Sunday, January 27, 2013

Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink

"Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink" (Coleridge, 1798).

Sometimes I feel that way about instructional design. Tools to enhance distance learning abound, but it can be difficult to find the right tool for a specific application. When selecting technology, instructional designers have a responsibility to consider learner characteristics, technical requirements, learning objectives, learning theory and models. We have to ask ourselves what we need the technology to accomplish or facilitate - real-time dialogue, higher-level thinking, social presence, etc. - where the technology will "live - a CMS, a corporate website, in the Cloud, etc. - and potential benefits and limitations of using a specific technology for a specific application.

Here is an assignment I recently completed for a Distance Learning course. What technology would you choose? Why?

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

In an effort to improve its poor safety record, a biodiesel manufacturing plant needs a series of safety training modules. These stand-alone modules must illustrate best practices on how to safely operate the many pieces of heavy machinery on the plant floor. The modules should involve step-by-step processes and the method of delivery needs to be available to all shifts at the plant. As well, the shift supervisors want to be sure the employees are engaged and can demonstrate their learning from the modules.

I would use Interactive Study Guides and video podcasts for this training project, both of which would be downloadable from the company’s media sharing website.

Description of Technologies

An Interactive Study Guide (ISG) is a “structured note-taking system that leads the learner through a series of concepts, and that requires some active and interactive involvement by the student” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 244).

A video podcast, or vodcast, is a downloadable video clip that be viewed from a computer or mobile device (

Media Sharing Sites are Web sites that facilitate the sharing of content and artifacts such as text, pictures, videos, presentations, and audio files” (Laureate, 2009).

Integration of Technologies to Achieve Training Objectives
Trainees would log in to the CMS, download the vodcast and view it at an agreed upon time, which would ensure that the training is available to all shifts at the plant. Each safety training module would be divided into three sections and comprise an ISG and a vodcast. The ISG would include an orientation to the module, a list of technical requirements, learning objectives, and recommendations for how to use the ISG during the training session.
  •  Section 1 of the vodcast would feature a subject matter expert explaining the features of a piece of machinery and the best practices for safe operation.
  • Section 2 of the vodcast would feature a video demonstration of a person operating the machine safely, accompanied by a voice-over that detailed the step-by-step operation of the machine. This would illustrate the step-by-step processes of safe operation.
  • Section 3 of the vodcast would feature a person operating the machine in an unsafe manner. Trainees would be instructed to use their ISG to note the errors and explain how to correct them. This would allow shift supervisors to confirm that employees engaged in the training and can demonstrate their learning.

  • The ISG is an essential tool of the distance educator for several reasons. The ISG:
  • Encourages efficient note-taking
  • Organizes course content in a way that is easy to follow
  • Can be used in all categories of distance education systems
  • Is an effective way to show relationships among ideas (Simonson et al., 2012

A vodcast facilitates asynchronous training and is especially useful for modeling and demonstration (
Emerging technologies not only enable customization of content, but also customization of the level of interaction by allowing the learner to choose when and how to interact” (Beldarrain, 2006). The use of vodcasts in combination with ISGs would facilitate a customized, learner-centered experience, as trainees would be able to:
  • Control the timing of their training
  • Control the pace of the training by pausing and replaying portions of the vodcast as needed
  • Use the ISG to record questions and key learning concepts for clarification and future reference


ISG: Ford Customer Service Division developed an ISG for their instructor-led distance learning course designed to train their technicians on the 2005 Mustang (Ford, 2004, p. Intro-1). Ford provided technology to allow trainees audio interaction (call-in) with the instructor, as well as detailed text and photographs in the ISG to support key learning concepts.

Vodcast: Collaborative Care Interactive used Flash animation to create an educational vodcast about diabetes (Conant, 2009). 


Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2),139–153. 

Conant, T. (2009). What’s bugging you? Retrieved from

Coleridge, S. T. (1798). The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.    
Ford Customer Service Division (2004). FCSD technical training interactive study guide: 2005 Mustang new model technician training. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009). Technology of Distance Education [DVD].
Baltimore, MD: Author.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a
distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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