The Virtual Classroom Category

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Greening your business with eLearning

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Green Your Business with eLearningOne of my lifelong passions has been the sustainability of the planet.  Yes, LIFELONG, and I was born in 1959!  My parents subscribed to the Rodale Press publication Organic Gardening when I was a toddler.  We read food labels in the 1960s, we grew most of our own food (vegetable and animal); none of it had systemic pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, or artificial coloring.  (The one exception to this was the small jar of Maraschino cherries my mother let me hide at the back of a shelf in the pantry.  So far, I have no apparent side effects from the Red Dye #40.)  There was quite a long period of time where the dirtiest four-letter word I knew was S-A-L-T.

Luckily, I grew up in a very small and rural town, where everyone was odd and there was no “normal” to be compared against.  Sure, we may have been the only family around that didn’t eat Hamburger Helper or Cool Whip, but there weren’t enough of those who did to poke fun of us.  We intentionally composted our kitchen scraps, but I imagine a lot of folks threw their garbage out in the back field for the sake of convenience.  Maybe they knew way back then that landfills would become a problem…

I’ve walked the fine line between re-using and hoarding my whole life.  My mother and I still do battle over just how many cardboard boxes she should keep on hand.  She can’t stand to throw out perfectly good cardboard!  (She doesn’t actually throw it away; she burns it in the furnace that heats her house each winter).  About two years ago, we had an epiphany about our 50 years of reduce-reuse-recycle behavior:  We’re almost  mainstream! In fact, we’re cutting edge “cool”.  (Thanks to another Rodale Press publication, An Inconvenient Truth.)  We already have reusable grocery bags (for about 20 years now), we already turn off the lights (obsessively), we could go for days and weeks without driving, and we delight in catching rain water to save for a drier day.

The one thing I have done for the environment that Mom hasn’t had a chance to do is what I get more and more excited about each day: e-Learning.  In 2005 I began promoting it as “Green Learning”.  I was met with vacuous stares from my friends and colleagues.  In 2007 I created this super cool eWheel; it represents the footprint (mostly carbon) savings of eLearning over the corporate training I did for 20 years.  Now, I’m developing a website dedicated to this very topic.  It will show how I derived the values, what I learned in the process, and things that you might want to consider when implementing “green” training and travel policies for your businesses.

eLearning is not a way to reduce personal interaction or teach on the cheap.  It’s about making the world a better, cleaner, and more knowledgeable place for everyone to live.  Come on, jump on the bandwagon with me!

Earth Day 2011 update: My site dedicated to Green Training is LeaveALegacyNotAFootprint is up and running, if not totally complete.  Currently, there are several WordPress plugins dedicated to sustainable living and business practices, links to sites that will help you with your own business, and steps for calculating your own footprint.  Check it out!

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Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Client Spotlight: Charity Uses Moodle to Reach More People

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From the April 2010 issue of Penny For Your Thoughts newsletter…

spotlightSmall businesses are not the only entities that can benefit from eLearning.  In this post, our spotlight is on how Moodle has enabled a charitable organization to continue to offer their grief counseling workshop, even in tough economic times.  The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) was founded in 1997 by Dr. Wallace Sife, author of The Loss of a Pet.  For many years, he had delivered his 10-hour workshop, Pet Loss Counselor Training, in the New York City area.  As travel became more difficult and budgets were cut, Dr. Sife began to search for an online alternative. Reliant on volunteers and donations, APLB could not afford an expensive IT solution.

In 2009 he selected Moodle as his delivery platform; Albany Analytical created the course and managed enrollments.  The first two sessions (summer and winter) have seen participants from more than a dozen states/provinces and three continents; such diversity would likely not have been possible without the online solution. 

Relying more on solid content than whiz-bang bells and whistles, the APLB course successfully graduated 33 in its first year.  With Dr. Sife’s commitment to excellence, each participant’s competency was assessed on an individual and thorough level.  Because of the nature of the material, all testing was accomplished through submitted essays, designed to measure understanding and ability to perform pet loss counseling.  The Moodle features of a participant forum, live links to relevant sites (such as the APLB newsletter archive), downloadable documents, and a calendar to remind participants of impending due dates, all supported the learning experience.

Dr. Sife plans to conduct these online workshops twice a year, as well as his traditional face to face session every other year (the next one is May 21). Many more people were able to participate in this workshop this past year as would have without the online version.  Moodle eLearning has allowed the APLB to continue to offer this important training even though a tough global economy prohibited travel by most potential participants.  We look forward to the continued success of this program.

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Monday, April 5th, 2010

How a consultant-trainer can use eLearning to increase revenue, reach more clients, and free up time (what you do with that time is up to you!)

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It was a good model and it worked for decades:

  1. Get your foot in the door with a single training workshop.
  2. Do a really good job developing and delivering that workshop.
  3. Get rave reviews from your students, who tell their superiors you’d be the perfect contractor for the upcoming project.
  4. Exceed those expectations with excellent coaching, consulting, and additional workshops.
  5. Receive high praise, good money, and a nice testimonial.
  6. Take some time off to catch up with the family and make up for the last several months when you were home only on the weekends.
  7. Do it all over again.

Then came The Recession…or, maybe you woke up one day and said “I don’t want to travel today!”  Maybe you can’t remember which class you told your famous Ted Williams anecdote or what city you’re in.  Or, maybe you feel like your clients could benefit from a different model, costing them less without sacrificing the benefit of your expertise.  Perhaps you’d just like a little more time to pursue other things…

The new, leaner model:

  1. Get your foot in the door (which, these days, requires steel-toed shoes)
  2. Save your client money and lost productivity (yours and theirs) by offering the fundamentals – or basics of what you teach – online.  Make that online training full of audio recordings (you, telling stories and giving examples, like you always did), videos (of you or better yet, others whom you could never have had in a face to face workshop), charts, tables, graphics, schematics, and cartoons (just like the ones you drew on the white board or showed on the overhead projector), assignments (to be handed in for you to review), group activities (online meetings, chats, using collaborative technology), downloadable templates, and an electronic (not printed)  manual.  Make it an online version of those great workshops you’ve always delivered!
  3. Schedule “office hours” with your students; set times each day, week, or month to chat online or have a web meeting.  This can be as big or as small, as structured or as loose, as you want it to be.  And you can do it from home.
  4. Travel to the client location already knowing something about the people, the business, the things they want to work on…Coach and consult like you always have.
  5. While you’re coaching and consulting with this client, another client is taking the online training…you just doubled the number of clients without diluting your attention to either of them.  And, you had time to attend your kid’s Little League game on a Wednesday night!

I did it the “old fashioned way” for 20 years. I never thought it work online because I made the training!  But, I proved myself wrong.  It is possible to capture the stories, the humor, the personal dynamics – all those things that make great training – in an online format.  I did it and was amazed at how much more time I could dedicate to coaching and follow-up.  Not to mention the reduction in travel time, nights spent in hotels, and bad road food.

Contact me to take advantage of our $1000 start up offer, which includes everything you need to get your book or training workshop into eLearning format.

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Friday, March 26th, 2010

The trouble with eLearning is…

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This is how my husband began a sentence the other night when I was telling him about this cats-pyjamas post.  Being someone who will avoid getting in the car, driving, parking, and anything to do with crowds or standing in line, I totally get the “imposition” part.  So when I heard “the trouble with eLearning is…” I couldn’t believe my ears.

He had begun with “elearning will catch on some day and is the future and yadiya…” but that “the trouble with elearning is taking the time to actually work through it”.  He went on to say that he had downloaded some Harvard physics lectures (just videos, not even eLearning!) from iTunes and hadn’t viewed them, either. 

 “Well…”, I positioned my response.  “The trouble is you”.  OK, I should’ve said “the trouble is life”, but…he’s used to hearing that it’s his fault so he didn’t even notice. While eLearning can be a stand-alone, work at your own pace physics lecture, it can also be a highly interactive experience with students and teachers in a virtual “campus” setting.  It can be anything in between. 

I pointed out that I had just read a book, Words Fail Me, that I had ordered from Amazon six years ago.  Along with others in that same delivery, that book had sat on the shelf, untouched, all that time.  Just like his physics lectures.  Just like the eLearning courses I’ve enrolled people in who said they wanted to learn about the topic; but they never logged in.  This is not “the trouble with eLearning”.  This is the trouble with life getting in the way of learning.

If I had been taking a campus course in writing, if Words Fail Me had been required reading in that course, and if I had to stand up in front of the class and recite my thoughts on chapter 13, I would’ve read it sooner.  The same is true if I’d been taking an eLearning course in writing and had an assignment due next week.  I would’ve read at least chapter 13!  If I had seen in the help forum that another student was having trouble with misplaced modifiers, I would’ve replied, referencing the appropriate section in the book.  The difference is that in the eLearning course, I would have had time to read the book because I wouldn’t have to drive, find a parking space, find a seat…and my fellow students might be from far away places, enriching my experience even further.

 No, the trouble with eLearning is not

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Sunday, February 28th, 2010

What is eLearning?

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Of course you already know that eLearning is a compound word, formed from electronic and learning.  But that isn’t much of a definition.

So, let’s define eLearning as:

An electronic version of the best class you ever took.

It should not be an electronic version of the most boring lecture you ever suffered through!

My high school math teacher, Mrs. Wever, stood on her desk and tap-danced while she sang geometry theorems to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy.  It’s hard to fall asleep or daydream in class when your teacher is doing things like that.  Putting difficult-to-remember concepts to music also helps the human brain remember them…ever wonder why you can remember all of the lyrics to songs you don’t even like, but you can’t remember the action items from yesterday’s staff meeting?  If you sang the action items, you’d be more likely to remember them…

Luckily, technology allows all of us to present even difficult and boring (to some) topics like geometry, in an interesting and indelible manner without dancing on our desks.  With electronic learning, it is possible to create a virtual classroom by blending the critical elements of learning: a text book, a singing and dancing teacher, brain teasers, a workbook, and peer interaction.  These elements work together without ever putting people in the same room as one another.

If you already have a great class that you teach or a book that everyone says is “a good read”, you are that much closer to having a great elearning course.  If you have some awesome information that others would like to learn, but you shy away from singing in public, you can still convert your material to an interesting and compelling online course.  There are some wonderful people out there who create videos and animations for not that much money.  The main ingredient to a successful e-learning course is good information.  If you start with good information and add the right amount of spice to it, you have the perfect recipe for a great course,  which can support your clients, promote your products, and add a revenue stream to your business. In my next blogs I’ll be talking about what “spice” goes into a great e-learning course and how to choose authoring/creation tools for those elements.

No one sets out to teach a boring course.  Many of us have a deep-seated fear that no matter how polite they are to our face, our students think we’re dorks and snicker behind our backs.  But for businesses offering eLearning as  part of their product or service mix, it goes beyond emotions.  If you want your students to come back for more courses and recommend your training to others, it must be interesting.  If it isn’t, they’ll move on to your competitors.

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Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Clarification is just around the corner!

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Hang in there…by the end of this very short month (February), I’ll be posting all kinds of useful information, in just plain language, to help you answer all those burning questions about eLearning for your business.

In the meantime, please visit AlbanyAnalytical.com  to find some answers and read my eBook, Moodle e-Learning: Questions and Simple Answers about Online Training.

Penny Mondani, Moodle Maven

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