type of discussion board to our courses, but rarely do so. And when we have, I don’t think they’ve gotten any use.  But I think we’ve just told learners that they could comment if they want. Liu (2016) indicated that learners need to be assigned to use the discussion board in order to get them to use it. We currently don’t include any assignments in our courses, as far as I know, but having an assignment that required learners to post to the discussion board could be a way to start.

The last use of social media that I think would be useful within my work group is using Twitter as a backchannel during events. We do a couple of large events each year.  Ross, Maninger, LaPrarie, and Sullivan (2015) talk about teachers using Twitter as a backchannel to comment on professional development events. Similarly, we could encourage attendees at our large events to use Twitter to comment on the sessions and collaborate with one another. We could facilitate this by creating a hashtag for the event or even hashtags for individual sessions that attendees could use when posting about the event or sessions.

Mobile Learning

I really don’t see my work group developing a mobile app in order to deliver training to our clients. We don’t have the money or the development resources to do that. The bigger concern is making sure that our LMS and the courses we post there will work on mobile devices. Theoretically they should, but we haven’t really tested it and I’m quite sure that if we did, we wound find some problems. So testing our courses on mobile devices is something we should do in the future.

I see mobile learning as being more applicable in my personal education. For this reason I really enjoyed researching educational mobile apps. In fact, I am still using the mobile apps that I found. I’m using Duolingo to learn Portuguese and I agree with Duffy (2016) who indicates that it has “solid content and language-building exercises effectively packaged in bite-size chunks” (p. 6) and who calls it  “the best free tool for learning a language” (p. 6). I’ve now completed 5 lessons and am working on lesson 6. And I’ve learned several words. One thing I like about it is that it displays strength bars for each completed lesson. Over time, the strength bars decline, and so you have to go back and review the things you learned in an earlier lesson to get the strength bars back up. I feel like this is an effective way to help me remember the things I’ve learned.

Another mobile app that I’m still using is Elevate – Brain Training. Whether or not brain training actually helps you is the subject of some controversy. Hurley (2016) reports that brain training shows real gains for certain populations such as elderly people at risk for dementia, car accident victims, and children with attention deficit disorder. I’m not in any of these populations, but I’ve been sticking with Elevate. I even subscribed to the paid version so that I can play more brain training games each day. I enjoy playing the games and the completion with myself to improve my scores. Whether it’s doing anything to improve my cognition or not, it’s fun and I enjoy it.

The last mobile app I wrote about was Udacity, which delivers Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). I started a class in Python programming on the Udacity app, but found the app to be hard to use. I could watch the videos, but it was hard to access the instructor notes, discussion board, and other assets connected to the course via the mobile app. So I deleted the app and switched to using the website, which works much better for me. Shrader, Wu, Owens, and Santa Ana (2016) found that MOOCs meet the needs of various populations, but are especially effective for older adults who are interested in lifelong learning and who have the self-discipline to stick with a MOOC. I’m an older adult who is interested in learning how to program in Python, and I intend to stick with it.

Gamification

When I looked into gamification, I found that there are essentially two approaches – using educational games, and gamifying something by adding game-like elements to a non-game activity, such as adding points, leader boards and the ability to level up to an LMS. I don’t find gamification as particularly appealing in my corporate training work nor in my personal life. However, the concept of educational video games is interesting to me. I found several examples of people using games, such as the True Office game that teaches data security (Baxter, Holderness, & Wood, 2016), or simulations (Weinstein, 2016) to provide training in a corporate or business environment. I looked into a couple of tools for developing video games (Unity 3D and Game Maker). I think that they are both beyond the scope of what I’m able to do in my corporate job unless I learn some more programming skills. However, in my department we use a tool called Articulate Storyline to develop our online training. I didn’t write about this tool, but it can be used to create simple little games within a training module. I would like to do more of that. I used Storyline to create a cross-word puzzle in one of the courses I developed, but I believe I could do a lot more to make our training more effective and fun by including games. I would also like to do more with simulations.

Conclusion

I’ve learned about a lot of new learning tools over the last several weeks and I believe that my department at work should implement blogs and podcasts, be more involved with our LinkedIn page, maybe use Twitter for backchannel communication during events, and add more games to our training. I need to share the relevant blog posts and the research I’ve done with my coworkers and managers to convince them of the opportunities that these technologies present. For my personal life, I’m really enjoying learning Portuguese and training my brain with mobile apps, as well as learning Python programming through a MOOC. I will leave this blog up with the things I’ve written about the different tools that I’ve researched in the hopes that it will be useful to someone in the future.

References

Anderson, J. (2010). Learning technologies: Connecting the financial management workforce with the mission 24/7. Armed Forces Comptroller55(3), 30-34.

Baxter, R. J., Holderness Jr., D. K., & Wood, D. A. (2016). Applying basic gamification techniques to IT compliance training: Evidence from the lab and field. Journal of Information Systems30(3), 119-133. doi:10.2308/isys-51341

Cho, S., & Huh, J. (2010). Content analysis of corporate blogs as a relationship management tool. Corporate Communications, 15(1), 30-48. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13563281011016822

Cooper, B., & Naatus, M. K. (2014). LinkedIn as a learning tool in business education. American Journal of Business Education7(4), 299-306.

Duffy, J. (2016). The best free language-learning app adds bot chats. PC Magazine, 85-90.

Hurley, D. (2016). The for-real science of brain training. Scientific American Mind27(3), 58-65.

Liu, S. (2016). The perceptions of participation in a mobile collaborative learning among pre-service teachers. Journal of Education and Learning5(1), 87-94.

Ross, C. R., Maninger, R. M., LaPrairie, K. N., & Sullivan, S. (2015). The use of Twitter in the creation of educational professional learning opportunities. Administrative Issues Journal: Education, Practice, and Research5(1), 55-76.

Shrader, S., Wu, M., Owens, D., & Santa Ana, K. (2016). Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): participant activity, demographics, and satisfaction. Online Learning20(2), 199-216.

Weinstein, M. (2016). Are you game for learning?. Training53(5), 44-47.

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