Saturday, January 31, 2009

Workshop 2.0: Session on Virtual World!

Our workshop participants are crazy about games. Considering their profiles during registrations, we are pleasantly surprised that they are avid gamers. Lots of games, Age of Empires, Cricket 2008, racing games, shooter games, snooker, chess, Quake... so it wasn't surprising that most of them were familiar with the Virtual World.

Well, we are now on the session on how we can use Virtual Games for Training or learning. The session's resumed after a sumptuous lunch of Subs, sandwiches, chips and coke. We have all settled in well for an engaging workshop ahead. We could not have asked for a more engaging session what with having a glimpse into the fascinating virtual world of CISCO, Princeton University, Stanford, Harvard Law school etc. Participants seem quite enthused by the "endless possibilities" that these virtual world "simulations" have for the learners today.

Vaishnavi has just demonstrated a "heart murmur simulator" and asks participants how they can use this for learning at their workplace? Our participant from Taj Deccan says that he could create a simulation to show how to check-in and use it for training. There is another interesting video that shows creation through collaboration by architects on Second Life. We have moved on to details about Virtual World such as avatars, currency, trading, etc.

So, the next obvious questions are "why do people own land on Virtual World?" "how can they make money on virtual world?' After all these are answered, participants move on to explore the learning possibilities that virtual world hold for trainers. "We can bring in all training modes under one roof, let's say podcasts, videos, lectures, everything that we do in real time." "Virtual world can help us overcome the constraints of time, space, and geography."

"So how much land does Second Life have?" Well, this question from one of the participants got everybody thinking.. So, Second life session is on in full swing with participants glued to this fascinating virtual world that can possibly fulfill all your dreams!

The participants then moved to exploring the virtual world themselves. Although most of them were new to Second Life, they were completely engrossed with their Avatars. They got down to exploring the spaces in this world, chatting up with other SL avatars, changing appearances, trying to shop, checking out music, fashion, having coffee... well they were having fun on SL.

"It's fun! It's creative... you have complete control over your actions... there is no hindrance to exploring things... space to create your own thing... interact with others in your chosen space ..." These are some of the reactions that our participants had after exploring Second Life!

Obviously, they were abuzz with ideas about how they can use this for training and learning. One of them suggested using this space to discuss case studies, another had an idea that he could create an empty room and ask his learners to do-up the room as per their hotel norms. So lots of ideas coming by...and we hope they have lot more by the time they reach their workplace!

More of our workshop pictures here.

Workshop 2.0: Training 2.0 in progress

Our first workshop "Training 2.0: Training's New Avatar" is off to a great start today. We have 7 participants toady and the workshop started off to a great start over cups of steaming tea, coffee on a pleasant Saturday morning!!

We have an interesting mix of participants: hoteliers, individual trainers, and participants from IT world. This is bringing in great discussions among the group. There are some who are new to Web 2.0, some are just about familiar with Web 2.0, and some who have not quite accepted the change that web 2.0 has brought in.

We're just about half day into the session and I would love to jot down some interesting findings from the workshop so far that has overshot the session duration.

a) Learner 2.0 may be more confident over the net, more social over the net, but he is an introvert in real world, he is unsocial in the real world.

b) One of the participant is unsure of the credibility of information on the net; he is unsure of what content to trust. He would want some kind of accreditation or a standard body certifying content on the web. He would like to see this seal of approval before he uses information from a source.

c) Common consensus among learners: The fact that the learner is more independent now has triggered the "web 2.0 revolution".

d) Participants are eagerly sharing their experiences with Blogs, their perception of blogs and text messages.. "I blog about things that I strongly disagree...if I cant get my views on TV, I can blog about it and reach out to people."

More follows...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Are Web 2.0 tools designed to support learning?

Whether it is Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 tools, we need to understand and evaluate the affordances of the tools and their abilities to support and deliver learning effectively. Today, I came across a case study that evaluates the pedagogical affordances of web 2.0 technologies.

The case study makes some interesting points about the pedagogical affordances of web 2.0 technologies. To put it across in layman’s perspective, the case study analyses the abilities of web 2.0 tools to deliver training.

1) Very few of the current crop of Web 2.0 technologies started life designed as educational tools. (Which is very true. Web 2.0 technologies are designed for collaboration, sharing, content creation etc. They are not designed exclusively to deliver training.)

2) The specific design and functionality of a particular tool or technology does not define its pedagogical usefulness. Rather there are other important ingredients required including the imagination and creativity of the individual user as they conceptualize problems or issues in their own environment that the particular tool might facilitate or help solve. (I agree. As a consequence of point 1, most web 2.0 tools cannot by themselves deliver training. To help integrate into the formal structure of training delivery, trainers and learners have to tweak and modify them with the features and functions to support training-related tasks.)

3) Categories of ‘affordances’ associated with Web 2.0 or social software: • Connectivity • Collaborative information discovery and sharing • Content creation • Knowledge and information aggregation • Content modification

However, what is interesting is that these affordances need not necessarily lend themselves into “training or learning” affordances. Let’s map the affordances of Web 2.0 tools to evaluate their applicability in a training framework.

What are the typical learning/training needs and how can Web 2.0 tools support these needs?

1. Learners should be able to relate concepts to real life application. To facilitate this, Web 2.0 tools must support streaming media and dynamic content in order to show application of concepts through cases, scenarios, and examples. Trainer can post video clips visuals or presentations, learners can reflect on these and post their comments. Examples: YouTube, discussion forums, blogs.

2. Learners want to practice what they have learned and preferably in a real-life or realistic situation. Therefore, Web 2.0 tools must have features that support free movement of learners within an environment that is close to real. The environment should show consequences, offer alternative paths to explore, make decisions, deconstruct, move, and respond to stimuli. Trainers can design a dynamic environment that simulates real life. In this environment, learners are exposed to situations or offered options where they can practice in a fail-safe mode. Examples: Virtual world, simulations

3. Learners today need to work in groups during the learning process. The Web 2.0 technologies must support multiuser activities such that multiple learners can interact in a dynamic learning environment. The learning environment can facilitate interaction among many learners and allow them to interact, share, and create. Examples: Virtual worlds, blogs, and wikis.

4. For learning to be effective, it needs to facilitate interaction among learners, trainers, and experts in a synchronous mode. To make this happen, Web 2.0 tools need to support instant exchange of messages and feedback among multiple users. They should provide a platform where learners can post comments and trainers/experts can view them and respond. Examples: Virtual world, web-conferencing tools like WebEx, Twitter

5. Learners want to have the freedom to take notes, make handwritten annotations on visuals, video, comment on specific audio files etc. The Web 2.0 tools should enable learners to scribble notes, make annotation on the video or the image, and rip information bytes from the videos, podcast or audio files. Both trainers and learners should be able to display annotation (feedback) from each other instantly or selectively depending on the training need. Examples: Web-meeting and conferencing tools, web learning applications

You can view a list of Top 100 Tools for Learning compiled by Jane Hart of Center of Learning and Performance Technologies.

Therefore, to conclude, Web 2.0 tools are designed to facilitate collaboration, sharing of information, content creation, easy updation, and democratization of the web world. Trainers, learners and instructional designers can capitalize on these facilities to design and deliver effective learning solutions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Designing Training Delivered Using Web 2.0 Tools

This is the first in the series on learning, training, and designing instructions in the Web 2.0 environment.

I remember having a discussion with Vaishnavi about how instructional design for Web 2.0-based learning should be different from that of traditional learning (classroom training and eLearning).

The fact remains that learning is about learners and not about tools or technology. Also, web 2.0 is not about a tool or technology, it is about the philosophy where technology empowers learners to do much more than just view and read off the web. While I believe that the basic premise for designing instructions will remain the same, the instructional strategies used will depend a lot on the learning environment, the changing profile of learners, and the new age Internet tools that also act as learning tools.

Understanding learners will always be (and has always been) the most critical aspect of designing training. This involves identifying their learning needs and providing solutions that address their needs. In web 2.0 scenario, the scope for instructional designers has vastly increased because the learner behavior is changing. Today, learners are in the “rip, mix, and publish” era; they are more empowered than before. They are not content with passive viewing of information; they want to contribute actively to their learning process. So, how does this change the way they learn?

The biggest change is the shift from uni-directional, top-down, centralized and structured learning to “informal learning”. Informal learning is learner-driven. It is an on-going process, it may or may not follow a structured path, it may or may not have a beginning and an ending, it may or may not be monitored and guided, and it may be conscious or unconscious. How do these dynamics impact the role of an instructional designer?*

1) Instructional designer has to keep in mind the changing behavior and profile of the learner. The learner wants more control over his learning today. Therefore, learning design has to facilitate learner control, cater for the learner 2.0.

2) ID has a lot of freedom to explore the various delivery methods while designing a learning solution. Therefore, ID needs to be aware of the potential of the tools and technology available in web 2.0.

3) While the basic principles of ID hold good as a guiding principle, IDs need to explore and innovate other development methodologies to design and deliver learning. The design process needs to be more dynamic and innovative to be able to exploit the advantages that each of these tools offer.

* Will update this post with more research and examples soon.