Harnessing the Power

When I reflect on digital literacy I am quickly reminded of the connectedness to being a responsible digital citizen; what I consider to be those perceived norms and appropriateness of using technology.  The twenty first century has opened the door to a new digital society; a place where we desire to access information anytime, any place…ultimately resulting in workplaces that demand just in time information that is speedy and correct.  Resultantly, I believe educators and society have a role in promoting information literacy skills to people of all ages as technology continues to progress.


Jones and Hafner (2012) described the affordances and constraints of digital literacy and what particularly struck me was the discussion on how technology can influence the social identity that as humans we adopt.  Individuals locate their identity in relationships that are formed with families and communities and that identity has now extended to include the Internet and technology.  The question that I am left with surrounds has we now started to modify and change our identities in response to the fast and changing pace of the technology? And what becomes the impact on the larger community? Do we actually feel more connected or perhaps even more isolated in the virtual realm?

I found an interesting article from the UK that described ‘hyper –connectivity’ as resulting from near-continuous access to the Internet.  The author Professor Beddington suggested that this hyper-connectivity does in fact have a critical effect on how individuals define and identity themselves and with their larger communities.  Does our need to constantly seek information suggest that we are always waiting and ready to be interrupted; in turn what impact does this have on our overall well being and persona?  I can honestly state that I have a tough time not being connected; sadly admitting to carrying two iphones (work & personal) and always hoping I remember to bring my charger if away.  I read recently that airlines are now considering allowing people to use their smartphones while in the air, opening up yet another space where technology can be constantly present.

I can open hope that as society advances, so too will digital citizenship, literacy and ethics that frame use of technology.  How should we act when online and what should be taught to the next generation.  Having the knowledge, ethics and skills will be foundational the harness and power and ever growing potential of the digital world that we now live in; roles for educators and policy makers alike to consider.


Is social networking redefining identity?



Paper Abstract: Exploring the Role of Discussion Forums in Promoting Collaborative Learning in Healthcare Online Environment

DiscussionForum The twenty-first century workplace requires innovative online learning and technologies that can offer opportunities for collaboration and flexibility; all with the goal of creating forums for sharing and exchange of knowledge.  In response to advances in distributed learning platforms and the changing nature of  learner demographics, an online asynchronous learning environment is emerging that seeks to engage in activities that support interaction and collaboration.  These activities, which rely on learning, sharing, inquiry and group participation, are emerging as learning communities which can be described as:

“a group of people, connected via technology-mediated communication, who actively engage one another in collaborative learn-centered activities to intentionally foster the creation of knowledge, while sharing a number of values and practices” (Ludwig-Hardman, 2003 in Wilson, Ludwig-Hardman, Thornam & Dunlop, 2004, p.2).

This paper seeks to explore how online discussion forums, as a web 2.0 social media learning environment, promote collaborative learning in healthcare environments when enabled by appropriate engagement and motivational learning pedagogy.  As an Organizational Development Specialist working within an Ontario community healthcare organization, I view the workplace through a lens of improving system effectiveness with the goal of influencing and creating positive change for staff and all associated stakeholders. Funded by the Ministry of Health, part of my role is to continually be seeking new opportunities and innovations that promote staff learning and spark organizational change.

Working in an environment that is constantly changing and evolving related to systematic and political pressure drivers, the necessity exists to offer interactive online learning that promotes not only learning but flexibility with a workforce that is predominately decentralized. Scovotti and Spiller (2011) suggested “globalization has fueled the need for collaboration over substantial geographical distances, prompting businesses to adopt technologies that facilitate communication and ongoing interaction among a distributed and diverse workforce” (p.57).  Further, Junk, Deringer and Junk (nd) noted in the Sloan Consortium of Fall 2007 that  “3.9 million students were enrolled in online classes which is a 12 percent increase over the number reported in 2006” (p.1), suggesting that educational materials and resources must be intentionally developed, structured and distributed using pedagogy that best supports an online learning environment.

Further linkages for learning within discussion forums, asynchronous environments, will be explored through the lens of social presence, seen as a key enabler for collaborative and learning communities.   Role of facilitator and learners will be delved into within discussion forums, seeking value add and challenges.  These asynchronous forums, described as computer-mediated communications, will finally be applied and relevancy to the healthcare system discussed.

Draft References:

Berge, Z. (2002). Active, interactive, and reflective elearning. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education. 3(2), p 181-190

Harris, N. and Sandor, M. (2007). Developing online discussion forums as student centred peer elearning environments.  Proceedings ascilite Singapore.  p.383-387

Junk, V., Deringer, N. & Junk, W. (nd).  Techniques to engage the online learner.  Retrieved electronically 13 October 2013 from http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/10597.

Kanuka, H., and Garrison, D. (2004). Cognitive presence in online learning.  Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15(2), p.30-48

Ludwig-Hardman, S. (2003). Case study: instructional design strategies that contribute to the development of online learning community.  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Colorado, Denver

McLoughlin, D. and Mynard, J. (2009). An analysis of higher order thinking in online discussions.  Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 46(2). p.147-160

Scovoti, C. and Spiller, L.D. (2011). Cross-border student collaborations: opportunities for videoconferencing. Marketing Education Review, 21(1), p.57-61

Wang, C.X., Jaeger, D., Liu, and Nie. N. (2013). Using synchronous technology to enrich student learning.  TechTrends, 57(1), p.20-25

Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language.  Cambridge, MA: the MIT Press.

Wilson, B.G., Ludgwig-Hardman, S., Thornam, C.L and Dunlop, J.C. (2004). Bounded community: designing and facilitating learning communities in formal courses.  The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.  November. p. 1-19.

How do we Break the Rules?!

I struggled with what was ailing me this week and then the light bulb went on! As the light grew brighter I realized the issue had been growing over the past few months and in many ways, driving me nuts!  And what is the topic you might ask?  Our new learning management system aka the LMS!

Let me give you some history on this which will provide insights and hopefully perspective on what troubles me. All the home care programs in Ontario sit under the umbrella of a provincial body; although not a governing body their program and services drive our technology systems and other events. Although we can choose how to use their products and processes at local levels they do provide structure at a higher level.

Approximately four years ago, local organizations were provided access to a free LMS; free as it came with the vendor agreement. But imagine what a free LMS might look like? I was the administrator and truthfully had little knowledge of how to implement in an organization that had limited experiences with online learning nor did ‘I’ have any experience – told to ‘just do it’. Were we ready? Did we have the right supports & infrastructure in place? But let’s go back to my question of a free LMS first. Although benefits included access 24/7, pre existing learning courses (no we weren’t asked for input) were poorly structured, sometimes didn’t work and the reporting was nonexistent. As I learned much later from our IT department; it really wasn’t a LMS…more of a framework or shell for housing our elearning.

Jump ahead in time now; turns out all the local organizations were feeling the drive and necessity to leverage for flexibility, opportunities and all the other reasons we have noted past few weeks. Fortunately the vendor LMS had a time limit & it ran out. Enter next….an RFP process (request for proposal) & I was thrilled to be a part of the evaluation group. So what was different this time?  Local levels went through a needs assessment, educators were engaged & a product was selected.  But…and here comes my but…although courses are more interactive, tailored to needs and reporting exists; there have been multiple challenges implementing.  Although the vendor promised wonderful things with their learning solution, issues have appeared related to multiple different sites accessing the software as well as firewall challenges from a security stand point.  All in all, this has created excessive workload for those who are administrators and ongoing frustration.

Naturally I was intrigued by Josh Klein’s talk on TedxTalks when he commented that “work is broken” and sometimes our “tools aren’t very good”.  I was quickly reminded that although our new LMS is much better it does continue with bugs which create excessive unnecessary workload for learners and administrators alike.  Klein further offered that organizations will often tote ‘access’ in the workplace as the number one priority however ‘price’ always sneaks back in and there is no question, our LMS was less costly than other systems.  His final thoughts that we must “examine systems and continue breaking rules to make things better” certainly causes me to pause and consider; technology in the workplace can be wonderful enablers of learning however without the right infrastructures, supports and efficiencies in place, it instead becomes a hindrance and blocks the learning process.  I believe as educators we must be tasked to offer stewardship of learning technology in workplaces and work closely with stakeholders to look for alternate ways to ‘break the rules’ when the technology is broken. What are the solutions available but more importantly, how to we use them to enhance our learning rather than becoming dependent on the technology itself.


Blog #5: Putting to Practice!

Well…after some deliberation, review of all my classmates blogs and in consideration of the past two weeks reading…I thought this was the perfect time to explore my own experiences with online facilitation over the past week!  I have the privilege of designing and facilitating 10 mandatory sixty minute webinars for over 700 staff and what was the content you might ask?  Something we have all experienced – the annual Occupational Health & Safety review!  Human resources was of course the subject matter expert and delivered most of the content themselves with my support however the experience was timely in light of everything we’ve been discussing and reading as of late.

Let’s start with the planning required for these webinars.  Not only did extensive scoping of the content and building of the presentation take place but the administration setup was equally extensive.  To build the webinars, polling questions, survey and market the education occurred over 4 weeks with goals of ensuring the session would be learner centred, relevant and meaningful.  Also included was practice time with HR to not only review the content but practice navigating the technology as ‘presenting’ not only includes the virtual presence but also knowledge about how to switch screens and control muting.  Added onto this was a request for me to mentor a staff on my role as organizer, which of course I was happy to do.

But the best part for me came in trialling a webcam for first time!  Only a few staff in the organization currently have this capability and although I had to ask IT to purchase me a portable set, it works perfect.  A little daunting to project yourself into the screen however I was really pushing to try and create some sense of social presence in a short session and already evaluation is revealing that staff wish they could see all the presenters, which is a great first step… identification and validation that it is helpful to receive those visual cues which display emotion and tone of voice.  Each session provides immediate assessment in the form of a survey and it is used to guide/revise ongoing sessions.  Upon completion of all the webinars later this week, I will provide a full analysis of the data to HR who will use it to document baseline knowledge and align against organizational goals.

One interesting note to share is that a staff contacted me this week and indicated she had watched the webinar from her ipad; this was extremely exciting as staff do not have ipads however this individual herself decided to engage with her own technological devices; to expand her own knowledge of learning with innovation.  Although we were able to identify webinarsome challenges with the ‘app’ she used, I am planning now to further test this myself as I believe this presents opportunities in the future to expand the delivery of our organizational learning.

What a timely experience for me to ‘put to practice’ our recent learning’s and I am looking forward to the next opportunities for online learning in my organization where hopefully I can promote more effectiveness and engagement of learners through innovative and interactive strategies.

Blog #4: The Journey Continues!


What exactly is instructional design and what are the practices that need to be in place to make learning efficient, effective and appealing?  I think this an age old question considered by all educators; whether the learning is taking place in a classroom or workplace.  My interpretation is that instructional design is a systematic process of determining learning needs and goals and developing the most effective delivery system to meet those needs; however I would extend the meaning to include theory and science as all units of learning must be considered.

But let’s take a moment and talk about learning itself; learning is continually happening as we take in new information, explore and solve problems.  We learn all the time; we cannot turn that part of our brain off.  So what exactly does good instructional design do?  My take – it supports the natural learning process and helps us to learn more efficiently and effectively.

I appreciated Branch’s (2009) description in this week’s readings that “effective instructional design focuses on performing authentic tasks, complex knowledge, and genuine problems”.  My own organization began to make the shift to online learning through a provincial learning management system (LMS) four years ago.  With a workforce that is predominately decentralized and virtual, eLearning began to peak interest with senior management as they recognized fiscal savings from travel and a new learning delivery system that offered flexibility.  Adobe Captivate was purchased as the eLearning authoring system and I was asked to begin exploring how some traditional face to face content could shift to online delivery; a task that I very quickly discovered was not only daunting but required a new way of thinking as designer.  How could I create content that embodied active engagement and wasn’t simply a ‘tick the box’ read only course.

I’ll be honest; the first courses created were primarily text based with a few clip arts thrown in.  Move on three more years and now the eLearning includes avatars, royalty free images and better use of the system such as branching in hopes of providing the learners with more decision making and transfer-ability to their roles and the organization.  However I was so glad to read in the Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R. (2009) article the impact of workload on the instructor with online learning; the fact that teaching online can be ‘time consuming’.  The planning is significant and in my organization requires constant communication with stakeholders who own the content; to ensure the design is meeting the desired outcomes.  I also think about the technology itself and ‘challenges’ it can throw at you as designer; suggesting a close working relationship with IT departments.  A strategy that is often used is to pilot the elearn content with a small group of learners; to test if the navigation works, if learners can connect the learning to their roles through case studies and if the intentional activities provide authentic learning.  In terms of design, Conceiscao & Lehmann (2009) also referenced ‘course tasks’ as being helpful strategies (loved table 3.1 pg 53!)  Over time I found myself getting very muddled in navigation elements, content and the need to achieve the desired outcomes; eventually I designed my own blueprint template or storyboard as a tool that captured all the succinct points and content required plus it could be shared with stakeholders as support.  Both strategies have been helpful for me.

Whereby eLearning is used as asynchronous learning in my organization, I believe the more support learners can receive with navigating the technology and sense a virtual presence; when “the instructor places the learner at the center of the online course development and creates the course for that learners….” (Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R.,2009),  the learner is being set up for success.


Branch, R. (2009). Instructional design: the ADDIE approach. Athens, GA: Springer

Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R. (2009). Managing online instructor workload: strategies for finding balance and success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Blog #2: It all begins in the roots…

Thought I’d try something different this week and strive for an analogy…

Sitting by my kitchen window I can see the leaves beginning the change to beautiful fall colors, reminding me of the similarities between the ecosystems of learning and of trees.  Just as trees can evolve and change, so can learning.  Consider a tree that has a strong root system and trunk, does it not then form healthy branches and leaves when nurtured by the very environment inTree which it stands?  With proper care, sun and rain the tree will flourish and withstand harsh elements but remove these sources and the tree may wither and not sustain.  Just like learning, without the right consideration for how and why learning occurs, we potentially set learners up for failure and disillusionment with the learning process.  As educators, we teach to promote learning and inspiration with the highest of quality.  My belief is that it all begins in the roots and that in a world of online learning, there is a responsibility and accountability to ensure the roots are strong and grounded in theory.

I was intrigued to read that Ally in Anderson (2008) offered “no one school is used exclusively to design online learning materials”; a statement I would agree with.  We live and work in a knowledge era; workplaces must be able to shift and adapt rapidly to change and healthcare is no different.  Cognitive and connectivism theories subscribe that learning takes place through internal processes which I believe can influence and impact on knowledge and community building; structures that are needed in these new workplace environments.  In my workplace of primarily decentralized staff, it is imperative that new and innovative ways of learning be supported that can contribute to the success of inquiry and knowledge sharing.

A personal favourite theory of mine involves motivation as adults require intrinsic motivation to learn within an online environment. The ARCS theory by John Keller proposed that attention/relevance/confidence and satisfaction can promote motivation by using the right strategies and tools to grab attention, helping to contextualize, encourage and provide feedback all of which can contribute to creating a meaningful authentic learning experience.  This is further supported by Malcolm Knowles who described the assumptions that describe the key attributes of adult learning including motivation and that internal priorities are more important than external motivators (Stavredes, 2011).

One final thought that I offer when considering the roots of online learning is the technology itself and the ‘how’; is the learning being enhanced and guided by the technology or is it being constricted and being made to ‘fit’ the technology?  I recently encountered an experience in my workplace where a stakeholder made a decision to use technology first before considering how the learning would occur and what types of nourishment were needed; all because of the need to ‘save travel time’ of staff.   As you can imagine, this plan was not successful and the learning withered as the learners were set up for failure.  Internal motivation was lost as learners were overwhelmed, could not relate to the information and the duration was far too long.

Ecosystems of learning are precious and require care and feeding; with strong roots grounded in theory….I think the opportunities presented can be very exciting!


Anderson, T. (2008).  The theory and practice of online learning.  Edmonton AB: Athabasca University Press.

Stavredes, T (2011).  Effective online teaching: foundations and strategies for student success. Hoboken NJ: Jossey-Bass