Blog is moving on

After many years of blogging here, I have decided to move my blog and change the focus. I have been wrapped up in live online learning (or virtual classrooms, or syncronous training, whatever you want to call it) and have started my new blog The Virtual Trainer.

Thanks for all your contributions, comments, help and advice in the past – I look forward to welcoming you to my new site.



The online classroomI have been working with online classroom technology for over 10 years. I wrote one of the first books on the subject in 1998 when it was in its infancy. Since then, distance learning technology has appealed to me, but I wasn’t convinced it was possible for this new technology to recreate the kind of learning environments that were able to be built in the classroom.

I wasn’t convinced that trainers had the necessary skills to run engaging online events. I feared that learners couldn’t or wouldn’t participate. On the technology side of things, the Internet connections via dial-up modems were painfully slow and unreliable, and the web conferencing software was new and comparatively just out of Beta mode.

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I recommend that you spare 60 mins watching this BBC2 TV programme – it’s fascinating and thought provoking. But what are your views? Let’s discuss! You can watch the programme by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

In this programme, Dr Aleks Krotoski concludes her investigation of how the World Wide Web is transforming almost every aspect of our lives.

Joined by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Al Gore and the neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, Aleks examines the popularity of social networks such as Facebook and asks how they are changing our relationships.

And, in a ground-breaking test at University College London, Aleks investigates how the Web may be distracting and overloading our brains.

View the programme

How not to run a webcast

Have you ever been excited by the thought of attending a learning event and then been let down so badly you want to write to complain (even though it was free!)?

I signed up to a webcast on ‘Introducing interactivity into course creation to improve learning outcomes’ last week and was really looking forward to it. The pre-event admin was spot on and I logged on eagerly at 15 minutes before time to ensure that I had all the client software downloaded in time.

The first (slight) let down was that I couldn’t log on until 5 minutes before start time. However, I logged on and the event started.

The first thing I was disappointed about was there was no welcome, no chat, no real introduction – it just started with no acknowledgement that there was an audience. I was feeling edgy because I was the only participant showing. Was I the only attendee then?

As the session progressed, there was no interactivity of any kind – I wondered if it was in fact a recording. So I checked in the chat box – ‘no you are not the only attendee’, said the Host. Ok, so how could I interact with other delegates?

After 20 minutes still no interactivity of any kind (not even asking a question or letting me interact with a Poll or Chat question). And then Bingo! a participant entered a question in the Q&A panel. And then one of the attendees (a well-known IITT member) asked the question to ‘all attendees’ – is there anyone there? A couple of replies saying yes they were there but hadn’t realised there were more attending!

32 minutes and still no interaction, but I twigged it wasn’t a recording as the rapport between the two presenters (one in Norway I think and one in London) gave it away.

35 minutes and the presenters closed the session – no-one asked a question – and the meeting ended swiftly.

So, not a good – even decent – experience of an interactive online learning event. But I did learn some very valuable lessons from the event – how not to run such an event – and just how professional the IITT webcasts are!

As youth unemployment continues to rise, BBC Radio 4 ‘s John Waite investigates a training operation which has left hundreds of young people around the country without the training they signed up for or the jobs they were promised. Instead they are thousands of pounds in debt. The training provider folded, the recruitment company is apparently no longer operating and now the first payments on the loans are being demanded. How did one of Britain’s biggest banks get involved in a programme which proved so worthless for many of its students?

Features interview with IITT Chief Executive Colin Steed. Listen to the programme.

How our train habits change!

People waiting for trainSitting on the train to London last week I decided to do a quick survey on what people do on their daily train journey. My quick poll showed that of the 24 people on my carriage:

  • 11 were working on their mobiles (presumably emails, Twitter, messaging, etc. although one was playing a game),
  • 5 were listening to their iPod/MP3 player,
  • 3 were on their laptop,
  • 2 were talking on the phone,
  • 1 was reading a book
  • 1 was reading a newspaper, and
  • 1 (me) was watching.

I can remember not too far back (less than 5 years ago) when they were either reading (newspaper/magazine/book) or doing nothing.

Interestingly, as far back as I can remember, no-one ever spoke to each other!

Just found a new e-book on mobile learning – available for free download – which is definitely worth a look.

This online book describes a study, funded by Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC), that involved teachers in the Faculty of Education at the University of Wollongong implementing innovative teaching approaches to support mobile learning. Palm Smartphone and Apple iPod technologies were used by undergraduate and postgraduate students to assist their learning across a range of curriculum areas.

The book outlines authentic activities, assessment strategies, and professional learning approaches that teachers across the higher education sector can easily adapt and implement within their own discipline areas.

New technologies, new pedagogies: Mobile learning in higher education is by Jan Herrington, Anthony Herrington, Jessica Mantei, Ian Olney and Brian Ferry (editors), Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, 2009, 138p. ISBN: 978-1-74128-169-9 (online)

It is fully downloadable from this site either as individual chapters or as the whole book in pdf form.