Live and Online

In the past few days I've noticed a few posts come in my news reader about the quality of online classes from colleges and universities. Posts like this and this seem to echo my experiences.

Up until last year online college courses were my only experience with elearning, online learning, or distance learning. Then PLCMC was invited to participate in WebJunction's beta program for online learning for libraries.

In addition to learning how to design and create self-paced training modules, we also had the opportunity to be trained in and experience synchronous training or elearning that is live and online. If your experience with elearning has consisted of WebEx conferences or Blackboard take a look at what is being done by Jennifer Hoffman and her staff at InSync Training. Using a synchronous training platform such as Live Meeting, Jennifer is able to reproduce a live classroom experience for learners that are located around the world. These classes are designed to completely engage the learners and during some of the classes I have taken, I became so involved that I actually forgot I was sitting in front of my computer.

This is the future of elearning!

Last year I completed my Synchronous Facilitation Certification and this year I am hoping to complete the Synchronous Design Certification as well. Later this year I am planning to teach an online class on baby sign language so stay tuned for details.

WebJunction and InSynch Training are partnering up again this year to offer the Synchronous Learning Expert Certification to library staff at a discounted rate. If you have the opportunity to attend, I highly recommend this training to anyone who wants to deliver quality and engaging training to library staff (and patrons)!

If you just want to try out a synchronous class to see what it's all about, sign up for a free Learn to Learn Online class offered every week by InSync Training.

First Test

This was the email in my inbox earlier today:

Hello everybody,

Just a reminder that your first test lesson 6 is coming up Friday Jan 26 and Saturday Jan. 27. Make sure all your activities and labs are done before you take test. please if you have any questions call me or send me an email.

good luck!

So my first test is this week, and I am a bit nervous because while I have completed nearly all the assignments I haven't learned or retained very much. It's hard taking a second Spanish class nearly a decade after I took the first class. The technology and design put into this online class are impressive. As far as sound instructional design principles this is the best class I've taken so far. But the class was developed by Quia, not the professors at my school. What does that say about our colleges and universities? What really gets me is that these schools offer degrees in instructional design. Why then, do they not use their own instructional designers?

Where's Lori?

Last fall my husband and I discovered that we are expecting our second child, due on July 4th! We have a three-year-old son. Since about November I've had severe morning ALL DAY sickness. Around Christmas it got worse and a few weeks ago it got so bad that I became dehydrated and could not function. So I am on leave from work until this gets better.

I'm at home hooked up to IVs and a nurse comes every few days to check on me. It's actually quite amazing what they can do for you at home so that you don't have to go in the hospital.

In the meantime I am reclined in my favorite chair with my laptop, new toy, and many hours to pass! Know of any good books?

Distance Learning

When you think about e-learning or online training what comes to mind? For me it's college experiences using Blackboard which can sometimes amount to nothing more than a correspondence course.

Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that colleges are offering online classes. I am the perfect demographic for these programs...working mom with a two-year-old and another on the way. How else could I do it all!

My first online course was about 10 years ago. I took a telecourse for Cultural Anthropology. This was an effective way to learn the material. Watching videos of different cultures really added to the experience. I took a Public Speaking class that was taught the same way. Again watching good and bad examples of public speaking is a great way to learn.

Since then I've taken close to a dozen online classes and while it seems to be taking forever for me to complete my degree, it has been interesting to see the progression of online learning over the years. This semester I am taking my second level Spanish class. I don't have a great success rate with learning languages. I have dropped this course three times when taking it in a classroom because I am very intimidated in a classroom setting where no English is allowed to be spoken. I was happy to see that a local college was offering this entirely online, but I wondered how a foreign language could be taught online given my past experiences. I have to admit so far I am impressed.

The textbook is online and completely interactive. Click a word and the word is pronounced for you. There are graded activities as well. But how does the instructor know if you are really learning the material? Recordings. Each chapter has assigned exercises that you must record and submit online to the instructor.

What a great idea! Online learning has come a long way since the telecourses I took long, long ago. But the true measure of success will be can I get through this class!

How prepared are you?

If you've been watching any of the major news channels lately you might think the world is about to end. There are predictions of a major terrorist attack later this year, more category 5 hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and then there are always the small disasters to be concerned about.

How timely that the American Red Cross put on a program at one of our libraries yesterday called, When Disaster Strikes - Disaster Preparedness. The program covered the basics of preparing for a disaster and we even received some free bags to keep emergency supplies in.

The program really got me thinking though, so here are some questions for you to ponder.

If on your way home from work you discovered that for whatever reason the roads were impassible would you be able to get home? What kind of shoes do you wear? Do you keep a pair of walking shoes in your car? Do you have a map with alternate routes? Do you have a flashlight and batteries? What about water? Does this scenario seem improbable? It's happened to me. Twice! I've had to leave my car and walk several miles home--once due to a flood and once due to snow and ice. Both days started out as ordinary days with no inclination that bad weather was looming. So just keep in mind it's these "small disasters" that you really have to prepare for.

Do you always carry your keys with you? If you are in a meeting or the restroom at work and are told to evacuate the building you may not be able to go back to your office to get your keys, wallet, money, ID. (This one has happened to me too!)

If you got home to find out that your water supply has been contaminated, do you have enough bottled water to sustain your family for at least three days? Do you have any bottled water?

Do you always have at least twenty dollars cash on hand? When the power goes out so do ATMs and credit card machines.

This is just a start but it is something we all need to think about. You can learn more by looking at the American Red Cross Disaster Services Web site.