Archive for January, 2011

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

January 21, 2011

For this assignment, I need to recommend distance learning technologies that best support an asynchronous training module. The employees at a manufacturing plant require safety training. The employees must demonstrate their knowledge of safety procedures to their supervisors to demonstrate completion of the course.

With asynchronous training, the instructional designer may include presentation slides for lists of safety rules and video demonstrations of proper safety techniques. I believe a media sharing site that can host audio and video and provide assessment is necessary. Recently for work, I reviewed a company called Brainshark that provides an elegant solution for this need. Brainshark hosts narrated presentations, videos, and related files such as documents or job aids that students can download. Students are directed from a learning portal showing the available modules into the individual modules. The modules can be broken up into short pieces with a table of contents to guide them through the course. Their Rapid Learning module provides feedback to the administrators that includes: who watched each module, how much time did they spend on each module, and what were their scores on the assessments in each module. For an example of the BrainShark eLearning solution, visit:

Instructors need to take care when creating pre-recorded audio and video for asynchronous training. The multimedia elements should be engaging and professionally done so the learners remain focused on the content instead of distracted by the inadequacies of the production quality. Essex (2006) includes six great tips for pre-recorded content in his article on podcasts.

One drawback to the Brainshark solution is that the student is unable to share comments, ask questions, or discuss the material. Therefore, a separate web discussion technology is needed to actively engage students in learning (Laureate Education). A discussion forum can be used by the instructor to stimulate ideas and promote interaction between the students. Students can continue existing discussions or create new threads to ask questions. Discussion forums can be public or private where members must be invited or approved by the forum administrator. An example of a public forum is the 3DVIA Composer forum where customers and prospects can discuss issues about this product. Another example for eLearning is the discussion board for the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

There are many other wonderful tools and sites to facilitate asynchronous training. Media sharing sites and discussion forums seem to be necessary elements for successful asynchronous training.


3DVIA Composer discussion forum.

ASTD forum.


Essex, C. (2006). Podcasting: A new delivery method for faculty development. Distance Learning, (3(2), 39-43.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). The Technology of Distance Education. Multimedia program retrieved from

Defining Distance Learning

January 10, 2011

For this week’s blog assignment, we are supposed to define distance learning. Prior to starting this course, I would have defined the current state of distance learning as the act of learning through media delivered via the Internet. My definition excluded other media such as phone, television, and DVDs as I believed these media represented a small portion of current distance learning offerings now and in the future. My definition did not limit the media type delivered via the Internet. I believed that streaming videos, blog posts, discussion forums, webinars, and university-level online courses all were valid components of distance learning. These components could be delivered to a desktop computer, laptop, or mobile device.

After this week’s studies, I now understand that my definition of distance learning was too narrow. I should not place that many limitations on the media types. Correspondence teaching still occurs in locations where modern technologies are not prevalent. Two-way audio and video systems using fiber-optic lines allow instructors to interact with students at a distance (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek, 2009).

The words distance and learning  also help define the term. The distance component refers to both space and time. Distance includes the space is the separation in location between the instructor, the student, and the other students. Distance also includes the difference in time that occurs in asynchronous learning when the student uses learning modules at a time of their choosing.

The learning component refers to the act of participating in a learning endeavor. This includes instruction, interaction, practice, and evaluation. Self-study at a distance is not distance learning (Simonson, 2011). All of the pieces of a well constructed learning module must exist for learning to occur.

My definition of distance learning can now be represented by this mind map. The definition of distance learning will continue to evolve as new technologies emerge. Prior to 1922-1923, when colleges began using radio broadcast (Walden University, 2011), distance learning was synonymous with correspondence courses. Until technologies existed to allow students to interact with instructors, distance learning was one-way with all of the information flowing from instructor to student. As new technologies facilitate additional means of interaction and evaluation, the definition of distance learning will probably change again.


Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Simonson, M., Distance Education: The Next Generation [Online video]. Retrieved January 4, 2011, from

Walden University. (2011). Distance Learning Timeline Continuum [Flash Application]. Retrieved January 9, 2011, from

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