A Web-based Training System For Faculty and Staff Development A Practical Model
Ample Web-based resources, technologies and media installed at the writer's site, the Royal Military College of Canada, were not used either efficiently or effectively to enhance teaching on site or at remote locations. The mission of the Institution was to educate and train officer cadets and commissioned officers for careers of effective service in the Canadian Forces.
The faculty members sparingly used computers and Internet resources to accomplish various tasks in different courses. Students were experimenting with these resources, but used them improperly in their working process. The writer developed a professional development program that helps the faculty personnel to integrate Web technologies into their process.
The objective of this paper is to describe the Web training program that took place and describe its benefits for this Institution.
Why use the Web as a training platform
Institutions will have to adapt to new digital technologies if they want to survive in the 21st Century (Goldberg, 1997). The Internet will force traditional institutions to change their traditional delivery mechanisms. Learning will shift from the traditional classroom to the open virtual learning room with connectivity and interactivity. "To avoid leaving current faculty behind, a stronger emphasis on faculty development will emerge ... and the Web will become the biggest library," said Goldberg. With the introduction of new media and technology for learning and teaching, Institutions have begun to enrich their once impersonal lecture classes using E-mail, discussion groups, and personal Web pages (Benson, 1997; Perrone, Repenning, Spencer, and Ambach, 1997).
Ritchie and Hoffman (1997) felt the Web, with its constant change in technology, provided a dynamic platform wherein sound instructional design principles could be incorporated to present professors and students with a more intuitive, interactive, and easy-to-use medium. A visit to various Web sites on the Internet indicated that several of them were built on sound instructional design principles. The writer of this paper incorporated good instructional design principles in the Web training prototype. Web-based technology presented a challenge and promising framework for training faculty.
Goal of the Web training program
The main goal of the Web training system developed by the writer is to design and implement a program that would increase professors confidence in relation to education technology and to encourage the target group of participants to use efficiently and effectively Web-based instructional technology and resources in the classroom and at remote.
Most of the people to be included in the target training group were at approximately the same computer skill level, due to the basic training acquired in the previous years at the College. Therefore, each participant brings with him/her basically the same skill and knowledge in the technology area. All equipment and software used in the training lab during the implementation period of the training program was also of the same type. Access to the Internet and Intranet site will be achieved in exactly the same manner during the training period.
Motivation was high among the participants to complete this training, as proper use of the institution Web resources and technologies for teaching and learning. Also, promotional opportunities should abound to those who were successful in completing this training. Interest levels would vary only when conducting Internet research for classroom teaching/learning enhancement or educational resources. For this instruction, collaboration among peers will be utilized for this project. The continuing education by distance learning phase of this training would take individual aspects into account.
Description of the Web Professional Training Program
Before the implementation phase started, the writer developed a Web-based training prototype that included three major phases presented in table 1: basic Internet concepts and communication media, Web page creation and Web search engines, and integration of Web media in the teaching and learning process. The Web training prototype was tested very intensively to assure high reliability and fidelity during the implementation period. The Web training contents were verified on a weekly basis to ascertain that there were no broken hypertext links between Web pages on the Intranet.
Table 1 - A Web-based training framework in Web Educational Technology (3 Phases)
Basic Internet Concepts & Media
World Wide Web Surfing & Web Page Creation
Web Media & Resources Integration in the Classroom for Teaching and Learning
The writer set up workshops and hands-on labs to illustrate how Internet resources and media could be used professionally for classroom demonstration, collaborative work, personal research, practical learning, resource organization, and multimedia teaching model creation. The writer developed course training and lesson plans using the sound instructional strategies outlined by Dunlap & Granger (1996) to create REALs (Rich Environments for Learning). Web-based strategy, delivered via the Colleges Intranet and the writer's personal Web server allowed the participant to take part in the learning process.
A study guide was prepared describing the contents of the training program, the instructional strategy, the learning activities and objectives, the mode of instruction, and the basic skills required to take the Web professional development training program. The writer also prepared an Internet glossary that was posted on the Web to help the participants to understand the basic concepts of Internet and Web technology. All the documentation needed for the training was posted on the writer's Web site. The writer met with the participants to debrief them about the Web-based instruction and workshops. These discussions provided an opportunity to solve problems with the participants or to enact strategies to ensure the effectiveness of the implementation program.
A discussion of the writers strategy during the implementation phase follows. The writer conducted intense face-to-face workshop sessions for at least 90 minutes per week during the implementation period. The participants were asked to put in even more time outside the classroom and learned the basic skills of using media and technologies for doing collaborative work. Throughout the training phase, distance learning lessons using Web board, chat discussions, and E-mail became more frequent so that the learners felt comfortable with these media.
Training will be conducted in three distinct phases over an eighteen weeks period. The target group of participants would be assured that interest levels, skills, software, hardware and Internet knowledge and accessibility will be on approximately the same level each session. The peoples in the target group would play the roles of mentors vis-a-vis their teammates.
Each phase include six learning modules as presented in tables 2, 3, and 4. The participant would improve his skills from a basic level to an advanced level as he/she goes through each phase. He/she would have the opportunity to reinforce his learning by solving assignments on the topics learned in each lesson.
Figure 2 Web Educational Technology (Phase 1)
Figure 3 Web Educational Technology (Phase 2)
For any participant who was not able to be part of the training workshop due to various reasons like travelling, teaching, non-flexible teaching timetable, a distance-learning curriculum via the Intranet would be provided for training on-demand to this person. Communication and collaborative media would be used with these participants to discuss any matter or subject of the online training module.
Content in this training included different lessons each month consisting of approximately an hour and half of hands-on tutorial-style learning, to be completed by the participant at their own pace and speed, using an instructor-created Web page. Each lesson provided for individual differences in teaching area expertise. Each lesson included exercises to be researched and questions to be answered via E-mail to the instructor for feedback purposes.
Figure 4 Web Educational Technology (Phase 3)
The participant had to sign a presence sheet at each workshop or a Web-based guest book before he/she accessed the Web-based learning module.
Operational learning objectives of the Web-based training program
The instructional participant would be able to use his/her own desktop microcomputer system to:
End of the first training phase:
End of the second training phase:
End of the third training phase:
Given the operational objectives for the learners and the teachers, the instructional strategies needed to be diverse and robust. In the context and background development of this practicum, a Web-based virtual training was supported by workshops, collaborative technological media and personalized tutorials were explored for a better learning environment. The strategy moved away from the traditional rule-based, procedure-oriented mode to a more dynamic, interactive learning mode.
To take advantage of the delivery methods in relationship to the operational objectives, the writer incorporated a number of the instructional strategies outlined by Grabinger and Dunlap (1996) regarding creating REALs (Rich Environments for Active Learning). These include:
Allow students to determine what they need through questioning and goal setting. This would be applied through the branching methodology incorporated into the learning prototype, as well as through the ability to formulate context-based scenarios.
Provide sufficient scaffolding to help students with prompts, examples, modeling, and collaborative support. Both through the template design of the module and the use of email and bulletin board support, the instructor will engage students in collaborative problem-solving and expansion of their knowledge base through extrapolation.
Vary the learning activities. Using the combination of individualized instruction through the WBI delivery system, as well as the group collaborative model through the bulletin board and off-line homework assignments, the learning activities will vary both by depth and individual/group engagement.
Help students develop metacognitive awareness skills. Opportunities for students participating in research, and subsequent instruction to others, will be provided via individual and group interaction with the delivery system. Some possibilities may be: student developed Web pages, student led discussions, student participation in role plays.
Create a safe climate for learning. The module will include both open forums for communication, as well as instant computerized feedback during the individualized instructional sessions, and individual instructor feedback via email.
Make maximum use of existing knowledge. The computerized branching may incorporate ways in which to evaluate current knowledge, and based on that evaluation, skip sections or provide remediation. An option to skipping sections would be to provide additional depth or higher-level learning opportunities through different homework assignments or additional assignments for group leadership during subsequent discussions.
Ask students to explicitly describe relationships of new information to existing information. Again, through the use of collaborative learning and student led discussion and presentation, students will be provided opportunities to explore and describe relationships, as well as extrapolate those relationships to their current context.
Anchor instruction in realistic situations. By using the database of client information currently contained in the organization, as well as the corporate knowledge of both instructors and students, a scenario approach will be used based on staff experiences with client contact. The experiences will reflect both positive and negative impacts, as well as crisis and non-crisis situations.
Provide multiple ways to learn content. In addition to the use of group and individualized instruction methods already outlined, the module design will include content based in visual, verbal, and kinesthetic formats. Through experiencing a variety of methods, students have the opportunity to learn through the method which best meets their needs. Additionally, through the discussion and mentoring processes, students may reflect on expanding their personal learning preferences to incorporate additional methodologies.
Troughout the learning modules, the articipants worked at their own pace and speed to get comfortable with the process for a prescribed period of time. After the self-paced exercise with respect to a lesson using the instructor-created Web page, students had the opportunity to discuss through chats for any unsolved matter.
Throughout these phases, the participants experimented with exciting education mechanisms such as text based, audio and video chats and Web services and delivery mechanisms. Participants experimented virtual learning models to see the differcnes between this mode and the traditional classroom. Participants learned how to play the role of a facilitator in the learning process.
The writers focus during the delivery of this Web professional development program was on:
Taken together, these comprise the major elements of computer-supported collaborative learning that I experimented during the implementation stage of this training program. They encompassed the adoption/diffusion and formative evaluation of communications-information technology based learning environments in my setting.
Benefits of the Web Professional Training program
After the Web professional development program was delivered, the writer of this paper assessed the results of the training. All the outcomes exceeded the writers expectations for this training program. The writer believes that the following factors contributed to the success of the Web professional development program: a well-designed Web training site for the participants with a sound instructional strategy, easy navigation guidelines and buttons, interactivity with the instructors and their peers, and a strong motivation by the participants to expand their comfort and ability levels with the use of Web media as an instructional tool.
The enthusiasm of the participants who participated in the various projects revealed that training was the best method to help and encourage them to integrate educational technology in their teaching and learning. The writer worked alongside participants to provide them support and encouragement. Several professors who took part in the Web professional development started to create Web-based teaching prototypes for distance learning.
During the first six weeks of the training, the participants learned the Web communication media so they could apply it during the remainder of training experience. The writer believed that the learners had to master the communication media early in their training to be able to correspond efficiently with their peers and the instructor. The learners could then better understand the pros and cons of each media and choose those that best fit their learning styles.
The rise in comfort and proficiency levels with Web resources and technologies indicated that faculty at this College grew in their abilities and confidence in using new tools for enhancing teaching outcomes. They have begun to become convinced that the Web can be used for educational activities other than research. The instructor encouraged them to become leaders and early adopters of Web technology in their respective departments.
The training findings showed that the participants who took part in the training felt more proficient in doing collaborative work with their peers using synchronous and asynchronous media. Consequently, the professors involved in this training program who will be teaching at a distance indicated that they would encourage students to use these media. Teaching, research, and collaborative work on the Web can produce optimal results when used in a synergy in an educational setting.
The training results indicated that Web-based instructional technology had to become an integral part of the curricula in modern academic Institutions, as the writers, to prepare students to become lifelong learners. In fact, the writer found that advice and experiences of the authors cited in the reference section were very relevant and pertinent for this project. Their findings and similar experiences helped this writer understand some of the results and conclusions of this Web Professional Development program.
The training outcomes suggested that students and teachers could effectively use Web technology when they are properly trained. When participants are properly trained in the use of Web media and resources, they can play the role of mentors in their department to promote the use of that technology. The Web, which provides open learning with connectivity and interactivity, should be used to deliver training to the faculty. Because the faculty can always access it and print the materials, they will be more motivated to also use the Internet as an educational environment offering virtual libraries and communication media for collaborative work.
The Web-based training prototype provides a nice platform for training faculty in Colleges and Universities for the following reasons: make it accessible to everybody; Just-in-time training; portability and flexibility; easy to use/develop training prototypes (Replication model); online training; collaborative and user-friendly environment.
There is a great need for todays professors to use modern technological tools when instructing todays learners. The faculty personnel has to improve their skills in using Web media into theirs working process due to constant changes in educational technology. The creation of virtual classrooms on the Internet requires on one hand, the professor to integrate Web media in his/her teaching process, and other the hand, the learners to use it in his learning process
Benson, T. L. (1997, August). Information technology and the Liberal Arts College. Microsoft in Higher Education. [On-line Web page]. Available HTTP: http://www.microsoft.com/education/hed/vision.htm.
Dunlap, J. C. & Grabinger, S. (1996). Make learning meaningful. In P.A.M. Kommers, S. Grabinger & J. C. Dunlap (Eds.). Hypermedia Learning Environments: Instructional Design and Integration (pp. 227-238). Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
Goldberg, E. D. (1997). Some thoughts as to what the 21st century electronic learning institution will look like. The Global Institute for Interactive Multimedia. [On-line Web page]. Available HTTP: http://www.edgorg.com/century.htm.
Perrone, C., Repenning, A., Spencer, S. & Ambach, J. (1997). Computers in the classroom: Moving from tool to medium. Conversation, Vol.2 (3), 1-13. [On-line Web page]. Available HTTP: http://www.usc.edu/dept/annenberg/vol2/issue3/perrone.html.
Ritchie, D. C. & Hoffman, B. (1997). Incorporating instructional design principles with the World Wide Web. In B. H. Khan (Eds.). Web-Based Instruction (pp. 135-138). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology.
Publishable with substantial revisionthe writer should focus on specific examples of how he/she used Web-based technologies to create one of Grabinger and Dunlap's "Rich Environments for Active Learning". There is nothing unique about the course design that I can discern from reading the article. The writer should provide specific observations about student activity and reactions to substantiate the conclusions stated.
(click here for reviewer's comments)
Requires substantial revision before publication. My short analysis is that the paper is long on rhetoric and short on details. I would like details about how the training was carried out, what the modules consisted of, how the instructors and students interacted, etc. This merely appears to be a course on how to use a Web browser, not how to teach using technology.
My other pet peeve about it is that the author states things like: "Ample Web-based resources, technologies, and media installed at the writer's site, the Royal Military College of Canada, were not used either efficiently or effectively to enhance teaching on site or at remote locations" and "Students were experimenting with these resources, but used them improperly in their working process."
These are statements of opinion, not of fact. If this is to be considered a scholarly work, then the author needs to remove opinion and state facts and observations. If people "used them improperly," then the author needs to explain what the intended use was and then follow up with how they were used, and from there, explain why that use is improper, as opposed to simply being "not as intended."