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Webinar Strategies for E-learning
Written by Todd Harris   
Wednesday, 03 June 2009 11:55

A webinar is an easy and cost-effective way to connect live to an online audience. Other names you'll hear thrown around include web conferencing or webcasting. Expensive telepresence setups within large companies have been around for years. But only recently has one-to-one and one-to-many communications been affordable to the general Internet user. 

The additional functionality of integrated chat, polling, desktop sharing, whiteboarding, and other features makes webinars a terrific E-learning and marketing tool. Educators, consultants, and trainers are now charging for (and profiting from) webinar lectures and courses--often $50 and higher per presentation.

At Educadium, we think the best E-learning environment mixes and matches a variety of online tools, all dependent on specific educational needs. Our EasyCampus virtual school builder integrates webinar technology as one of several useful options in creating a compelling online course or training program. The goal is to simulate and then exceed the capabilities of an on-site classroom experience. Of course, you may prefer to offer self-paced courses--learners follow instructions, absorb knowledge, and then take a quiz or other assessment to verify understanding. Every organization has unique requirements and budgets.

But what if you want to go further, simulating a live class with true give and take between instructor and learner? What if creating self-paced courseware or using asynchronous (time-delayed) discussion forums and email is not your thing? Perhaps you're a teacher or trainer with a particular gift for public speaking. There is the familiar chat tool, of course. Webinars, though, hold additional promise for presenting and then archiving multimedia-rich content.

In designing EasyCampus, we looked at a lot of live-meeting and collaboration tools that work for smaller organizations, schools, and trainers. It's a competitive market with many quality offerings. That's great news for the online community, as new features are quickly introduced. For our campus owners and users, we're happy to offer EasyCampus Collaboration in conjunction with Citrix. Many of our users are already familiar with GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar from Citrix. Ease of use, reliability, and customer support were important considerations for us.

Many of our EasyCampus owners and teachers use desktop meetings to connect with a small group of learners at a specific time in a collaborative lesson. The meeting organizer often presents PowerPoint slide material, which everyone can see  on their desktop. It's easy to give a student temporary presenter status to share something or to make a point on his or her own computer. The facilitator may call on the audience for questions or comments. And everything (often audio voice over with the computer screen) can be recorded for inclusion into a current or upcoming EasyCampus course. These lectures can be seen by absent registrants or future learners within a secure learning environment. That's a wonderful return on investment.

Larger webinars (e.g., more than 100 participants) require more time to organize and skill to conduct. In this setting, the participants do not speak freely but may raise a hand to ask a question. Teachers can see and answer these questions as well as deploy polls to elicit information from the audience. Webcam video is possible, but requires a bit more coordination. As in a live meeting, the entire webinar can be recorded for later deployment in an EasyCampus. There is also a wealth of reporting to review after the webinar.

if you haven't experienced the power of webinars, then we encourage you contact the Educadium staff for a demonstration.

 
No Online Training Budget? No Problem
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 28 May 2009 10:31
Smaller organizations and trainers have a hard enough time finding customers and keeping them happy. Investing in expensive teaching tools rates low on the list of business priorities. According to an Educadium survey of firms with fewer than 1,000 employers, 91% reported that they had no dedicated budget for online training and education. 

For many organizations (and quite a few schools), teaching and training is still decidedly low tech: Assemble the learners, corral them into an on-site classroom, and put a subject matter expert (SME) in front of them. If there is a curriculum, it’s usually a loose agenda and some handouts. Assessments? Proof of class attendance will often suffice.

The irony is that traditional, stand-up training still works for many learning needs. Simplicity matters—easy to design, easy to implement, and easy to certify. However, the rise of the virtual (and global) organization means that training cannot happen at one office at one time. Workers juggle different shifts. Management wants to squeeze costs, yet trainers need to be everywhere at once.

These new business requirements are driving training online. Organizations and trainers, from our experience, appreciate the new-found power and flexibility of online learning tools. However, most business owners are realists and flinch at paying for expensive courseware, no matter how impressive. Authoring it themselves with software? Forget it. A small firm can barely update its own promotional website.

So, the eLearning industry stands at an important crossroads. In a tough recession, it can continue to sell expensive products and consulting services to a skeptical and increasingly frustrated audience. Or, it can actually start listening to its customers—large and small.

Recently, Educadium’s Professional Services team met with a midsize company in the transportation industry. The firm was expanding regionally and wanted a better training solution for its workforce.

We knew that budgets were tight. A custom curriculum or licensed courseware was out of the question. But the executive team had high expectations for its corporate university. They wanted to translate the company’s strong, service-oriented brand identity into online training materials. They also had specific requirements for a self-paced course that could be used by employees across the United States without active instructor presence.

What to do? Our team suggested the use of low-cost multimedia for greater appeal. The company could adapt and supplement an in-house video of the safety steps required of new employees. Then, this video could be edited into lessons for uploading into an EasyCampus course. A reusable and randomized bank of quiz questions (created by the staff) would measure the course outcomes. Finally, employees who passed the quiz would receive an EasyCampus certificate of completion.

Educadium showed them what’s possible; the firm’s employees are firmly in control of the content creation and EasyCampus administration. The president even got involved in designing course layouts. The new multi-state training program doesn’t have expensive bells and whistles. But then again, it delivers results and can be managed cost effectively, which is music to every business owner.
 
Getting Back to Online Basics
Written by Todd Harris   
Tuesday, 05 May 2009 20:03

Online learning can feel like the Wild West. Educators and trainers have few benchmarks. Traditional universities enjoy the prestigious ivy on their buildings. But they struggle like everyone else in migrating course content and faculty to Internet-hosted systems. Complicating matters: Vendors seem more interested in selling the latest digital tools and platform upgrades than helping administrator come up with proven (and often no-cost) processes for meeting the e-learning challenge.

Yes, technology matters. There are wonderful ways to incorporate social networking and multimedia into the online classroom--a photo from Flickr or an instructional video from YouTube. Learning management systems are cost-effective platforms for schools and organizations. And yet, instead of obsessing about the latest techno-fad, most online administrators would benefit more from implementing simple yet effective course layouts and best practices appreciated by learners.

Where to start? First, understand some basic terminology. There are threads that tie together all good instruction--on-ground or online. This includes clear course outcomes (objectives); learning activities; assessment (grading); and feedback. To businesspeople, this sounds a lot like strategic planning, which leads to process improvement.

Secondly, administrators should determine what type of approach works best for their audience and their budget. Self-paced learning is ideal when training users for a test and certification. Learners go through the material on their own, and the administrative overhead is low. The costs are in the authoring of this reusable, teacher-less content. Another option is to license off-the-shelf courseware, and open source options are on the horizon.

To better simulate the lively, on-ground classroom, most schools eschew self-paced learning for facilitated courses. The instructor dialogues with students using discussion forums (or simple email), supplemented by assignments and activities. The conversations can be in real time (via collaboration software and webinars) or asynchronous, allowing students to post and reply at various times during the week.

Just as with any on-ground class, planning a facilitated course takes time. There are discussion questions and activities to consider and content to upload. Educadium has streamlined the set-up process with our EasyCampus course wizards. And fortunately, many parts of a facilitated course can be re-used for future classes (e.g., lectures, quizzes, etc.).

 UMUC Logo

As you think about your first online course, consider the example of the University of Maryland University College, an innovator in nontraditional and online learning. UMUC's web site garnered Forbes magazine's distinction as being "Best of the Web" in distance education. UMUC's Expectations for Classroom Setup and Online Teaching offers some great tried and true tips, including:

  • Develop and post a syllabus describing course expectations and schedule--where is the teacher going and what does the student need to do to succeed
  • Write an introductory announcement--it's cold in cyberspace without a friendly, welcoming message
  • Upload all of the materials required for the first lesson--students want to see everything
  • Go beyond the textbook--multimedia, case studies, Internet resources, etc.
  • Facilitate but don't dominate the discussions--let the learning happen

One last tip: Be present and proactive online. Don't assume that your learners understand your lesson plan. Good online teaching starts with simplicity and clarity. Get the basics right, and you and your students will be coming back for more.

 
Adult Education Opportunities Grow
Written by Todd Harris   
Thursday, 23 April 2009 10:05

In the public's mind, higher education and K12 are at the center of the learning industry. Fair enough. These institutions are bracing for an online tsunami, which will transform their relationship with students and the public. According to estimates, more than 8 million students will take courses online by 2011, and school districts face severe bandwidth and technological challenges keeping up with the demand from the smartphone generation.

On the other side of the spectrum, larger organizations have embraced hosted software for onboarding, training, and performance management programs for their employees. Workers enjoy the flexibility of meeting certification and job requirements without physical or geographic constraints. Supervisors can track employee progress with more accuracy and at less cost.

In the midst of a global downturn, adult or professional education (much of it online) will be another important and cost-effective way for young people and workers to acquire needed skills and experiences. While the average age for this audience is 38 years old, don't forget about the Boomers and seniors, who will want more courses for personal enrichment. Popular courses will offer a window on new opportunities--travel writing, project management, entrepreneurship, etc. And successful schools will recruit practitioner faculty with market expertise, credibility, and a love of teaching.

Where will adult learners looking for a career makeover get their new skills? Local universities could step into this market. But they have been slow to offer continuing-ed courses and extension schools, which may seem like a grubby step down for their tenured faculty. Accredited schools are more comfortable with longer, more expensive degree-granting programs. But according to Eduventures, today's educational shopper seeks out non-traditional course and program formats--often online and accelerated. Customer-centric Internet schools, like Media Bistro or those from Educadium's EasyCampus owners, could take the lead in this emerging field. It will be exciting to watch, with a number of individuals and institutions jockeying for position!

If you're an administrator or businessperson looking closely at adult education, Eduventures' 2008 study offers some takeaways:

  • Show prospective students tangible evidence of personal and performance improvements
  • Offer flexible scheduling
  • Embrace online delivery of coursework
  • Use the Internet as your primary marketing tool
  • Focus your message on cost, schedule, reputation, and class size

Good advice all around!

 
Educadium Mission
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 11:57

Educadium is a new kind of online learning community. With our simple and affordable classroom tools, we help teachers, trainers, and organizations connect to learners around the world. Creating an online school has never been easier.

For educators and businesses, it’s possible to teach anything to anyone, anytime, anywhere in a safe and secure environment. For learners, it’s a convenient way to take classes, master new skills, and meet interesting people.

Thank you for visiting and we welcome you to our public beta!

 
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