Using Technology for Remote Training Sessions


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This second of two ALA TechSource webinars about using technology in face-to-face and online training and learning focuses on creative uses of tools including Skype, Google Chat and Yahoo! Messenger, and LinkedIn discussion groups.

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  • Welcome back. For those of you who were here last week for the first of these two sessions, I’m glad you found the first session helpful enough to want to spend more time on this. For those of you who weren’t able to attend session one, we’re going to do everything possible to quickly bring you up to speed so you won’t feel at all left behind by the pace of this session. As I did last week, I’ll be sharing ideas with you; providing ideas and resources designed to help you easily, inexpensively, and effectively use technology in your training and learning offerings; taking appropriate pauses to point out what we are doing here that you can easily adapt in your own organization right after our time together today comes to an end; and encourage you to jump in via the chat and live call-in function to ask questions, offer your own ideas, and generally take advantage of the fact that you have a magnificent community of learners around you for the next 90 minutes—and longer, if you use the chat to contact those who you want to stay in touch with after the session ends.
  • Last week, we started by talking about what technology is, and what it means to us. We pretty quickly agreed that any of the objects we’re looking at here represent a form of technology, whether it is old or new. In the case of the book, we played with the idea that it’s a wonderful old technology that is still comfortable for most of us even as other options come our way. And it doesn’t have to be an either-or dilemma: there still appears to be room in our world for books and Kindles. What we were left with last week was the reminder from Florence Mason—a great library consultant and instructor in the University of North Texas MLIS program—that these bits of old and new technology are containers for information, not the information or content itself.
  • We took a broader view, based on the quick discussion we had in the chat, and reached a common definition: technology is anything we use as a tool to accomplish a goal we are trying to accomplish. It’s more than the things that generally come to mind when someone says the word “technology” or uses the term “high tech.” What that prepared us for was a discussion that acknowledged a basic challenge we face in using technology in face-to-face or online training: it’s not always technology that throws people; it’s the change inherent in mastering a new technology. If we recognize change rather than technology as a sticking point for our learners, we’re well on our way to effectively incorporating technology into successful learning opportunities—for ourselves as well as for those who are turning to us for help at that critical moment of need. And if we remember the basic truism that is running through both of these ALA TechSource sessions—that people are the focus; technology is the tool—we’re on our way to creating and delivering first-rate, effective learning opportunities face to face and online.
  • We also spent some time talking about PowerPoint as a tech tool in face-to-face training. We all know that we need to get beyond the traditional PowerPoint slides that bores everyone with bullet points that instructors read while everyone falls into a gentle meditative state. We won’t repeat that conversation here, but we can assume that interweaving text with imagery to create as much narrative flow as you can on your slides online is as important as it is in face-to-face presentations. Those who weren’t with us last week and want to catch up on that aspect of incorporating technology—in this case, PowerPoint—into presentations will find plenty of useful information in Cliff Atkinson’s book and on his Beyond Bullet Points website:
  • We spent a considerable period of time last week talking about using YouTube not only to post and show your own materials, but to draw from other resources already posted—and to keep in mind that there are ways to incorporate humorous YouTube videos into your work to help reduce your learners’ stress levels so they stand a fighting chance at actually absorbing what they are attempting to learn. An aside and reminder from last week: Stressed-out learners are physiologically incapable of learning. The neocortex shuts down when we’re under stress, and we can’t learn when it is shut down.
  • We moved on to Google Docs and Dropbox as ways to take advantage of cloud computing—storing things on free offsite servers rather than being limited to storing material on our own desktop or laptop computers. This really frees us up to access the tools we’ve developed when we need them and where we need them. As long as you have a reliable point of access, it’s as if you have your entire library of materials at your fingertips without having to cart them around.
  • Slideshare—which is what ALA TechSource uses to make these PowerPoint slides available to you long after the live presentation has ended—was the final resource we explored last week in discussing how we can effectively incorporate technology into our in-person training programs. As we move into the heart of today’s presentation, let’s not forget that every one of those elements remains available to us in online training sessions. Any questions or comments you want to add to the live chat before we move from these topics into the heart of today’s presentation on using technology in online learning? OK, before we move ahead, let’s do a quick reality check. Dan will bring up a poll so we can quickly determine what you already know about what we’re about to cover, and I’ll adjust the presentation a bit to reflect what you tell us here.
  • Skype, in simple terms, is an online conferencing tool. In tech terms, it’s VoIP—OK, everybody ready for this? Voice over Internet Protocol. (Wasn’t that enlightening?) It has several components. You can use them individually or in any combination that works for you and your learners. The basic draw is the video ability to have participants see each other in real time through the use of low-cost web cams, and there obviously is audio to back that up. You can use the audio without the video, and if things go wrong, you can end up with video and no audio—but there’s always a work-around. There is a live chat stream that can be used alone or can back up the audio feed if participants are proficient typists and don’t become overly concerned about spelling and punctuation.
  • Let’s look at a (somewhat fuzzy) replica of a typical Skype screen: User ID and contact list on the left-hand side. Recipient of the call in the upper middle part of this screen. Chat in the lower-middle and right-hand side of the screen. So easy that even I can use it without completing a week-long course.
  • Here’s another view from Skype as to what the service provides free of charge.
  • So let’s start pulling this technology into the theme of providing learning opportunities from a distance. Last week we briefly reviewed the program at Ohio University Libraries where Char Booth and her Ohio University Libraries colleagues set up kiosks where users could contact librarians via Skype. Char, by the way, is now with the University Libraries at UC Berkeley—something I forget to mention during our discussion last week.
  • Bringing this closer to home, let’s look for a moment at a wonderfully innovative use of Skype to deliver a learning opportunity to an audience of about 200 people in San Francisco a few years ago—something I briefly mentioned last week and want to explore a little more completely with you in this session. This article from the May 2008 issue of American Libraries magazine gave a quick overview of the event, and this is one of those moments where we can go behind the scenes to really explore how a bit of ingenuity and risk-taking paid off in terms of effectively incorporating technology into a remote-learning experience. Those of us who were arranging that conference decided we not only wanted to introduce people to Skype as a conference or training tool, but wanted to show it in action to demonstrate how easy it could be with the proper preparation. Having identified Skype as a potential delivery tool, we used Skype itself to contact Char. She agreed to present on the topic of Skype, using Skype as the delivery tool to our audience in an auditorium at the Main Library in San Francisco. We did two separate rehearsals—this was, after all, a ground-breaking attempt at the time and we knew of no one who had tried to use Skype for this purpose. Even though the rehearsals took far more time than the actual presentation—more than an hour each time--we all walked away pretty confident that with the right support team—people on both sides familiar with Skype, great IT support, and a setting we could control—that it would be far easier to replicate the experience next time we wanted to try it.
  • Although this is far from the best visual image of what the audience experienced, you can probably get a good idea of how it worked. You see our discussion moderator, Sarah Houghton-Jan—you probably know her from her Librarian in Black blog--sitting in the foreground on stage in the Koret Auditorium at San Francisco’s Main Library. Sarah was able to take questions from the audience, repeat them into a microphone so Char could hear them, and then Char respond from Ohio; Char was visible to the audience on a huge screen behind Sarah, and her voice was clearly audible through a great sound system in the auditorium. An extra added bonus was that we set up the webcam so Char could see Sarah and could see the projection behind Sarah. That meant that both parties could see and hear what was going on throughout the presentation.
  • Using a free add-on from Skype, we were able to give Char control of her Powerpoint presentation so she could advance the slides from Ohio; we, of course, had all sorts of backups in place, including a copy of the slides so we could take over if Skype and/or Yugma let us down—which they didn’t. The point here is that it took a great team to figure things out the first time through. That’s true of anything new, and it reinforces the theme we discussed last week at great length: when technology is new, is appears to be daunting; when we become familiar with it and know its strengths as well as its weaknesses, it becomes as natural to us as riding a bicycle—unless you’re as uncoordinated as I am and figure you’re never going to get past the training wheel stage.
  • I’m going to keep the earlier image on the screen for a moment longer to briefly talk about yet another innovative use of Skype for training; this, as far as I’m concerned, is about as good as it gets right now: delivering a lesson one-on-one to someone in need when you and that person don’t have the time and ability to meet face to face. A learner who needed introductory lessons on PowerPoint and Excel contacted me the day before she needed to complete those lessons—she was facing a job interview where she needed to be proficient in both, and hadn’t used either program recently. To make a long story short: we set up a Skype connection, then spent 90 minutes on each topic. We took a three-hour break between lessons so she could absorb the first lesson, then we came back ready to do the second lesson. It worked wonderfully, and it’s worth noting in brief form what was necessary: **A webcam, audio capabilities (a headset or speakers), and a familiarity with Skype, using multiple windows on a computer monitor, and also using the typed chat function. **I had to already be able to deliver that sort of lesson with no preparation; in this case, I simply pulled, from the top of my head, lesson plans I had delivered face to face and adapted them to the online setting. If your need is not so immediate, you clearly could and should design a lesson for this just as you would for any other purpose. **We wanted a hands-on experience, so we both split our screens to have Skype on one side and the program we were studying on the other. For Excel, we created a simple spreadsheet and described, after each action, what we were seeing on the screen—we weren’t sharing a screen at that point—to be sure we were seeing the same thing. I actually think it helped that we had to move slowly, methodically, step by step so she had a chance to absorb things rather than rushing ahead and retaining nothing. **The final things we needed: patience, a lot of trust, and a willingness to improvise without reservation. It worked wonderfully, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use this method of delivery again if the right situation for it came up. Let’s stop for a minute and take questions through the online chat. Also feel free to throw in any stories and tips you have for others based on your own experience using Skype to deliver learning opportunities.
  • Yes, I admit it: I am soooooooooooooo immature. When I was setting up this slide, I started giggling over the possibility of making the Google Talk logo talk to the open-mouthed Yahoo! Messenger logo, and vice versa—perhaps the first time in history that they’ve been in direct and apparently friendly communication. Joking aside, these are wonderful tools which continue to evolve and provide plenty of low-cost or no cost possibilities. Since they are similar in how they operate, I’ve lumped them together and will, as we move through this section of the discussion, point out what you need to know about both of them as tech options for distance learning projects and programs.
  • Let’s start with a brief discussion about Google Chat and Google Talk. Google Chat works like any other chat or Instant Messaging service. If it works properly, you type in a comment, hit return, and the recipient immediately sees it, then responds. (If it doesn’t work, you want to pull your hair out, but we’ll save that for later.) At the end of the typed conversation, Gmail stores a complete transcript so both parties—or, in a group chat, all participants—have access to that transcript. Google Talk, with additional bells and whistles, appears to be Google’s response to Skype, and it offers much of what we’ve just explored in terms of learning opportunities. If we focus solely on the chat function here for a few minutes, we can easily see the possibilities for distance learning. Using this free technology in situations where a written record of the exchange is important provides a fabulous learning tool. Let’s look at an actual example.
  • The set-up here is that I often use Google Chat to conduct interviews for articles I’m writing. One of the people I interviewed a couple of years ago was Michael Wilder, a wonderful colleague who serves as the Learning Technology Specialist on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. Michael was tremendously impressed by how Google Chat worked for that interview, so later invited me to tell journalism students in his Interactive Media Design class how the process works. We decided to do what the Future of Libraries group did with Skype: use Google Chat to deliver the remote-learning lesson so that the lesson demonstrated the topic. I prepped a brief written script to describe the process and we started the session with me cutting and pasting the script into the chat a few lines at the time from my desk in San Francisco. Michael and his students saw the “lecture” coming through via a projection of the chat onto a screen in their Las Vegas classroom. The whole thing took less than three minutes, and we then opened it up to a live question and answer session. The students asked questions, Michael typed them into the chat window on his computer in the Las Vegas classroom, I read the questions on my own computer monitor here in San Francisco—just as we’re doing for today’s TechSource session--and typed responses. We initially thought the session would last around 15 or 20 minutes; it was so successful that we took up most of the hour-long class session that day, and continued the discussion asynchronously for several days via the class blog after Michael posted the transcript. Tips on making it work: *Don’t worry about typos; just keep going. *Make sure that you hit “return” once every 60 to 90 seconds so there are not a lot of pauses. *Take advantage of the pauses to go back and review previous sections of the chat for follow-up questions and answers. *Have some fun with it; remember, learning that is fun (and interactive) is going to be more memorable and, therefore, more effective.
  • How could you not love a face like that? Oh, sorry, let’s stay on track here. Messenger works much the same as the Google Chat function, so is equally appealing. I move over to Yahoo! Messenger on an as-needed basis to accommodate interviewees who are more comfortable here than in Google Chat or who have Yahoo rather than Gmail accounts—and I’m glad I have it as a back-up since Google Chat recently has been unexpectedly glitchy. An example: during a recent Google Chat, I realized that responses were taking longer than usual, so the interviewee and I established a phone connection and discovered that responses either were delayed or were simply missing from the live chat window. The bizarre part of this was that the comments were appearing in the transcript, so we started jumping back and forth between the transcript-in-progress and the live chat window. I have, as a result of that experience, actually begun keeping a live phone connection with interviewees—which suggests that this might be a less than perfect elearning tool, and also suggests that we can never be too cautious in preparing back-up plans and being willing to improvise when using tech tools for remote-learning opportunities. I’ll continue to use Google Chat, Yahoo! Messenger, and Skype when they seem like appropriate delivery tools, and I’ll also continue to watch for better options as they become available. As usual, let’s go to our own chat for a few minutes to deal with questions and contributions from our community of learners here in the live session. Your thoughts?
  • LinkedIn, over the past few years, has become the premier place where the social networking crowd goes for business purposes. If Facebook is where we connect and reconnect on line with family and friends and torment each other with embarrassing stories and pictures, LinkedIn is where business colleagues and associates make online connections in the form of profiles and shared resources including book recommendations, sharing of slides (through, of course, SlideShare), and through discussion groups based on communities of interest
  • Setting up an initial profile is not at all complex, and there’s no need to do anything more than add a few basic elements such as your name, profession, and purposes for which you want to be contacted to get started. Adding new elements a little at a time allows you to either keep things to a bare minimum or expand the information you’re providing on a build-as-you-need-it basis.
  • If we follow the example set by Pat Wagner, a wonderful trainer and consultant who lives in Denver, we can establish a group for something as specific as a one-session or multi-session online workshop or something as broad as an entire community of learners within our organizations. It will be vibrant and active if members make it vibrant and active. It will die on the vine if it’s just another thing to be done and checked off a list. Having a good facilitator or, better yet, group of facilitators stacks the deck in our favor that we’re creating something useful and sustainable. Like any other tech tool, it has to serve the goals of the group, not become something that the members serve. As Jaron Lanier says in the title to his wonderful book-length rant, “You Are Not A Gadget,” and you do well to make sure that your gadgets serve you and the audience of colleagues relying on you for effective learning opportunities. Again, turning to the group here: questions or your own examples or how you’ve used LinkedIn or other similar tools to deliver learning opportunities at little or no cost?
  • Sustaining our remote communities of learning is surprisingly similar to sustaining communities of learning face to face, and we have plenty of resources ranging from Wikipedia’s article on Learning Communities at to numerous books about how communities are established and sustained. Ray Oldenburg’s classic book, “The Great Good Place,” continues to inspire us with its discussion of the three main places in our lives: the first place is our home, the second place is where we work, and the third place is the community meeting place where our friends and colleagues gather to relax, socialize, share ideas, and just, in general, have fun. Libraries, of course, have been striving to become third places in their communities—an interesting turn of events in that libraries weren’t even among the potential third places mentioned by Oldenburg when he first released his book 20 years ago. Even more interesting is that some of us are beginning to imagine and promote a newly defined fourth place—the onsite and/or online social learning center, and libraries appear poised to assume that role if we are willing to be at the forefront of that movement.
  • Peter Block is another very gentle mover and shaker in terms of helping us see how easy it is to establish a sense of community, and the tech tools we’ve been exploring today make this process even more simply to accomplish.
  • One last resource, which I mentioned toward the end of our session last week, is Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline, which pretty much helps define how organizations become learning organizations that are sustained by communities of learners to the benefit of everyone involved. If we remember that our goal is to create, as the American Society of Training & Development (ASTD) suggests, “a world that works better,” we’re well on the way to using technology as a tool to help us reach that goal rather than seeing technology as something so overwhelming that it keeps us from doing our job. If we are judicious and effective in our use of technology in face to face and online learning, technology is part of our job—just as lifelong learning is part of our job—rather than a distraction. Block interview on YouTube, if there’s time…
  • Here’s one that even I was surprised to find. In searching for an online copy of the logo of the American Society for Training & Development—ASTD—I was delighted to see this avatar that was created for a meeting we hosted in our own Chapter—the Mt. Diablo Chapter, in the San Francisco East Bay Area. We wanted to show trainers what they needed to know about Second Life as a training tool, so we brought in a guest speaker who did a live presentation that included a demonstration of Second Life by including a few ASTD members from other parts of the country into our meeting via Second Life. It very much was in the spirit of the Skype demonstration we discussed a few minutes ago, and won recognition from national ASTD colleagues for its inventive and effective us of technology in training. More information is available on the ASTD Mt. Diablo Chapter website at This makes a few points well worth making: **ASTD is a great community of learners where technology and training come together; **It reminds us that the organization is active in those local chapters through face to face meetings and training opportunities; **And it provides an opportunity to let you know that the ASTD community is active online through a variety of webinars, online discussion groups, and a massive website——with numerous resources for tech training and just about any other workplace learning and performance need you can imagine.
  • When we bring things closer to home, we have to remember that the ALA Learning Round Table is our training home within our own industry. The Round Table is active onsite at ALA conferences; online at, where it has an active blog for trainers and those interested in training issues facing library staff and library users; and through an ever-growing variety of resources including a newly designed wiki which is growing through contributions of training materials from ALA Learning Round Table members.
  • It’s impossible to say enough about how well American Libraries magazine is combining technology with learning opportunities. In many ways the magazine is ahead of the pack in terms of creating a seamless interweaving of print and online resources. At a time when others are struggling to create the archetypal version of an early 21 st -century publication, American Libraries is doing exactly that by serving the print and online readers through creative use of the tech tools currently available to us. And it’s all there for the world to see at
  • So, where do we go from here? As I mentioned toward the end of our session last week, I’m a big fan of Sarah Houghton-Jan, our wonderful Librarian in Black. Her Librarian in Black blog ( is a first-rate resource that many of you area probably already reading—and if you’re not, you’re in for a real treat if you decide to explore it. Sarah also recently put out a concise book which includes a list of "essential technology training topics in libraries" and other potential training topics--nearly all of which could just as easily be adapted within a nonprofit or commercial organization looking to develop a cutting-edge workforce (pp. 6-7). Employees in libraries are clearly not the only ones who need to master technology terminology; understand how to effectively use email, web browsers, and online search skills to the benefit of the customers they serve; and be able to avoid ergonomic problems caused by improper set-up of employees' (and customers') work stations. And the writer's list of areas of future growth--cloud computing, surface computing, open source software development among them--are equally applicable and important to workplace learning and performance programs in nearly any professional setting today. The extensive recommended resources listings and bibliography at the end of the book, furthermore, are icing on a well baked cake, leaving readers with plenty of useful resources. Those in search of dessert as well as a substantial main course will find both in Technology Training in Libraries, and we all owe Houghton-Jan and her publisher a round of applause for making the information available in such a concise fashion (103 pages of text, followed by the additional resources already mentioned).
  • As we move into the final section of our time together, let’s not forget that we are surrounded by resources on the shelves of our own buildings and online through the resources we ourselves help provide. We certainly can’t talk about this without mentioning ALA TechSource and ALA Editions. As for others, there are so many first-rate resources out there that it’s hard to know where to start. One of the many that stands out for me because it supports a major subtext of what we’ve been discussing today is Rena Palloff and Keith Pratth’s “Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace.” They offer online presenters an educators’ view of how to create and sustain effective online learning opportunities which lead to communities of learning, and I think it’s a great start for any of us incorporating technology into training. They focus teaching and learning rather than on technology—a theme I hope has been loud and clear today during our discussion; the second section explores hands-on methods for producing those online communities and includes explicit guidance on how to inspire collaboration by providing learners with clear guidelines as well as effective facilitation and feedback. A chapter on transformative learning (pp. 129-143) makes a strong case for how effective online learning can be by providing learners with time for engagement and reflection, and also reminds readers that effective online learning is a learner-centered process (p. 135). Sample course outlines, syllabi, lists of learning objectives, and online course guidelines make this an indispensable tool for anyone involved in online presentations and online learning. Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer recently released a new edition of “e-Learning and the Science of Instruction.” If it’s even half as good as the original edition, it will be a tremendous resource for all of us. The writers, in the original edition, were wonderful about taking us step by step through how to design, develop, implement, and evaluate effective online learning opportunities, so if you want to gain a stronger understanding of how to effectively incorporate what we’ve been discussing today into your own offerings, I think you’ll find this one easy and well worth the time you put into reading and using it. And, of course, Sarah’s book is one you won’t want to miss.
  • Using Technology for Remote Training Sessions

    1. 1. Using Technology For Remote Training Sessions By Paul Signorelli For ALA Techsource 23 September 2010 (Second of Two Sessions)
    2. 2. Where We’ve Been
    3. 3. Technology as Tool
    4. 4. No More “Death by PowerPoint”
    5. 5. YouTube…
    6. 6. YouTube, Google Docs…
    7. 7. YouTube, Google Docs, and SlideShare
    8. 8. Online Possibilities…
    9. 9. Skype Basics
    10. 10. Skype Chat
    11. 11. Ohio University Libraries Revisited
    12. 13. Future of Libraries Conference: San Francisco, September 2007
    13. 14. Skype’s Yugma Add-on…
    14. 15. One-on-One, Just-in-Time Learning
    15. 16. Google Talk/Yahoo! Messenger
    16. 17. Talking About Google Talk and Chat
    17. 18. Using Chat to Deliver Live Online Learning
    18. 19. Yahoo! Messenger
    19. 20. Discussion Groups
    20. 21. Basic Profiles
    21. 22. Creating Communities of Learning Inexpensively With Technology
    22. 23. Sustaining Communities of Learning
    23. 24. Sustaining Communities of Learning
    24. 25. Sustaining Communities of Learning
    25. 26. A Few of Our Communities
    26. 27. A Few of Our Communities
    27. 28. A Few of Our Communities
    28. 29. Who You Gonna Turn To?
    29. 30. Resources & Questions
    30. 31. Contact Information Paul Signorelli & Associates 1032 Irving St., #514 San Francisco, CA 94122 415.681.5224 [email_address]
    31. 32. Credits (Images taken from unless otherwise noted): Title slide: From Daneel Ariantho’s photostream at Gestetner Offset Printer: From Doegox’s photostream at Printing Press: From Gastav’s photostream at Book: From Joe King’s photostream at Kindle: From Jurvetson’s photostream at Phone: From Esther Gibbons’ photostream at Typewriter: From Zen’s photostream at Toaster: From PixelPlacebo’s photostream at Hammer and Nails: From Cayusa’s photostream at Bicycle: From Iban’s photostream at Skype screenshots (details) from Skype at Skype: From Char Booth’s slide show at Skype at Future of Libraries Conference from Char Booth’s Infomational blog at Yugma from Future of Libraries Conference from Char Booth’s Infomational blog at Interactive Media Design Class graphic from