Talking about distance education is talking about communication. All teaching is about the teacher communicating knowledge to the learners, and they in their return communicating their questions to be able to learn more. How that communication take place, depends on the content of the course, where the course take place and the teacher’s knowledge about all the different ways of communication.

In the early days of distance education, the communication was through the written word being sent back and forth with the post delivery system between instructor and learner (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012, p.37). Today we use the Internet and suddenly we have a vast variety to choose from to be able to communicate.  We can choose one-way communication or two-way communication. We can choose between asynchronous or synchronous communication. The best part is we can use all of it in the same course. As Simonson et al (2012, p.115) puts it; “The key to success in an online classroom is not which technologies are used, but how they are used and what information is communicated using the technologies”.

In this assignment, we could choose between three different scenarios and then we are going to suggest what technologies the scenario could use. I choose a scenario about collaborative training environment. The scenario is about an implementation of training workshops for an automated staff information system, and since the staff is located in different offices they cannot meet at the same time and in the same location. However, the staff members should still share information (screen captures and documents) and participate in ongoing collaboration.

Reading this scenario made me directly think of Wikis. A wiki is a webpage (or several) where anyone can contribute with content. Therefore, it is an “excellent tool for collaborative online writing assignments and group activity” (Simonson et.al. 2012, p.129). In many CMS, you can find this feature included. If it is not included there are wiki applications that can be installed in a server at the company or education institution.  Most Wikis are free to download, like MediaWiki or TikiWiki (“Top Ten Wiki Engines”, 2013), but if you want to you can pay to be part of someone else solutions. Like, for example, Zoho (“Zoho”, 2013) that I found when searching the Internet.  Using a Wiki could be difficult in the beginning, especially for completely new users. Make sure there are good help pages that explain in easy ways how to add content.

I am using a wiki in my course about Web design where I let the students add links to good web sites about HTML, CSS, accessibility, design, and tools to use. Many of my students have added a lot of good examples. So for the scenario mentioned above, a wiki could easily be a place to share information and even documents and in that way they are collaborating.

Another tool that might be so obvious that we do not need to mention it is a discussion forum. Forum could be used in so many different ways, for Q & A, to discuss particular problems, to discuss anything, and to collaborate around various subjects. This is an asynchronous way of communicating (as is a wiki), but considering that the staff in the scenario could not meet at the same time asynchronous communication is the only answer.

 

References

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Top Ten Wiki Engines. (2013). Retrieved from http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?TopTenWikiEngines

Zoho. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.zoho.com/

 

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