Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Role of Training and Support in eLearning Success Part II

I start this part with a quote from Micheal Fledstein's Blog, a reflection/reaction posted by Stephen on an article appearing on the Communication of the ACM. The blog article's title is "The Sesame Street Syndrome".

In the final paragraph Stephen notes

The misuse (or not) of technology in lectures is merely a symptom of a wider malaise in university teaching. Giving academics a “fair fight” must mean giving them all of the resources, training, time and support needed to be effective teachers, not just the bare minimum needed to be
boring lecturers.
The fair fight being quoted here arises from the perceived lack of control of the learning process by academics. It is seen as a problem when students are using the wireless technology in the classroom to do things that are totally unrelated to what the academic is offering.

Our approach to giving the academics a "fair fight" is training them for a mind-set shift. From seeing students as only passive recipients of knowledge to seeing them as active creators of knowledge. Training them to pass the control of the learning process to the students (the shift from the sage on stage to the guide on the side).

Training and Support
On training, the eLearning division in liaison with the office of staff development sends out monthly training schedules. The training times are varied and flexible to cater for the different timings and
schedules of the target client. On timing we have main training scheduled between 9.00-12.00 and 2.00-4.30 on weekdays, lunchtimes on Wednesdays (except when we have an elearning seminars). We only offer student training on request from the lecturers although we do a 10-15 minutes demonstration on how to navigate the eLearning site, on invitation to the lecturers' lectures. In the training, we have included other components like image editing. Image editing was introduced when we discovered that our clients needed to use graphics but they did not know how to scale them for the web.

The characteristics and strategies of the support that we give are:
  • On-time - We have an email address accessible to all members of the team where the campus community contacts us on. During office hours, a request is processed within the hour it is received. During weekends however, response may take sometimes but occasionally there is someone within the team who checks the emails. We also have a support telephone line that is maned always during working hours. In addition, the ICS helpdesk forwards to us all requests from the campus community that are related to eLearning. Our on-time support makes sure that we build and maintain a level of confidence with the stakeholders that -"we are with you throughout the learning process".

  • Clarifying the issues with users. It is important as a support division to understand what the users' concerns are. In the support environment we at times receive calls that we do not understand for example we receive call that the "eLearning site is not working", at a time when we are using it. We therefore, have to understand what the users' mean by and their perception of what is "not working". In some cases we find that the users have an incorrect url, or there are settings within their computers that are not properly set, or the network is not working from their offices among others. In line with clarifying the issues with the users, we show the them alternatives that exist - without over-burdening or confusing them. Again, we reassure the users that we are with them and update them regularly on the issues they have raised.

  • We also provide timely follow-ups to find out how the academics who have attended training, and showed interest in using eLearning are doing. The follow-ups are mainly on email. During this follow-ups we have found out that some academics at times get stuck and do not know how to ask for assistance.
  • Apart from the academics, we provide student training and support. This is critical for the success of eLearning as students are the recipients and main consumers of the eLearning products. It is a cumbersome process but manageable.

Apart from the training, we have departmental visits where on invitation by eLearning champions in the departments, we go to introduce eLearning to the departments. This visits are not so detailed in nature, but we use them to informally discuss the fears, expectations, promises, challenges, etc of eLearning. It offers us a chance to not only listen to our potential clients but also to know them. This of late has been driven by the successes that have been reported by other departments.

powered by performancing firefox

No comments: