Case Study: Selecting Distance Learning Technologies for a Collaborative Training Environment

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November 15, 2012 by idinnovation

Case Study: Identify one or two distance learning technologies you think provide the best solution for the given challenge.  A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

Discussing distance learning collaboration tools without discussing Web 2.0 technology equates to not considering technology’s influence on distance learning.  Thus in brief I find it necessary to set the stage by providing a brief introduction to Web 2.0 and its relationship to distance learning. The recommendation will progress accordingly to include how Wikis and Discussion Forums fulfill the needs and
requirements of the case study learning context presented.  Finally how these two Web 2.0 collaboration tools will validate the use of the aforementioned Web 2.0 distance learning collaboration tools.

The term Web 2.0 was created by Tim O’Reilly by O’Reilly Media in 2003 to describe Web applications that are highly participatory, promote collaboration, networking, sharing of information and the editing and mixing of content from multiple sources (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). Web 2.0 is the shared realization in the ability to use the Web to write as well as read rich content – combined with support for social networking and the precipitous spread of access – allows people to interact with the Web, with online content and with one another (Platt, 2007).  Web 2.0 applications are predominantly utilized in sectors other than education however, Web 2.0 technologies provide remarkable benefits to learners through their learner engaging functionality and should be used in the next generation of course management systems (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  Maloney (as cited in Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012) contends that the focus of the Web is innovation, creation and collaboration and Web 2.0 technologies encourage a more participatory role for learners.

How does that converge with distance learning you might ask? Let’s go back to the two Web 2.0 technologies that I am recommending.  The term Wiki whose origins can be found in the Hawaiian word wiki which means “quick” is generally viewed as a space that can be created and edited by individuals or groups (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). Wiki pages are loosely structured but linked in ways that make sense to the users, have embedded Internet resources, are extremely collaborative and is an exceptional tool for online collaborative writing assignments (Beldarrain, 2006).

Discussion technologies are participatory in nature and require that a number of individuals read and respond to each other’s post (The Technology of Distance Education, 2010). Discussion boards in distance learning are recognized as an asynchronous communication tool and are a collaboration tool that can be used to create content and be utilized as an individual or group study guide (Safran, Helic, & Gütl, 2007).

Considering the case study requires an asynchronous collaboration tool Wikis present the opportunity for group work. Dysthe (as cited by Andresen, 2009) contends leaners should be assigned reading assignments and have time to reflect on them as well as any discussion topics or questions and then present examples to other learners and finally defend those examples within a discussion group. Furthermore, as found by Fung (and cited by Andresen, 2009) discussion topics that relate to an idea or concept within course readings lead to the generation of more complex interaction between learners than topics or questions that are broad or open-ended.

One of the foundations of Internet-based distance education is student-centered learning which promotes active learning, collaboration, mastery of course material and student control over their learning process (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). Teaching models that integrate Web 2.0 technologies such as Wikis or blogs present the opportunity for learners to have more control over their learning and therefore might be more effective at delivering instructional strategies that support knowledge construction (Beldarrain, 2006). Moxley (as cited in Beldarrain, 2006) contents the instructors are rapidly supporting the wiki trend, and many educators have set up Wikis of their own in order to demonstrate to others how to use the collaborative tool. The collaborative writing opportunity afforded by the use of a Wiki presents tremendous opportunity to not only practice reading and writing skills but also encourages reflection, knowledge distribution and analytical thinking (Brown & Palincsar 1989; Scardamalia & Bereiter 2003, as cited in Trentin, 2009).

Focusing on the case study requirement that staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration it is my recommendation that both Wikis and Discussion Forums be used. Because it is an asynchronous learning environment course components will be available 24 hours a day through the Learning Management System. The LMS integrates discussion forums, group collaboration, and virtual chat tools into the online learning environment (The Technology of Distance Education, 2010).  Course materials and activities that are distributed across computer platforms promote active learning and facilitate intellectual participation with course content which is advantageous (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). The instructor should consider that even though discussion technologies help students collaborate and engage with peers and the instructor it can be challenging to schedule real-time events through chat and web conferencing (The Technology of Distance Education, 2010). Instructors should however, take on the role of “cheerleader or motivator” in discussions because the learner-learner interaction is what genuinely connects concepts (Andresen, 2009).


Andresen, M. A. (2009). Asynchronous discussion forums: success factors, outcomes, assessments, and limitations. Educational Technology & Society, 12 (1), 249–257. Retrieved on November 15, 2012, from

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139–153.

Kim, H., Lee, I. and Lee, C. (2011) Building Web 2.0 enterprises: A study of small and medium enterprises in the United States.  International Small Business Journal 0266242611409785, first published on August 16, 2011

Platt, M. (2007). Web 2.0 in the enterprise. The Architecture Journal, (12). Retrieved September 16, 2012, from

Safran, C., Helic, D., & Gütl, C. (2007). E-Learning practices and Web 2.0. Conference ICL2007. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

The Technology of Distance Education (2010). [Video File]. Retrieved from

Trentin, G. G. (2009). Using a wiki to evaluate individual contribution to a collaborative learning project. Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(1), 43-55. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2008.00276.x


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