Magazine article The Catalyst

Revisiting Online Program Delivery for Workplace Training

Magazine article The Catalyst

Revisiting Online Program Delivery for Workplace Training

Article excerpt

For those who may have looked at on-line delivery to support workforce learning in the past, there are a number of new developments that warrant revisiting decisions to adapt current on-ground programs to fully on-line or hybrid delivery modes. These developments fall into three general categories: improved economics for deployment of educational technology, societal assimilation of technology, and recognition of skill attainment through badges - or micro-credentials - by employers.

A case study of how one organization has migrated its on- ground workforce training program to on-line delivery is presented as an example.

Improved Economics of Educational Technology

The technology life cycle in only the last 2-3 years has progressed to such a point that technology is not only more powerful, but is also much more affordable. All facets of technology have seen drastic cost reductions: hardware, software, and storage.

Cost of personal computing hardware devices such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets, Phablets (i.e., a hybrid telephone and tablet), and hand-held mobile devices have all been dropping as feature sets continue to expand. Functionality that only a few short years ago were considered to be accessories - video cameras, microphones, and sound cards - are pretty much standard features in hardware devices today. This increased functionality allows workforce learning programs to create those more personalized interactions required to support adult learning: instructor-learner interactions, learnerlearner interactions, employer-instructor interactions, and employer-instructor-learner interactions. Online workforce training programs in the not-so-distant past were often characterized by timed delivery of text-heavy, fixed content followed by short-answer drills or, at best, content accompanied by asynchronous discussion threads, emails, or bulletin boards. Flardware limitations partially contributed to an unengaging user experience for on-line learners.

The movement to Open Source software and inexpensive (or free) synchronous software services also support a move to on-line delivery. Learning Management Systems are no longer the sole domain of large suppliers that have commensurately large price tags. WordPress(TM), once only a go-to software solution for bloggers, has become an affordable solution for managing delivery of content. Through the use of what are called WordPress "plug-ins," providers of workplace learning can very economically set up asynchronous and synchronous learning delivery systems, include discussion boards, manage payments, and even create digital badges - or micro-credentials - that can be displayed through a variety of platforms such as Credly(TM), BadgeCert(TM), and Acclaim(TM) (see below). Complementary solutions can also be integrated with a WordPress delivery system. Inexpensive (or free) applications such as Skype(TM), Google Hangouts(TM), and Yugma(TM) are all readily available to provide synchronous real-time connection between instructors and students to create a presence that closely resembles that of a face-toface learning environment.

The availability of cloud computing solutions eliminates the need for hosting and maintaining data on your institution or company's servers. This has been a tremendous obstacle in the past that is now easily - and inexpensively - accommodated by third-party providers.

Societal Assimilation of Technology

Technology is becoming increasingly integrated into all aspects of one's life. The acceptance of computing technology to support one's personal and professional lifestyle is no longer the sole domain of Generation X and Y workers - who are coincidentally becoming a larger percentage of the workforce - but is also being embraced by Baby Boomers. This overall acceptance of technology means that all four generations extant in today's workplace are comfortable using technology to support learning. One can find learners and workers of all generations regularly accessing social media sites such as Twitter(TM), Tumblr(TM), Facebook(TM), Instagram(TM), Pinterest(TM), Google(TM). …

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