My New Journey in Social Media Learning!

As of yesterday I decided it would be important for me to start learning more about social media learning. I’m almost embarrassed of how behind the times I have been with the use of technology integrated into organizational learning and development. Sure, I have used Captivate for years as well as other tools in distance education such as Articulate, Presenter, and WebEx but what I haven’t had is the opportunity to explore social media and how it can be used for learning. I decided to learn more and to use some tools mentioned in a recent webinar I attended hosted by Jane Hart. Some of the tools that have caught my attention were Twitter and Yammer. Twitter caught my attention because I thought its only use was to find out the trivial activities of your favorite celebrity. But as of yesterday, I have found that I am gladly mistaken. Twitter has proven to be a knowledge sharing platform where colleagues have the ability to share wonderful trends and topics on any given topic in the area that interests you the most. In one day of casual tweeting, I have shared my blog with my followers ( all of 2!) and read awesome articles on management and instructional design. Primarily, the format of Twitter can be overwhelming. But if you take a moment to digest the environment, it will almost remind you of a hybrid version of an online discussion board for those of you who may attend school online. Instead of the 2 paragraphs of discussion and a quote or reference to support your findings, you just provide a few words for the topic and a link to the resource! How superb in our fast pace society! What I have found in this wonderful platform for learning is that I am looking up resources and websites on topics that I am the most passionate so that I can share with my fellow followers which is forcing me to consume information at a rate that I haven’t done before.

My Valuable Find!

The most valuable find during my Twitter journey was an article by the elearning guru who wanted to share that there is an ID app for iPhones where a list of definitions regarding adult learning, media technology,and all things surrounding instructional design is now available. How awesome is that to have your own ID handbook at your fingertips!

Next, I’m on to learning about Yammer. It seems just like facebook but a place to learn within a community of peers. We shall see!

What Do I Hope to Achieve?
In a previous position I worked for a great man by the name of John Marohl. He taught me early in my career in training and development that the world of ID is consistently changing and that I must always stay abreast of the latest trends. If I hope to positively impact the organization where I currently work with the latest and greatest in learning trends, I need to embrace and understand these trends to see what will work best. It is my hope to learn so that I can teach! Corny maybe, necessary… ABSOLUTELY!

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Social Media and Learning

I have decided to stop using this idea of learning through social media as a buzz phrase ! A term to use to sound as if I am in the know among my fellow instructional designer peers. That’s right, today I am committed to putting this concept into practice.

Can we really learn from social media? Of course, we do it everyday ( My daughter wanted to learn how to make sneakers and I gladly showed her a video on You Tube). Why do we use it? It’s fast and in the world of smart phones and ipads all the information we need is right at our fingertips.
So great , I’m sitting on my couch watching Wall Street Money Never Sleeps and I wanted to verify that the real estate agent used in the movie was the same one used in the 1987 version. I simply grab my Blackberry and see from a fellow blogger that they did use the same actress to play the part!( At this very moment half of you are using Google and Google images to see if this is in fact true!)

The deeper question is how do I move this ability to access immediate information with the use of the world of workplace training and development? How can I encourage an organization to do the same thing? Well that is the challenge many of us face. With firewalls, IT security, and Big Brother looming how can we be sure that employees are using time to utilize social media to learn rather than update their status on facebook?

Jane Hart with C4LPT recently held a webinar on learning and social media and she plainly stated that our employees will go around us! That’s right! Stagnant IT departments , it doesn’t matter what sites are blocked on websense because Joe Blow in the accounting department has a Droid smartphone that can give him access to any website! Stick in the Mud Training and Development Departments, still stuck on those face to face classes and boring PowerPoint? Scared to integrate technology into your learning plans, it doesn’t matter! Half of your employees go to school online and will gladly download a podcast to give her the information your still trying to research to create an 8 hour class!

We have to embrace change and begin to think of ways to integrate technology into our workplace training and development. So I am going to embark on my own journey and encourage everyone to do the same!

Reflection

In my Distance Education class, we were given the task to interview 3 individuals to obtain their perception on distance education. I had the opportunity to interview three women and learn from my classmates how our interviewees held similar opinions on distance education. The Interviews: The first interviewee is a Business Analyst for one of the top health insurance companies in the state of New Jersey. She currently holds her undergraduate degree in business administration from William Patterson University and is attending Villanova University to obtain her MBA. The second interviewee is a Human Resources Manager for a Global organization that specializes in janitorial and food services to hospitals, stadiums, and schools ranging from k-12 as well as colleges and universities. She currently holds an undergraduate degree in Urban Development from Rutgers University, has a PHR certificate, and is looking for schools to attend for her Masters. The third interviewee is a stay at home mom who has her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from Old Dominion University. She is currently looking to return to the workforce and sees a need to continue her education. She is interested in attending a school with a flexible schedule being that she is a mother of three. For question #1, all three interviewees stated that an education from a traditional institution is more valuable than an online education. It was interesting to get their feedback because all interviewees raised great points, revealed a certain level of lack of knowledge around what is involved in distance education, and yet seems to represent what many people think as well. I picked this particular group of women due to the diversity in careers, and their desire to further their education. When asked why they believe that a traditional classroom setting is more valuable than an online education, the HR manager raised the following points: • Relaxed selection process for students entering the online school • Private online institutions that often charge twice that of traditional schools and only want money. • Lack of collaborative education through self study online • Not highly respected when viewed on resumes • Most online universities do not have accreditation like the traditional schools • Waste of money and time for students serious about their careers. This was hard to hear due to this individual being considered one of my best friends. So I began to think, does she think this about me? If my resume crossed her desk and she didn’t know who I was would she toss it in the trash because my school was online? I wanted to gain further understanding regarding her strong discontent for online education. I asked her if she has ever taken a course online and of course the answer was NO. What she did state is that the only schools that deliver content online that are capable of delivering valuable education are brick and mortar schools that offer online classes. Interviewees 2 and 3 answered similarly to Interviewee 1 regarding their feelings toward online learning but yet neither one of them have taken a class online. It seems that their only experience is that of a traditional classroom and the thought of an online education is still taboo. Even though the number of students utilizing this program is increasing per year, it is still being compared to traditional education. There were two points that came up in the interview that were very interesting in researching the perspectives of online education. Summary: Currently, perceptions of online education seem to be singing the same tune. It seems that most people believe that online corporate training programs or even blended learning in k-12 education is fine and can add value to the traditional classroom but yet when we shift the focus to collegiate studies the perception changes. Where Do We Go From Here? In a video program George Siemens talks about the future of online learning and states that as experts in technology create more multi-media and communication tools the more we will be able to see how effective online learning is continuing to be. Tools such as WebEx, Skype and Blackboard, are all great tools to use for online learning but we are just beginning to use these tools to its fullest capabilities and in some instances just using these tools at a bare minimum. Once these tools become more widely used among all generations, we may then begin to see a turn in the perception of online learning in the area of college studies. Validation and Respect for Online Education As instructional designers, it is importation to first learn which technologies are available to enhance the online learning experience, use models that support learning in an online format , and continue to learn of new advancements in the field. This may also mean thinking out of the box for instance, instructional designers found using tools such as Second Life as a great learning tool but yet that was not the reason why Second Life was created. Staying connected to technological advances and thinking of how the tools can contribute to an online community will help the field of instructional design continue to progress and advance in distance education.

Virtual Tours and Education

Example 2: Interactive Tours

A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a “tour” of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

This scenario is a reoccurring theme in the world of instructional design, how to bring information all over the world to the learner. The world of technology is allowing instructional designers to explore the opportunities of distance learning.

In researching what technologies are being used to create virtual worlds there were two different applications that would allow the instructional designer to create a simulated environment of the New York museums.

The first technology is called Mapwing. The website http://www.mapwing.com/ gives instructional designers the ability to create and share virtual tours. The site shows tours ranging from a medieval village in the south of France, to a home for sale in Georgia. As an instructional designer, there is the ability to work with the museums to see if they already have a virtual tour set up or you can use this application to be able to showcase to students the two exhibits in the museums.

The second option is creating a parallel world that closely emulates real life by using Second Life. University’s such Ohio University use Second life by creating a virtual campus, online classes, and professor’s office hours. An instructional designer in the scenario will be able to create a virtual museum and fly in pictures of exhibits, video, or a presentation that will deliver content to the students while creating an environment that mirrors reality.

Adding two way dialogues for questions and answers will enhance the students’ learning experience. Using tools such as iChat or Skype will give students the opportunity to ask questions.

Defining Distance Learning

The world of distance education is forever changing. Just this evening I was having a conversation with friends about online universities and seems that the room was split. Some friends stated that they couldn’t stand the thought of trying to obtain a master’s online and the others said they wouldn’t be able to obtain a master’s any other way.

In 2005, I decided to go back to school. I was a young mother and a traveling training specialist. My life needed flexibility and the online university was a great solution. The platform of the class made it difficult to learn new content. The class size was big, and I felt that my voice or questions could not be heard. It was a frustrating experience studying online so I withdrew from the school and swore off all online learning.

So now, I am currently enrolled in another online learning University and my experience is completely different. So you are probably wondering what’s the difference? I like to think its technology and instructional design. The platform used at the university where I currently attend school is a platform that allows group discussion, and frequent feedback from the professor.

Distance education must be interactive and relevant to the student. Without the connection the student will feel lost and will not receive the benefits that distance education has to offer.

As distance education evolves my thoughts on the topic have as well. The needs of students will change and technology will as well. But as we travel this journey as instructional designers we need to remember that distance education does not only come in the form of online learning but as the history of distance education has shown us, it comes in multiple mediums but it is up to instructional designers to find the best platform to encourage and motivate learners.

Tips to Getting Your Foot in The Door

It is hard to believe that after 4 years of experiencing turmoil in the economy, people are still struggling to find jobs and enter the job market. This is a struggle that I am way too familiar with. Being laid off two times in one year, struggling to keep a roof over my daughter’s head, and food on the table, was a frightful experience for someone who thought her career was on the rise. In some sense I was a career snob, my title defined me and I enjoyed my line of work. Once reality hit and I found myself without a job, the struggle became extremely painful. I remember waiting for January to hit so that everyone’s budgets would come in which normally means a plethora of jobs. When that didn’t happen, I hit the pavement and started frantically looking for anything to be thrown my way. Now, you are probably thinking, why am I sharing this information with you? For those of you who have read my blogs before you are probably thinking, this is nothing new and you have heard this story before. My reasoning for bringing up this topic has everything to do with the fact that even though my storm has passed, this is now a lot of others’ reality. What I want to do is share with you some ideas that can help you get your foot in the door. My goal is to write 2 series, discussing not only how to get your foot in the door but how to actually get the offer letter and start working.

Tip #1- What Do You Want to Do?

You have to figure out what positions are you going to look for. I know you think it is easy but as we go through the tips you will find that it is extremely important to know what you want to do. It will help you not only as you begin your resume writing process but it will also set you apart from the rest when it comes to your interview. Someone just looking for a job will not land a position over the person who knows why they want the job and market themselves as a better investment. Organizations are forced to look at budgets more closely than 5 years ago. Recruiters in Human Resources are constantly being reminded of the impact the revolving door (high turnover where employees voluntarily leave a position) has on the bottom line. If they feel that you are only staying in the position until you find the next best thing, or a job closer to your interests, there is a greater chance you will not get the job. Get out a pencil, think about your career track, and where you want it to take you. Once you have completed this task, you are more than ready to start tip #2.

Tip#2- Build your professional network. Connectivism is a valuable way to learn. Utilizing the nodes within your network can allow you to learn what jobs are available, what are the new trends within your industry, and where you can access continuing learning opportunities to make sure you maintain your competitive edge. Organizations like to know that you stay well connected to trends that will affect the industry you are in and the position in which you work. For example, in my position as an instructional designer, an employer will want to know that I am a member of the American Society of Training and Development, I am connected with others in my field via LinkedIn, I participate in group discussions regarding the latest trends in learning and development, as well as trends regarding agencies that service those with Developmental Disabilities. Why is that important you may ask? I now positioned myself as an individual who can recognize training opportunities to effectively support the organization in upcoming initiatives that result in a response to external forces that influence the way in which the organization will need to run their business in order to remain in existence. Taking a step back, in order for you to get an interview it may take someone within your professional network to recommend you instead of the traditional resume paper mill. Keep in mind the age old adage, “it’s who you know….”
Tip#3 – Dust off that resume!

A wise man once told me (thanks Dan!) the best time to update your resume is once you have started your new job. I couldn’t agree more! The task of updating and revisiting a resume can be daunting. In the past month I have had 3 people send me resumes to give them a glance. As I analyzed each one I realized that some of the great tips that were given to me in the past are not common knowledge for everyone. So this tip will be it’s own sub section. Here are my tips to updating your resume, getting passed the applicant tracking system in HR, and into the hands of a hiring manager:

1. Get rid of the summary- Summaries, objectives, whatever you call it, recruiters don’t read it! It’s fluff! Think about it what does your objectives section say that most don’t, that you have great communication skills? Oh no, I know it says you have great communication and time management skills. Wait, this is what makes you unique; you want to work for a fast paced organization that can utilize your skills and talents. Listen, its fluff and for a recruiter who has to read over a hundreds of resumes to fill one position, they are not wasting time reading fluff! The alternativ
e solution is to write your skill sets. An example could be: Mortgage loan officer professional with the following skill sets and experiences in the following: (you can bullet out the skill sets and format appropriately) refinancing, loan recovery,loan origination. Use any keywords that you know the employer will be looking for and that you can prove you have experience in. Looking at your skill sets quickly will go along way with getting your resume into the right hands.

2. Please Use Bullets- When writing your tasks and responsibilities, keep in mind your agenda is to get recruiters to notice you, not to throw your resume away in frustration. I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who is a recruiter for a non profit organization. She stated, “ You don’t even know what it does to my eyes when I have to read through paragraphs and paragraphs of information on hundreds of resumes.” Get noticed and format your resume in bullet form when describing your tasks in previous positions.

3. There’s Power in Numbers- With the unstable economy, the term lay off has become more familiar to millions of people throughout the U.S. As a result, the reality is, employers can’t promise you security and with budget cuts they can’t get you all the proper training resources to be effective in your position. The alternative solution for organizations is to hire people who know how to impact organizations in the least amount of time. So for the person that writes handles calls in a call center environment, show your impact and let the recruiter know how many calls you handled on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Stating that you handle 180 calls a day regarding benefit policies is a lot more of an eye catcher than just stating that you take calls. If you are in sales, talk about the amount of revenue you generated for your department, if you are a teacher talk about the amount of students you impacted or number of projects you participated in. Before anything, integrity is key, so keep in mind that you will need to be truthful in reporting how you have impacted your previous employers.

4. Keep it Relevant- If you are applying for a job in sales, a recruiter doesn’t want to see that you used to fold shirts at your local mall. Keep all information regarding your jobs relevant to the job for which you are applying. Now if you are going for a sales position in retail and folding the shirts at the local mall has given you insight on the retail industry, then be sure to make that connection on your resume.

5. List Your Skills- Each time you apply for a job, you will want to list your skills. Most times I thought this was a given but yet I’m beginning to see more often that candidates are leaving this information off of their resume. If you know MS Office, list it. Well versed in software that is important in your field? Great! List it. Leaving this information off of your resume can negatively impact your job search results.

Now back to our Tips !

Tip# 4 Invest in You- Often we spend so much time looking for a job but yet we aren’t educationally equipped to be considered the best fit for the position. I remember sitting in an interview and being asked why I wasn’t taking the time to go back to school for instructional design. I was floored and couldn’t believe I was asked that question. Didn’t this hiring manager know that I didn’t have time to go back to school! I had to find a job and quick! She was right! Just as I handle a job and school now, I really could have handled looking for a job and school. While you are looking for a job invest in you. Get the certification, license, or degree you need for school. For those of you who are thinking you don’t have the money, hence that is why you are looking for a job, utilize grants and student loans to get you where you need to be. Employers like to know that you are in the business of continuing your education. To many employers an educated employee is a knowledgeable employee, especially the one that has a healthy mix of experience as well as great educational background.

I hope these tips can help you on your journey to finding employment or climbing the ladder. Remember the key is to market yourself the best way you can. Keep in mind that recruiters are looking at 60-100 resumes a day and you have the ability to set yourself apart from the rest. Good Luck and God Bless!!!!