Of course the twenty first century really changed things. Better operating systems showed up, while faster and more efficient microprocessors drove the industry forward. Multimedia really began to affect online training with the introduction of high speed internet connections. Now you could bypass the previous limitation of dial-up and stream full quality multimedia over the net. Also the current generation that has began to enter the workforce, have expected a level of technology that they had for their entire lives. Unlike my generation, they could not remember a time when there were no personal computers.
So how do we satisfy these current crops of learners? I think we all know that successful training needs to be collaborative to truly be engaging. So how do we make web based or online training collaborative? For that matter how do you incorporate new technology into classroom training for more than just the sake of the technology? Whether you call it Web 2.0 or Cloud Computing or Learning 2.0, these new technologies may be the answer. When the World Wide Web first became available to the masses, what did it consist of? Well mostly it was just page after page of words and photos. There was very little interaction while you were online. At best you were an observer. Sure you could download software, but it only could be executed once it was on your PC.
Think about the following technology based services:
Each of these services remains on the internet (you don’t need to download them in order to use them) and they all are very collaborative in nature. With the social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, you connect with other users and share information with one another. Sounds like much of the group work we as trainers facilitate, doesn’t it? Facebook doesn’t create the interaction but rather facilitates it, much like the instructor of a classroom session facilitates learning.
YouTube continues with the concept of social sharing and stimulates us to be more creative than if we didn’t have access to such a service. Although my still camera and my cell phones have had the ability to shoot short videos, I didn’t shoot video until it occurred to me that I could share it on YouTube. I think at present teachers are using YouTube in the same way your Social Studies teacher used the Audio Visual department in school. Simply show you a film on whatever topic was relevant. I suggest that YouTube could be a delivery mechanism for the students to visually collaborate with each other. I’m certain each class probably has one or two Steven Spielberg’s with a camera phone ready and willing to take it to the next level if they were given the chance.
Instructors are often subject matter experts in the fields in which they teach. I'm sure many of us remember teachers from school who had personal collections that they would share with the class. Unfortunately when the class ended the teacher brought these collections home again. If you are a teacher of art or photography you certainly could make your collections available to students 24/7 by using sites such as Flickr or Webshots. This could be expanded as well to a method for students to share and collaborate their own work. It even could be a method for submitting work to the instructor.
Blogging is certainly a great supplement to the traditional lecture. Like most corporate trainers, I usually only had access to my students for about a week and then it was on to the next round of students. Wouldn’t it be great if they could read my latest lecture online? Remember that a blog is also collaborative. Anyone is welcome to comment on each entry that I place here and certainly those comments would affect what I write now and in the future. The possibility for discussion truly makes it collaborative.
A good use of sites like Wikipedia is certainly for research, but don't forget that this is a collaborative tool as well. Your students can write and edit articles on Wikipedia. The concept isn't limited to Wikipedia as well. Students can setup and maintain their own online wiki, using it for class projects or assignments, each one contributing to the whole and sharing ideas in the process.
Another piece of the puzzle are the portals like iGoogle and netvibes. Nothing personalizes a web experience than having all of your favourite stuff contained on a single start page. Where once, sites such as Yahoo and MSN attempted to predict what you wanted to learn about or see online, now you get to decide what your web experience looks like.
Of course the trick is getting all this into our training. I know that my focus moving forward is to use as much of the technology as possible. We are really just at the gates of the potential of learning with technology, and I am only scratching the surface here. Here is one piece of advice though; don’t decide on an online service and figure out how you are going to use it. Instead figure out what you want to accomplish, and then look for a collaborative online solution. It will certainly be interesting to see what we have done with it in another three decades from now.