Communication in e-Learning and Other Communities
Three types of communication recognized by Haythornthwaite in effective eLearning communities are content-related, planning of tasks, and social support. Using a constructivist approach, all activities should be related to the student’s learning experience. These three types of communication are critical to what I need to be doing in offering a blended-learning approach to our Product and Engineering software training.
In communication the method must match the message, in other words I would not send a lengthy email message with many instructions. Each type of communication allows for the transfer of information in various ways in my training position. Following is the typical flow of one of my basic Product and Engineering software classes with the various methods and communication types:
Typical Product and Engineering Communication Types
|Topic||Delivery Method||Communication Type|
|1. Class Announcement||· Email brochure, in-face promotion by District Managers||Content-related|
|2. Student registers||· GoToTraining registration provides reply email with pre-class webinar link and optional files to download prior to webinar.||Content-related|
|3. Basic Product Introduction||· Email with upcoming agenda and brief reading and video assignment/online, self-paced eLearning modules.||Content-related|
|4. Basic Product Introduction and Software Demonstration||· Pre-class webinar using GoToTraining, including discussion, quizzes, break-out rooms. Webinar is recorded for reference.||Content-related; Social Support, Planning of tasks|
|5. Follow-up email||· more instruction (including recording of our webinar and pre-class homework)||Content-related; Social Support, Planning of tasks|
|6. Pre-class Software exercise||· Self-paced homework exercise due before first day of class. Email, phone support as needed by student. Video help available.||Content-related, social support|
|7. In-class (regional, usually in a hotel banquet room)||· Discussion of previous material and hands-on use of software developing a wide-range of building design exercises.
· Typical process is “Demo, Discuss, Do”. I talk about the software features, I demonstrate them on the computer, the students do them on their own (with team exercises for sharing and personal reinforcement of knowledge), we resume to discuss what we’ve done.
|Content-related (very heavily), social support, planning of tasks|
|8. Follow-up email||· With more video links and extra material available to enhance learning.||Content-related; Social Support, Planning of tasks|
|9. Follow up letter||· Letter contains class photo, graduation certificate, and hand-written letter of thanks.||Social support|
|10. Follow-up webinar||· 4-6 weeks after completion of in-class training we hold a “check-up” webinar to see how the students are doing and to offer some more advanced material.||Content-related; Social Support, Planning of tasks|
|11. Webinar “Boot Camps”||· 5-7 times a year I hold a “Webinar Boot Camp” which are a series of topical sessions, 45-minutes each day, over 4-days.||Content-related|
|12. Social Media||· Private Facebook group for students for sharing of new information, reminders, good news, contests, etc.
· Twitter for sending of quick announcements
· LinkedIn for creating awareness of products and providing positive messages
|Content-related; Social Support (heavily), Planning of tasks|
The benefits (importance) of each are:
Content-related: Provide relevant information and knowledge with our products to help our student-customers be successful in their work environment. Customers can give and receive a timely response.
Planning of tasks: student-customers have a clear understanding of why they are coming to class (clear objectives) and what benefits they will receive. Team exercises allow for a low-pressure activity and for the sharing of information. It has been said, “If you want to learn something, teach it.” I love seeing the enjoyment of someone sharing information to their peers and how it is well-received.
Social support: Emotional support, low-stress training environment for the learning of new things. Many students come off of a field crew and have little computer experience. The older students, often, know the product but are not comfortable with the computer input. The younger students have been raised with technology, don’t fear the computer, but sometimes don’t understand and appreciate their results. Teaming them up in class helps both. Our social media, especially our private Facebook group, is very informal. I’ve held Christmas coloring contests for my student’s children, have given prizes of watercolors and leggings for spouses and significant others. I try to have something for the families as well as the student.
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