Posts Tagged ‘instructional design and technology’


Can you hear me now, Spock?  For our EDUC 6145 Project Management course assignment this week we observed the effectiveness of a message that was presented using three different modes of communication — Email, Voicemail, and Face-to-face (presented as a video simulation).  For the project manager, indeed all team members, communication is the key to success (Portny et al., 2008).  As Dr. Stolovich states, the project manager must approach communications with diplomacy because “communication is not just words” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  How you say something is more important than the words you use!  In fact, 93% of how a communication is received is related to the following influences (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010):

  •      Spirit & Attitude
  •      Tonality & Body Language
  •      Timing
  •      The personality of the recipient

Choosing how and when to communicate can “influence one another’s attitudes, behaviors, and understandings” (Portny et al., 2008, p. 357).  Communication may be formal, informal, written, audio, face-to-face, individually, or in groups (meetings) (Portny et al., 2008), but important information should be shared in a live format “with all team members present” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  When communication is focused, clear, and concise it helps team members “stay on target” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  Perhaps the poor bloke below could have benefited from the physicians having more effective communications!


On to our experiment!  As I stated in the intro, we observed a multimedia presentation which included the communication of the same message via email, voicemail, and simulated face-to-face video.  My notes of the observation of each are documented below.  I will begin with the medium that seemed most effective and end with that which seemed least effective.  The basic message is from Jane who is in need of a report from a team member, Mark who has missed his deadline.  Jane’s ability to successfully complete her work is dependent upon receiving Mark’s report/data or she will fail to meet her own deadline.


In the face-to-face example, Jane seemed very effective in communicating her message.  Her demeanor was casual, calm and relaxed and she was clear about what she needed and the degree of importance, while maintaining great eye contact and a friendly smile.  She was personable and respectful, and even acknowledged Mark’s busy schedule which was a great way to approach him without pointing fingers and playing the blame game.  In addition the tone of her voice was pleasant  and non-threatening.  All of these factors can have an effect on the way a message is received and  can influence the degree to which the recipient is persuaded to respond appropriately to the request.  Assuming that Mark is a reasonable person and a professional, conscientious employee, I suspect that he likely responded quickly to provide Jane with the information that she needed.  Heck, he may even have apologized for holding up her work.


I found the voicemail message to be a little bit annoying.  Jane’s tone of voice seemed a little whiny and demanding and I heard a sense of urgency, perhaps because she spoke rather quickly (to my ear).  Although the script of the voicemail was almost identical to the face-to-face script, I perceived less emphasis on the lines that acknowledged how busy Mark had been and more on what Jane needed, and the fact that she needed it right away.  The message was still clear however.


Oy vay.  Email is often such an inferior mode of communication, due to the lack of cues related to body language, tone of voice, cadence, emphasis, etc., leaving much of the interpretation of the message up to the recipient.  Emails sometimes seem so utilitarian and stark, which may be beneficial for simple, factual information that must be shared.  But beyond that, communication by email is not as effective as more personal modalities.  Email does not provide a realiable touchy-feely, human contact component.  Also, the lack of vocal tone and physical cues that are present in face-to-face, and to a lesser degree voicemail, can affect the clarity of the message.  I found that I had to read this message closely a couple of times just to be clear on what was being asked.  I suspect that Mark may or may not respond to Jane’s request in a timely manner, perhaps as a result of the lack of personal contact.  In this way,  emails may be less persuasive than other, more personal, forms of communicating.  Plus, how many times have you misinterpreted the tone of voice of an email, or had someone misinterpret yours?  Risky business, this email stuff.


A topic that I did not see discussed as a part of our curriculum this week, and one that I personally value, is the use of humor.  According to an article about humor as a communication skill, author Janelle Gilbert stated that, “The clever and appropriate use of humor is a great way to improve communication, reduce stress, help people think creatively, reduce the fear of making mistakes, improve morale, build stronger relationships, alleviate boredom…and more!” (2012, July 13).  When used well, humor can put people at ease and give them a spike of feel-good hormones which may make them easier to work with, so having great funny-skills is a bonus!

Enter— Savage Chickens!



Gilbert, J. (2012, July 13). Great communication skills: Do’s and don’ts of using humor at work. [Blog entry]. Retrieved January 23, 2014 from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Communicating with stakeholders. [Video webcast].

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E.
(2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken,
NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


For this blog entry I am responding to an assignment for my Distance Learning course, EDUC 6135.  The scenario I chose to address is listed below.

            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 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?

            Identifying distance learning technologies to meet the needs of a particular situation requires much research and careful thought as to the best solutions.  In this scenario, a distance education technology solution is being sought for a specific lesson in an otherwise traditional classroom.  For this activity, the curators will take the role of distance educators and the students will become distance learners.  According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012), “The instructional environment should be viewed as a system, a relationship among all the components of that system—the instructor, the learners, the material, and the technology.” As I looked for possible solutions that would address the need for the ability to tour two different museums and their exhibits, synchronous access to the museum curators, and tool to allow students to group critique four pieces of art.  I spent some time searching for individual technologies for each individual activity and even as I considered technologies that I thought might work I could not see how the various technologies might all work together in concert with the instructor, curators, materials and students as a system!  With each component working separately it seemed too cumbersome coordinate and likely to fail.  I was flummoxed.  I knew I needed to take a different approach, to change how I was thinking about the problem.  I thought about some of the trainings I have attended through my department and tried to recall some of the functionality I had observed during these web conferences.  This led me to my eureka moment.  On a web conferencing platform, the virtual museum/exhibit tours could be played as PowerPoint or other multimedia presentations and the curators could be present to interact with the students synchronously via voice-over-IP, and web cam.  An example tool that I found was Blackboard Collaborate, which offered this multimedia presentation explaining the capabilities of the platform specifically for web conferencing.  Blackboard Collaborate allows for two-way communication, built-in voice-over-IP for up to six speakers, video of the person speaking, live chat, whiteboard area for content sharing with the ability to draw and write on the content.  In addition, there is a cool feature referred to as follow-the-speaker-video which automatically shows live video of the person who is speaking at the time.  Blackboard Collaborate offers a free 30-day trial which may be sufficient for this singular virtual field-trip, however there is a cost consideration if more access time is required.

            Next I had to consider the need for students to be able to provide group critique of four individual art pieces.  I decided that a Web 2.0 tool that allows for collaboration would be an effective solution. seemed like a perfect choice. Simonson et al. (2012) describe wikis as “an excellent tool for collaborative online writing assignments and group activities compiling information in a single online resource.”  Wikispaces provides a “classroom workspace” instructors and students can work on projects collaboratively and they are available for free to teachers and students! Take a look at this introduction page for examples of what can be done.  Wikispaces provides students with online, interactive collaboration experiences.

            When examined according to, the use of the web-conferencing and Wikispaces together provides a rich and engaging learning experience that is both synchronous and asynchronous and comprised of audio, video, collaborative, and interactive components.  In case you might be interested in seeing how a Wikispaces page might work, I located this 8th-grade U.S. history class site as an example of a successful Wikispace page for students.  And here is a video by Blackboard Inc. in which a variety of K12 educators provide testimonial regarding the successful use and cost savings of Blackboard Collaborate.



Blackboard Inc. (2011, August 26). K12 schools save time and money with Blackboard Collaborate. [Web page]. 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, Inc.

Welcome to Mr. Armstrong’s U.S. History Wiki. (n. d.). [Web page]. Retrieved from

Wikispaces classroom. (2013). [Web page]. Retrieved from