and Tips For Online Educators and Trainers
It is estimated that by the end of 2001, about 38 percent of U.S. organizations
will have integrated education and training with their web sites (U.S.
Web Sites Integrating Training Education). It is likely that more advanced
modes of technology such as streaming media, voice and pattern recognition,
wireless devices, and virtual reality will start to be incorporated into
education and training solutions in 2002. Spending on streaming media services
for example is expected to surpass $5 billion per year by 2005 in corporate
organizations (Streaming Media Spending). Distance learning is expanding
from corporate organizations to universities and new populations of distance
learners are emerging. Course design in distance courses should account
for the learner's preferred learning styles, characteristics and needs
while at the same time accommodate the learner with less technological
resources available to them (Flowers). Also important in course design
and implementation is recognition that a shift from a teacher-to-student
model to a technology-enabled interface to fit individual learning styles
and needs is occurring. This shift to implement an asynchronous technological
pedagogical model is necessary to enhance cognition. The shift toward student
controlled learning requires extensive preparation by both facilitators
and students (Johnston & Cooley), a shift it does not appear they are
currently prepared for.
In a report submitted to President George W. Bush by the President's
Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) in February 2001, the
overarching recommendation of PITAC was to "Make the effective integration
of information technology with education and training a national priority."
The PITAC recommended that the following four specific actions occur at
the Federal level:
With recommendations to research and better enable educators to use information
technology, the PITAC report indicates that educators are not yet effectively
integrating information technology with education and training. The focus
of the research that follows deals specifically with number three, enable
educators and related professionals to use information technology effectively.
Discussion will for the most part be limited to the technology currently
available to online facilitators. Please note that this discussion does
not differentiate between education and training. While these settings
differ, education and training are both forms of learning and the information
technology is adaptable to both settings (PITAC, p. 3). By identifying
considerations and providing tips for facilitators of distance education
and training, I hope this discussion becomes a useful tool to those educators
to begin to integrate currently available information technology more effectively.
Establish and coordinate a major research initiative for information technology
in education and training.
Establish focused government-university-industry-foundation partnerships
to aggressively pursue the information technology research program required
to advance education and training technology in the United States.
Enable educators and related professionals to use information technology
Develop and promote standards for education and training.
Instructional design is "systematic instructional planning including
needs assessment, development, evaluation, implementation and maintenance
of materials and programs" (Richey, p. 181). Many educators are being required
to design and implement online courses without much (if any) lead-time.
This short lead-time may eliminate the ability to conduct a needs assessment,
or properly conduct a formative evaluation cycle prior to implementation
of learning in this new environment. They are asked to develop web sites
or use learning management systems (LMS) with little or no training on
how to do so effectively. Research cautions educators not to make the mistake
of recreating a classroom-teaching model within an online learning environment
during course design (Sonwalkar, p.11). But how can educators possibly
determine the needs of their new audience, learn technical issues, identify
constraints, identify standards (or lack thereof) for each LMS, and modify
the course's design to be student controlled given short ramp up times?
To answer this question let us turn to the role of the educator or trainer
in the online learning environment. I would argue that their role is that
of a facilitator. What then is a facilitator? Merriam-Webster's collegiate
dictionary defines facilitate: "to make easier : help bring about". Given
this definition the term facilitator seems appropriate for the online educator
or trainer. With the shift to a student-centered learning model in distance
education, the role of the educator or trainer is to facilitate learning
- to make it easier for students to learn. This is accomplished by:
This approach keeps the focus on the student and focuses on "what learners
experience and how learners learn from these experiences" (Greenaway).
Making it easy for students to communicate their experiences, thereby enhancing
Encouraging and helping students to reflect upon their experiences.
Assisting students to develop their own learning processes, making them
When creating online courses, facilitators should allow plenty of time
prior to the start date for development. Since creating new subject matter
while building an online course may overload an individual, an educator
or trainer should consider converting an existing course rather than creating
a new one to start. For facilitators who are not familiar with web site
development, LMS tool kits are designed to manage courses and course materials.
Some of the features provided by LMS include helping facilitators to communicate
with students, track student web site use, and administer online surveys
and exams (Demystifying Learning Management Systems). Links to web sites
may also be included if a combination of web site development and LMS features
Facilitators should attempt to exploit the full power of online learning
by making the course content interesting. When possible, they should allow
the students to create some of the topics so that they have a vested interest
and so they can anchor new information to their previous life experiences.
Even when students help create topics the facilitator should structure
all activities and specify objectives clearly and in detail (Klemm, 1997).
Students may be asked to conduct "debates" where each student is asked
to take a position on and post supporting arguments for or against the
topic as well as critique other arguments (Klemm, n.d.). The PITAC report
agrees that assignments should be sequenced to help students comprehend
and piece together information, establish a broader context, promote discussions,
evaluate results, and be redirected as needed (PITAC, pg. 9).
To ensure students receive a high quality, online learning experience
attention should be given to the depth of content, accommodations for significant
interpersonal interaction, and the facilitation of a wide variety of learner
needs and capabilities (Flowers). Facilitators should determine the learning
preferences for the current group of learners and structure course activities
appropriately to aid their learning. Soles suggests online distance learning
activities appropriate for each Myers-Briggs learning preference in Table
1. Online Distance Learning Activity Suggestions for Myers-Briggs Preferences.
Table 1. Online Distance Learning Activity Suggestions for Myers-Briggs
Activities should be carefully selected to stimulate reflection, insight,
integration, creative or critical thinking, or in-depth problem solving.
To achieve this, try using team-learning techniques. Group interaction
is enhanced through cooperative learning and an increased access to experts
(PITAC, pg. 6). Working in teams, students are likely to form bonds with
one another and become more likely to participate in other online conference
Learning can be encouraged by assigning students to research information
on assigned topics, piece it together, report the information and discuss
it with the class (PITAC, pg. 8). In his paper "Eight Ways to Get Students
More Engaged in Online Conferences", Klemm's first solution is to make
participation a required portion of the course grade. He believes that
this will engage the student and produce thoughtful responses because students
will not want to post low quality postings for peer review. Several authors
also suggest that the facilitator become actively involved in the conference.
Students benefit from the knowledge, experience and insight offered by
the facilitator. To further allow students to integrate, synthesize and
apply information they find through research, facilitators should consider
requiring a deliverable or term project that captures a main topic of the
Finally, remember that each group of learners is different and things
will not always go as planned (this is no different than the classroom
environment). As a result it is required that the facilitator be a good
troubleshooter and problem solver. In the event the problems are technical,
it is helpful to have technical support available and know how to use it.
Greenaway suggests three strategies to turn 'intrusive complicators'
of online learning into 'enabling facilitators'.
Working with current experience matters more than what worked well in another
time and place with other people. Our experience and knowledge of 'similar
situations' or 'familiar types' is useful background but no more than this.
We can draw from our past experiences, but they should not overshadow our
present experiences. How we work should be a creative response to the current
Ask learners what is helping and hindering their learning. Conduct formative
evaluation while working with learners. The insights and perspectives from
the students on the learning process can help identify the learning strategies
that are the most successful.
Demonstrate confidence in the process of learning from experience. Being
a facilitator also means empathizing with the students and actually becoming
a learner. By becoming a better learner you will become a better facilitator.
Notice the realities and possibilities with the current group of learners.
For better or worse, technology has already changed the educational
environment in ways that educational leaders must recognize and address.
Expectations regarding new technologies will rise as they continue to be
implemented in more organizations. As the standards continue to emerge
in the area of learning management systems and other education and training
solutions, both students and facilitators must be educated so that they
may better comprehend their new and emerging roles in this instructional
environment. Pedagogical models will continue to evolve and be redefined
to better design, develop and evaluate instructional materials delivered
via these technologies. Educational leaders should continue to conduct
research on learner styles, characteristics and needs so that instructional
goals, activities, etc. may continue to be updated and improved.
Not all students and not all instructors, facilitators or faculty are
comfortable with this shift to student-led inquiry or problem-based learning.
Some still prefer more traditional models. Technology allows for the exploration
of various learning options and ability to account for different learning
preferences. A shift toward student controlled learning requires extensive
preparation by both professors and students (Johnston & Cooley). Technology-enhanced
instruction can be used to enhance cognition when used in conjunction with
principles of instructional design. Supported by powerful technologies,
students (especially those who have grown up with powerful technologies)
can become responsible managers of their instruction, and instructors can
become enabling facilitators and co-learners.
Demystifying Learning Management Systems (n.d.) Retrieved December 4,
2001, from http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~fmb/articles/demystifyinglms/
Flowers, Jim (2001, Fall). Online Learning Needs In Technology Education.
[Electronic version]. Journal of Technology Education. Retrieved
November 26, 2001 from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/v13n1/flowers.html
Abstract: A list of features for faculty describing tasks that learning
management systems can perform.
Greenaway, Roger (n.d.) Enabling Facilitator or Intrusive Complicator?
Retrieved December 5, 2001, from http://reviewing.co.uk/research/resindex.htm#reflections
Abstract: Informs those considering offering online technology education,
especially at the graduate level, of the perceived need for and appeal
of online educational opportunities in technology education, as discovered
through a needs assessment survey.
Johnston, Michelle A. and Cooley, Nancy (2001, November/December). Toward
More Effective Instructional Uses of Technology: The Shift to Virtual Learning.
The Technology Source. Retrieved on November 28, 2001 from http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=869
Abstract: Reviews what people are actually learning and provides ideas
about how to make learning easier based on personal research and observations.
Klemm, W. R. Ph.D. (n.d.). Eight Ways to Get Students More Engaged in On-line
Conferences. The Higher Education Journal. 26 (1): pp. 62-64 Retrieved
June 29, 2001 from http://www.cvm.tamu.edu/wklemm/Eight%20Ways/8waystoengage.htm
Abstract: Discussion on how educators have had to determine the appropriate
uses of technology by aligning pedagogical and technical standards and
assisting learners in demonstrating their mastery of the course objectives
related to those standards.
Klemm, W. R. and Snell, J. R. (1997, October). Instructional Design Principles
for Teaching in Computer Conferencing Environments. Retrieved June 29,
2001 from http://www.cvm.tamu.edu/wklemm/instruct.html
Abstract: "An all-too-common problem with on-line conferencing as a learning
environment is that too many students "lurk," that is watch what is going
on without becoming actively involved. Teachers should not allow students
to lurk in on-line conferences. Nor is it necessary. Presented here are
eight tactics that teachers can employ to make students more active learners
in on-line conferences." (pp. 1).
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (n.d.) "Facilitate". Retrieved
on December 2, 2001, from http://www.m-w.com
Abstract: A discussion of four principles central to exploiting the full
power of computer conferencing for teaching. Computer conferencing is discussed
as being the premier environment for promoting active, student-centered
PITAC Report (2001, February). Using Information Technology to Transfer
the Way We Learn. Arlington, VA, President's Information Technology Advisory
Committee, Panel on Transforming Learning. Retrieved on December 2, 2001,
Richey, Rita C., & Fields, Dennis C., & Foxon, Marguerite (2001).
Instructional Design Competencies: The Standards (Third Edition). Syracuse:
ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology.
Abstract: Report developed by the President's Information Technology Advisory
Committee (PITAC) on key contemporary issues in information technology.
These focused reports examine specific aspects of the near- and long-term
research and development and policies we need to capture the potential
of information technology to help grow our economy and address important
problems facing the Nation.
Soles, Carolyn ME.D. and Moller, Leslie Ph.D. (2001, January). Myers Briggs
Type Preferences in Distance Learning Education. International Journal
of Educational Technology. Retrieved July 26, 2001, from http://www.outreach.uiuc.edu/ijet/v2n2/soles/index.html
IBSTPI presents the latest view of the competencies of instructional designers.
This view reflects the complexities of current practice and technology,
theoretical advancements, and the social tenor of the times.
Sonwalkar, Nishikant (2001, November). Changing the Interface of Education
with Revolutionary Learning Technologies. Syllabus pp. 10-13.
Abstract: The purpose of this article is to explore why educators may want
to consider the student learning characteristics of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
preference, learning style and the need to manage the asynchronous learning
environment when designing online distance learning programs.
Streaming Media Spending to Hit $5 billion per year (n.d.) Retrieved November
30, 2001, from http://www2.cio.com/metrics/2001/metric253.html
Abstract: "Technologies such as streaming video, virtual learning environments,
and teleoperated experiments are entering the Web-based learning arena.
Along with the development of a second-generation online education infrastructure,
it will be necessary to consider changing the interface of education -
reinventing pedagogy for the new interface, including multimedia and hypermedia
enhancements, and creating the educational standards necessary for generalized
deployment. Here, Nishikant Sonwalkar provides an overview of key issues
that we hope will spark a discussion among the various stakeholders in
the development of online learning systems." (pp. 10-11).
U.S. Web Sites Integrating Training Education (2001, September 27).
Retrieved November 27, 2001 from http://www.idc.com/ebusinesstrends/ebt20010927.stm
Abstract: A discussion of eBusiness trends in organizations. Includes graphs
relating to integration of training in business education of data from
IDC's eWorld 2001 Survey. Also includes a brief discussion on trends.
Compton, Jason (2001, November 1). How to Take Over the Classroom. CIO
Magazine. Retrieved November 28, 2001 from http://www.cio.com/archive/110101/classroom.html
E-Learning Marketplace on the Move (n.d.) Retrieved November 28, 2001,
Abstract: Many professional schools have emerged and compete with traditional
universities. This article provides case studies showing how universities
and businesses are beginning to show signs of collaboration the development
of courses. The strategy highlights corporations providing the technical
experience so that universities can "fast-track" hot skills an provide
more marketable graduates.
FUTUREPERSPECTIVE - What issues in educational technology will help
shape the next millennium? (2000, January). Special Report - T.H.E.
Journal, 27(6), 42-45 Retrieved November 15, 2001, from http://www.thejournal.com/magazine/vault/A2599.cfm
Graham, C., Cagiltay, K., Lim, B., Craner, J., & Duffy, T. M. (2001,
March). Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating
Online Courses. The Technology Source. Retrieved November 9, 2001,
Abstract: What important issues in educational technology will help shape
the next millennium? In answer to the above question, five of the nation's
top educational technologists provided T.H.E. Journal with their vision
of the next millennium's top educational technology issues.
Hapgood, Fred (2001, October 15). Emerging technology. CIO Magazine.
Retrieved November 28, 2001 from http://www.cio.com/archive/101501/et_revisit.html
Abstract: Using the "Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate
Education", a popular framework for evaluating teaching in traditional,
face-to-face courses, the team evaluated four online courses in an accredited
program at a major U.S. university. Using the seven principles as a general
framework for the evaluation gave us insights into important aspects of
online teaching and learning.
Hapgood, Fred (2001,September). Time for Training. CIO Magazine.
Retrieved November 28, 2001 from http://www.cio.com/archive/090101/et_revisit.html
Abstract: "After a decade of deafness, speech interfaces finally are ready
to listen." This article provides a brief history and discussion of advances
made in speech recognition technology.
James, Gary W. (n.d.). Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning.
Retrieved October 27, 2001, from http://www.allencomm.com/pdfs/white_papers/ad_dis_ol.pdf
Abstract: Discusses the advances made in computer simulations and the shift
in roles that they play in business and industry.
Morrison, James L. and Meister, Jeanne C. (2001, July/August). e-Learning
in the Corporate University: An Interview with Jeanne Meister [Electronic
version]. Technology Source. Retrieved June 27, 2001 from http://horizon.unc.edu/TS/default.asp?show=article&id=888
Abstract: Article presents a list of advantages (16) and disadvantages
(11) of designing, developing and delivering web-based training.
Rogers, Everett M. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations, 4th Ed.
New York, The Free Press.
Abstract: This interview with Jeanne Meister the use of information technology
to enhance learning and management in a corporate setting. Specifically
discussed are e-learning strategies being implemented by corporate universities.
Schank, Roger C. (2000, January). FUTUREPERSPECTIVE - A Vision of Education
for the 21st Century. T.H.E. Journal. Retrieved November 28, 2001
Technology Infusion in Higher Education (n.d.) Retrieved December 3,
2001 from http://www.pt3.org/technology/index.html
Abstract: Highlights trend data on computer use in higher education from
the Campus Computing Project's National Survey of Computing and Information
Technology in American Higher Education.
ITFORUM PAPER #61 - Facilitation Considerations and Tips For Online
Educators and Trainers by Julie Batovsky of Syrtis. Posted on ITFORUM
on April 11, 2002. The author retains all copyrights of this work. Used
on ITFORUM by permission of the author. Visit the ITFORUM WWW Home Page