How To Improve Online Collaboration In eLearning Projects

top-tips-improve-online-collaboration-elearning-projectseLearning courses place a big emphasis on flexibility and versatility. But is your eLearning team up to the task? In this article, I’ll share 6 top tips to streamline the online collaboration in eLearning Projects.

6 Top Tips To Improve Online Collaboration In eLearning Projects

The nature of eLearning is that online learners and instructors are rarely in the same physical space. Often, this concept stretches to the eLearning team that develops the eLearning course. They might be working from different locations at different times. Even in situations where they have a single office, they may have separate eLearning projects. eLearning projects may run simultaneously, and one process may interrupt another. eLearning Project Management is essential to find an effective way of keeping eLearning course development on track. Below are 6 suggestions on how to facilitate online collaboration in eLearning projects.

1. Know Your eLearning Team One-On-One

As an eLearning Project Manager, it’s important to have an individual relationship with every one of your eLearning team members. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you get personal with them, or even that you interact outside the office. With a remote eLearning team, this is rarely possible. However, it’s essential that the eLearning Project Manager knows each team member’s weaknesses and strengths. They can use this knowledge to assign tasks more effectively. It makes work more enjoyable for the eLearning team, and it ensures a better final product. It also enhances the efficiency of the eLearning project, since everyone is doing what they do best.

2. Stay In Touch With Everyone

In all human interaction, communication is a deciding factor. People talk to each other all the time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are communicating. When it comes to virtual tasks that require online collaboration, everybody must know what is going on with the eLearning project. Team members might get stuck in a particular section. They could be unaware of how their colleagues’ work affects their portion of the eLearning project. Clear communication channels help everyone stay on par with each other. Potential challenges and gridlocks can be identified and ironed out. While verbal communication is a great way to connect, it may not be optimal for eLearning projects. As much as possible, keep things on email so that there is a trackable record of progress.

3. Keep It Running On The Cloud

Better still, use an effective Project Management online platform. Virtual teams do have an advantage over physical teams. While they may not be in one physical space, they are all working online. The team leader should ensure there is a central online hub where everything operates from. There are lots of software options available for online collaboration projects, so pick one that works best for you and youreLearning budget. Some existing applications can be tweaked and tailored to suit your eLearning team’s needs. Another important thing to remember is to always have a back-up. Data is generally safe on the cloud, but it doesn’t hurt to have a contingency plan in place. Keep your back-ups in a physical location that is distinct from where the eLearning team is working.

4. Schedule Regular Meetings To Chart Progress

When tasks are broken down into individual components, it can make eLearning projects run faster. This system of work takes advantage of the unique skills that each team member has. It allows them to focus on their specialty. They can make sure their section of the eLearning project is done to the highest quality level. The challenge comes in putting these separate elements back together. Team members will have worked in individual silos. They might not have given much thought to where their part fits into the overall eLearning project. To rectify this problem before it threatens to derail your eLearning project, the eLearning team members should have group meetings once a week or once a month, depending on the size of the eLearning project. It helps to keep everything on track and fix any minor problems before they become major ones.

5. Assign Clear Task Lists And Define Expectations

In a related matter, certain tasks might be overlooked, especially on a big eLearning project. It’s important that the eLearning Project Manager creates a comprehensive list of every little thing that needs to be done. They will then assign individual tasks to specific members of their eLearning team and check in periodically. During the scheduled group meetings, it’s helpful to go through the task list and cross out what has been finalized.

6. Work With Realistic Deadlines

Few things scare adults like looming deadlines. The danger of setting timelines is sticking to them. Put them too far off and you risk leaving things until the last minute. Make the deadlines too tight and the eLearning team feels pressured and ends up producing poor work. The eLearning Project Manager should speak with each team member individually so that they can give a workable time estimate. The eLearning Project Manager can then review the eLearning team as a whole, the project scope, and the time available. Using that information, they can develop timelines that keep everyone reasonably comfortable.

Teamwork is always a challenge, especially when it comes to online collaboration. Positive group mentality is a skill that needs to be consciously nurtured. To ensure that eLearning projects run smoothly, it’s important to harness this spirit of teamwork. Get to know your team members, what they’re good at, what they’re not, and assign their work accordingly. Meet with your eLearning team regularly to monitor progress, and use an online portal to keep track of everything. Maintain open communication lines and set realistic deadlines. Ensure everyone knows what’s required of them, and finally, be nice to your eLearning team. Reward them for work well done, knowing that the success of your eLearning project comes from even the smallest of details.

What’s a NGDLE?

I think we’re all interested in what our VLE or LMS will look like, or indeed what it should already look like. Whilst much has been talked and written about it, perhaps this visualisation from Bryan Mathers is the best view of it yet – the “Next- Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE)”. And it incorporates Lego so well – the Lego base is the overall requirement with each building ‘block’ being added as and when they’re required – personalisation, collaboration, accessibility, etc.

According to the Educause report, the emerging needs of a NGDLE are these:
“Its principal functional domains are interoperability; personalization; analytics, advising, and learning assessment; collaboration; and accessibility and universal design. Since no single application can deliver in all those domains, we recommend a “Lego” approach to realizing the NGDLE, where NGDLE-conforming components are built that allow individuals and institutions the opportunity to construct learning environments tailored to their requirements and goals.”

So what will a NGDLE look like?

So what will a NGDLE look like? by @bryanMMathers is licensed under CC-BY-ND

Exploring IBM’s vision for enterprise collaboration

Wird es zukünftig eine einzige Plattform für Enterprise Collaboration geben? Oder, wem diese Frage zu weit weg oder zu abstrakt ist: Wo werden zukünftig das informelle Lernen und der Erfahrungsaustausch stattfinden? Hier hat sich in letzter Zeit einiges getan: Kleine Messaging Services wie Slack und Hipchat haben (wieder einmal) gezeigt, dass es immer noch Platz für Lösungen gibt, die sich auf eine einzige Sache konzentrieren.

Vor diesem Hintergrund darf dieses Interview mit IBM’s Head of Product Management for Collaboration, Ed Brill, gelesen werden. Und die Hinweise auf “cognitive collaboration” und “ai support” zeigen an, wo die Großen wie IBM ihre Stärken sehen.
Dion Hinchcliffe, ZDNet, 13. Juni 2016

The enterprise technologies to watch in 2016

Eine Mischung aus Standortbestimmung und Ausblick. Über 20 Technologien sind aufgelistet und beschrieben (und weitere finden sich unter dem Stichwort “horizon”). “Consumer tech” setzt die Agenda. Digital Learning/ MOOCs, team collaboration, machine learning, blockchain finden sich, um nur die Technologien aufzuzählen, die ich auch an dieser Stelle das eine oder andere Mal schon genannt habe.

Interessant ist die Schlussbemerkung: “But as I’ve been suggesting is the real trend that we see with digital leaders is actively enabling of mass digital innovation on the edge through techniques such as the use of empowered networks of internal/expert change agents or using hackathons and developer networks on top of open APIs, …”
Dion Hinchcliffe, ZDNet, 29. Mai 2016

hinchcliffe_201605.jpg

The leading enterprise intranet, portal, and collaboration platforms for 2016

Dion Hinchcliffe, Experte für Enterprise Web 2.0, hat eine gute Übersicht über die Kollaborations-Plattformen zusammengestellt, die heute in Großunternehmen und großen KMUs zum Einsatz kommen. Es gibt sicher auf dem deutschsprachigen Markt weitere Anbieter (wie z.B. Communardo), aber die Aufgeführten dominieren weltweit den Markt. Und wenn es um das informelle Lernen, um den Erfahrungsaustausch im Arbeitsalltag, in Teams und Communities geht, bilden diese Plattformen wichtige Bausteine einer organisationsinternen Lerninfrastruktur.

  • Microsoft SharePoint: “… SharePoint sometimes feels a little heavy weight”
  • Jive: “… one of the original pioneers of social collaboration and online community”
  • IBM Connections: “… at the risk of creating a complex user experience”
  • Slack: “On the radar of very few organizations two years ago, Slack has become a virtual phenomenon in the last 18 months …”
  • Salesforce: “… so it’s one to keep a close eye on”
  • Yammer: “While not a strong intranet or portal platform, Yammer excels at workplace discussion and knowledge sharing.”
  • Atlassian: “… was perhaps the first highly successful enterprise wiki”
  • SAP Jam: “… in 2012, it was one of the later entrants in the social collaboration space, but it took many of the lessons learned from the previous generation to heart.”

Dion Hinchcliffe, ZDNet, 11. April 2016

3 Tips on How Social Collaboration Can Help Drive Digital Transformation for Learning

Thomas Jenewein (SAP) empfiehlt: 1. “Expand formal learning with informal learning” (auf der Grundlage unternehmensweiter Kollaborationsplattformen); 2. “Develop tech-tool competencies in the workforce” (z.B. mit Hilfe von Konzepten wie “Working Out Loud”); 3. “Transform the learning culture and roles” (hier helfen u.a. Werte wie Trust, Empowerment, Openness und Participation).
Thomas Jenewein, LinkedIn/ Pulse, 16. März 2016

One year on: The Really Useful #EdTechBook

It’s been an eventful year in the life of The Really Useful #EdTechBook. I wanted to just look back and collect my thoughts, and give you an insight into what it means to me, and to others.

The idea
My original idea was to write about my thoughts on the use of learning / educational technology. I then realised that, for me, the world of learning technology or technology enhanced learning (or just ‘learning’, as some prefer now) is about the people I connect with and learn from. Plus, you’ve probably read enough from me these days!

So, my original idea morphed into a collaborative project where contributors brought their own experiences, knowledge, and unique perspectives to the fore, for you to learn from.

From initial conversations, tweets, emails, etc. came the idea and concept for The Really Useful #EdTechBook. Each chapter was set aside for each invited contributor to have for themselves, no real limits were imposed, but ideally between 2,000-5,000 words. I wasn’t asking for anything in particular, I didn’t want to direct or control the flow of ideas or perspectives, other then each author’s own words on their own interpretation of the book title. I was hoping that, once the chapters came in, I could apply a narrative to their order – thinking of (1) the background / history to the use of technology, (2) the current field and areas we work, and finally (3) looking forward to what we can expect or hope for in the future. As is turned out the stories and experiences were echoing and supporting each other that it became obvious there is an underlying thread of our work; that technology has not only enabled us but also constricted us in our outlook – from repeating mistakes to growing concepts and inclusion of stakeholders in all aspects of our work. 

The book is logical, insightful and provides the reader with a rich array of both personal experience and “tools” for use in education. The book will appeal to anyone who is interested in the use of technology in teaching and learning, highly recommended!” Neil WIthnell

In the year since I finalised the copy, edited the layout, read the proof editions, and sorted the cover art I have been proud, and quite humbled, at the way in which the book has been received. I wanted to say another huge thank you to each of the chapter authors and to each of you for reading, commenting, sharing, etc. all details on the book and it’s contents.

To date (early January, 2016) there have been 2,340 downloads of the PDF edition. It is really hard to work out definitive numbers for the Kindle and paper edition, due to the number of different systems it’s available through, and the very complex reporting method each of them has, but I think the numbers of purchased editions are in the region of 80 paper copies and 250 Kindle editions. I didn’t start this project, this journey for the sales, but it’s gratifying to know the chapters and book concept has resonated with you, the reader, in some small way.

Some other links / information for you:

Earlier this year I was contacted by Vicki Davies, from the Every Classroom Matters podcast. Vicki asked me to talk to her and her avid listeners about the process, and reasoning, behind being a self-published author, which was itself published earlier this month – Every Classroom Matters Podcast).

So, what next then?
I have considered a second edition or The Extended / Next Really Useful #EdTechBook, if you like. I’ve been contacted over the past year with people interested in both writing for it as well as other who’d love to read it, but I figure the concept doesn’t lend itself to a sequel – tell me if you think I’m wrong?

I am considering other forms and concepts for a second collaborative project. If you’re interested in either reading or writing it with me then please get in touch and we’ll continue to develop it together!! You know where I am!

"A very insightful and extensive collection of authentic accounts by practitioners who identify themselves as Learning Technologists in a variety of educational settings." Chrissi Nerantzi

“A very insightful and extensive collection of authentic accounts by practitioners who identify themselves as Learning Technologists in a variety of educational settings.  This reminds us of the fast pace of change in this relatively new profession, the variety of roles and responsibilities as well as the passion of these individuals for supporting change, innovation and transformation in the digital age. Challenges and opportunities linked to professional identity, engagement and positioning are discussed.” Chrissi Nerantzi

"The Really Useful #EdTechBook does exactly what it promises on its cover. It draws together a useful, diverse, eclectic set of visions and commentaries that together provide the reader with a lucid and comprehensive vista of educational technology." Steve Wheeler

“The Really Useful #EdTechBook does exactly what it promises on its cover. It draws together a useful, diverse, eclectic set of visions and commentaries that together provide the reader with a lucid and comprehensive vista of educational technology.” Steve Wheeler

The Future Of Libraries Is Collaborative, Robotic, And Participatory

arup_201512.jpgDie “Future of Libraries” ist vor allem offen. Vielleicht nicht überall gleichermaßen, aber die Digitalisierung stellt natürlich eine Herausforderung für eine Institution dar, die mit dem Buch groß geworden ist. Der Beitrag fasst eine interessante, toll gestaltete Studie zusammen, die aufzeigt, wo es lang gehen könnte, “an Ecosystem for Future Libraries”. Vorgestellt werden “four main areas that explore possible roles future libraries could embrace”:

1) “Participatory Knowledge Preservation”, 2) “Enabling Collaboration and Decision-making”, 3) “Hubs for Community Wellbeing” und  4) “Seamless Learning Experiences”. Mit kurzen Case Studies und Hinweisen auf Trends, die sich hinter diesen Bereichen verbergen.
Ben Schiller, Fast Company, 24. November 2015

Talk less, listen more

Meetings. Does anyone ‘like’ them?

Well, I do. I have had some amazingly productive and informative ones over the years. Sometimes their held in offices, sometimes in dedicated meeting rooms, sometimes over a cuppa in the campus cafe, and occasionally over lunch off-site. But what makes a ‘good’ meeting? For me a ‘good’ meeting is:

  • Needed – sometimes emails or phone calls aren’t enough to gauge progress, cover what’s needed, etc.
  • Short – not too short that you end up needing another one to cover what you missed (see later) but not too long that you end up going off topic and wasting time.
  • Purpose – everyone present knows the meaning and reason for the meeting, and sticks to the agenda and gets on with it, in the time allocated.
  • Equal – no one dominates the discussion or agenda unnecessarily.
  • Prepared – Everyone present should be there, no unnecessary invitees, and everyone is prepared for it.
  • Closed – clearly defined actions, if they’re needed, on who does what from here, and by when. if further follow up is needed then this is agreed in advance and timescales set.

The common theme above is ‘necessary’. What gets in the way of a good / successful meeting, for me, is when the discussion or agenda or use of time or list of invitees or other aspects of the meeting are ‘unnecessary’. If the meeting sticks to the purpose, it those invited should be and need to be there, and that you are able to conclude business in the allotted time (without straying) then you’ve all worked well and efficiently together.

It’s not always possible to effect the changes needed to improve meetings, so here’s a few things I / you can do to get the process underway:

  • Listen – not only say less, but listen more to others and help pull thoughts, ideas, plans, etc. together to further the meeting. This is not always easy to do, especially if others dominate the time, but listening is often overlooked in order to have your voice or opinions heard.
  • Opinions – let others have their opinions, especially if they’re similar to your own. You don’t have to highlight that someone else has said what you were going to, it’s enough to know you think in a similar way. the key here is to build on it, not dwell on it.
  • Quiet – you can still be engaged and involved in the meeting / project without being vocal. But when you do say something others will take more notice.
    * Modified from Saying Less In Meetings
  • Record – arrange for someone to make a record of actions, timescales, etc. and have these sent to those present afterwards.
    * Modified from Tips for running effective meetings

What about you – do your meetings work? Do they finish on time with an agreed action plan for progress? If they do, then massive high-five. If not, what are you going to do about it?

As always, I like videos, and TED Talks usually has one for every occasion:

Image source: Richard Rutter (CC BY 2.0)

50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media #Jisc50social

For a month or two JISC has been asking for names and nominations to a new list they’ve been producing – 50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media. Well, the time has come and the final list has been announced.

There are some wonderful people on this list I am proud to know and call friends, and some I’m not previously aware of and will be looking at (hmm, sounds a bit stalker’ish, sorry) to learn about what they do, why, and how.

“The final line-up – chosen by a panel of social media experts, including award-winning social media editor for Times Higher Education Chris Parr, Insider Higher Ed journalist and blogger Eric Stoller, and Teacher Training Videos founder Russell Stannard, as well as Jisc’s David Kernohan and Sarah Knight – features an impressive mix of academics alongside vice-chancellors, librarians and IT and support staff.”

The final 50 features outstanding cases of social media use that others could benefit from, and we will be looking to highlight some of this excellent practice in the weeks to come.”

Even more helpful than the list is also the Twitter list, making it easier to follow the work of all those on the list.

Again, it’s an honour to be on the list, and I’d just like to sat how much I enjoy being ‘social’, talking about and sharing ideas and experiences, and above all hearing all about the wonderful things people are doing with students, learning, engagement, collaboration, technology, communication, and each other.