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Leveraging New Technologies for Employee Development Programs

Rapid advances in technology have transformed the workplace and changed the way we learn by impacting the interpersonal communication and collaboration. Many agencies have started implementing different technologies into their learning and development programs, using these tools to cut training costs, reduce carbon footprint, and increase continual learning outside the classroom. Below are examples of newer technologies that agencies have integrated into their employee development programs. Also listed are Web 2.0 tools, which allow learners to share knowledge and best practices in a wiki, blog, or discussion forum, and form networks through social network sites. Instead of just reading static material, users of Web 2.0 tools have the opportunity to create and modify content directly onto these pages.

Web-conferencing: a method to allow instructors to conduct live meetings, trainings, and presentations via the Internet. Web-conferences allow participants opportunities to ask questions and participate in polls. Common examples of web-conferencing tools are Webex, Adobe Connect, Goto Meeting and Live Meeting

Social Network/ Community of Practice: An online group of people who develop friendships, find professional connections, share interests, and gather knowledge and information. These communities are formed online through social sites. Learning and development programs can utilize these networks to link course participants before and after a training event to share knowledge and ideas regarding the course. Instructors and participants provide links to articles, webinars, and on-the-job examples before, during, and after a training event.

Podcast: a type of online media delivery allowing users to download files via a feed onto a computer and MP3 player. Podcasts allow learners to access trainings at different times depending on workload and availability. Instructors create course podcasts for learners to download and listen on their MP3 player, mobile phone, and laptop.

Blog: website which allows an author to share opinions, reflections, and discuss topics in the form of online journals. Learning and development programs can incorporate blogs to provide supplemental course information and updates on course materials. Participants can discuss the course in this space.

Microblogs: a popular tool to share knowledge and resources with one another. Instructors can incorporate microblogs to create a community around a course or an activity. Instructors also can post tips, assignments, and other information pertaining to the course. Course participants can summarize information learned during and after courses. Participants at conferences are using microblogs to informally exchange information learned from conference sessions. Common microblogs are Twitter and Yammer.

Integrated Collaboration Environment or Collaborative Workspace: a virtual environment where teams may work on projects and share information. Project teams can access a shared workspace where they upload files and share them with one another. Common examples are Sharepoint, Google Apps, Google Docs, Zoho and Moodle.

People may also establish shared spaces to learn from one another either formally or informally. For example, individuals from different agencies involved in training and development may create a workspace to share ideas, experiences, and resources to develop a supervisory training program.

Wiki: a website allowing users to create and edit content on any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser. This method is used in learning and development programs to promote collaborative learning and information sharing. Instructors and participants use wikis to create reading lists. Course participants use wikis to for team projects. Organizations use wikis to post internal processes, publish reference guides, and capture best practices.  Note: This website is a wiki, and can be edited by a number of people within OPM.

Social Bookmarks: a system allowing users to collect and store bookmarks online, tag with key words and share those bookmarks and tags with others. This type of tool allows course instructors develop course reading lists. Course participants supplement course material by subscribing to a particular tag or keyword that relates to the course.

Media Sharing: an online environment which allows users to search for photos, videos and/or other media for uses in (among others) presentations, learning materials and coursework. Users publish content to a larger audience. Instructors can record workshops and upload them to an online social network. Common media sharing tools are Flickr, Google+, and Youtube.

Virtual World: a simulated environment where users can interact with one another and create objects through an onscreen avatar. This type of environment allows course participants to attend live workshops and conferences in a virtual classroom or conference space. Participants are able to interact with each other in much the same way as attending a real workshop or conference. Course project teams can meet and collaborate in a virtual space. Organizations have developed courses using a virtual environment to conduct simulations of various situations including disaster preparedness or medical emergencies. Common virtual worlds include Second Life, Protosphere, and Forterra.

Authoring Tools or Instructional Tools: software packages instructional designers use to create and package content to end users. Authoring tools are commonly used to create e-learning modules. They are written to conform to international standards such as Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM). These tools allow for Common authoring tools are Adobe Captivate, Adobe Flash, and Articulate.

Mobile Learning (M-learning): Mobile Learning focuses on learning across contexts and locations by the means of mobile devices (e.g. laptops, cell phones, personal digital assistants, MP3 players, smartphones, game devices, tablet PCs, and e-books). M-learning devices are used to access online courses and resources and can also foster collaboration among individuals, conduct assessments and evaluations, provide access to performance support, and capture evidence of a learning activity.



Checklist of Requirements for Federal Websites and Digital Services

Federal Government Tools and Resources

A few agencies have implemented newer technologies including Web 2.0 tools in their learning and development programs.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), San Diego Healthcare System

The Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council Guidelines for Secure Use of Social Media by Federal Departments and Agencies: The Chief Information Officers Council developed this document to assist agencies in developing their Social Media policies.

The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI)

  • DOI Social Media Guidebook: The "How to" (and how not to) for social media services authorized for use by the US Department of the Interior.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)

  • DoD’s social media policy encourages service members and DoD employees to use social media communicate with one another and with family and friends. Please click the link here: Department of Defense Social Media Policy

The U.S. Department of Justice – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

  • ATF uses instant messaging (IM) to facilitate teamwork within their “Aspiring Leaders Program.” The program also conducts virtual workshops monthly using Adobe Connect. Participants are located across the country and cannot meet in person. To facilitate teamwork among the participants, ATF uses a secure chat capability through their intranet and employees participate in web meetings via Adobe Connect. Participants chat one-on-one by using their IM system between training sessions. Participants can also log their team conversations so they can turn in archived discussions before the formal training session. At each monthly session, participants receive a short briefing on the leadership topic, followed by team reports and a wrap-up. Web conferences are available for recording. For further information please contact Bill Thimmesch, Program Manager, at 202-648-7293.

The U.S. Department of Commerce – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • NOAA provides live interactive webinars to their on-line self-paced supervisory course participants as supplements to their supervisory course series. Participants are able to post questions during the webinars and chat with one another.

The U.S. Department of Transportation – National Highway Institute (NHI)

  • NHI provides both self-paced Web-based training modules and interactive Web-conference training sessions to the transportation workforce. NHI’s Web-conference trainings follow similar scheduling procedures as their instructor led courses; however, these sessions are held online and hosted in the Federal Highway Administration’s Adobe Connect Pro application. Their self-paced Web-based training modules can be taken at any time, and participants can exit and return to the same place in each lesson throughout the training.
  • The NHI Web site enables enrollment in and access to all of their Web-based offerings via a personalized “My Training” page and an integrated login system that allows participants to launch their courses with a single click. The My Training page also provides access to Certificates of Completion and unofficial transcripts based on the participant’s progress in each training module. The NHI Website, additionally, offers the opportunity to sign up for automatic, customizable email updates from the site and course catalog as well as the ability to view presentation tutorials and executive summaries of various freight courses. To learn more about NHI, go to the NHI website.

The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA)

  • SSA uses Elluminate Live - a communication tool combining integrated Voice over IP and teleconferencing, public and private chat, quizzing and polling, emoticons, and a webcam tool. The software tool includes several visual tools including a whiteboard, application sharing, file transfer, and web tour. The tool also has a record feature which allows the moderator to record the class for others to view at a later date.

Intelligence Community, Intellipedia

  • Intellipedia is a collaborative data sharing wiki for the Intelligence Community. Intellipedia was created to share information on the more difficult challenges facing the intelligence community while incorporating cutting-edge technology into its workforce. The Intelligence Community uses the wiki to maintain and transfer knowledge on daily operations and events. Intellipedia consists of three wikis and are classified by the level of clearance: Sensitive but Unclassified, Secret, and Top Secret. Employees with Sensitive but Unclassified cannot access the Secret and Top Secret wikis. Intellipedia is not open to the public.

Also Helpful:


Private Sector Tools and Resources

  • Common Craft: Short and simple videos covering subjects such as Twitter, Social Bookmarking, and Wikis. These videos are in Plain English.
  • #lrnchat: An online chat for people interested in the topic of learning. This chat takes place on Twitter every Thursday night from 8:30pm to 10:0pm EST. Use the hashtag #lrnchat to follow the conversation. (The word "hashtag" comes from the “#” sign, known as the hash sign) Using #lrnchat enables one to search and participate during the discussion held once a week on Thursday nights. You can also use live-chat services such as TweetChat and TweetGrid or even seek out #lrnchat in Twitter search.
  • Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate Live!): A cutting edge communication tool that includes integrated Voice over IP & teleconferencing, public and private chat, quizzing and polling, emotions, and a webcam tool. The software includes several visual tools, including whiteboard, application sharing, file transfer, and web tour. The software also includes a record feature that allows the moderator to record the class for others to watch later as well as a graphing tool, breakout rooms for group work, and timer. The whiteboard supports the uploading of presentations for viewing on the whiteboard for classes or meetings.
  • Webinars: Getting the most from Training Magazine Network
  • Social Learning Handbook: Social learning and its tools are part of the work literacy learning professionals absolutely must acquire to remain relevant in their organizations. If you haven't jumped in and tried the tools and begun to think about how you can apply them to solve the challenges in your organization, what's preventing you?
  • Center for Learning and Performance Technologies: A website where one can find examples on how social media is used for formal and informal learning.
  • Innovative Learning: A website that focuses on best practices for teaching and learning as well as technology integration. Social learning and mobile learning information are included in this website.
  • The eLearning Coach10 eLearning Freebies for Instructional Design
    Ten "freebies," from comic book art to specialized fonts and templates to an eLearning job aid. (Paraphrased from the site)
  • Training Design: Spotlight on Blended Learning: While the term ‘Blended Learning’ may have just been coined in recent years, the concept has actually been around for centuries. It is within human nature to be a blended learner, to gain knowledge and experience via multiple avenues. From hunter-gatherer societies, we have been combining firsthand experience with knowledge that is communicated in order to make the best possible judgments and decisions about our environment. While this is a very primitive way of explaining ‘Blended Learning,’ in today’s learning culture it has taken on a much more sophisticated meaning.
  • One-to-One Learning: An up-and-coming learning initiative that allows individuals to learn how and when they want to (anytime, anywhere) via personal, portable, technological devices in a wireless environment. These devices (e.g. smartphones, laptops, e-books) are context-sensitive, meaning that they allow courses to be tailored to individual learning style and speed. They are also able to integrate with each other to support learning and development and maximize the effectiveness of the training.
  • The Future of Communication: Take a second to stop and think about how you communicate now differs from how you communicated in the 1980’s, even in the 1990’s. Then think about the impact this has had on telecommunication providers who have had to cope with the mass shift from landlines and long-distance calling to mobile web and Skype.
  • Do you have a Millenial Mindset?: We’re all familiar with the dramatic shift towards technology and innovation; it’s evident everywhere you look. Everything can be done online, from buying movie tickets to checking-in for your flight to ordering dinner. While we can observe today’s children whizzing through the Internet, the Wii, and other electronic devices, where does this leave the older generations? Take the quiz here: How Millennial Are You?
  • Twitter as a Training Tool: Twitter is a free social networking tool that keeps people connected with one another via status updates, or “tweets”, about what they are doing at a given moment. This ingenious concept fuses the appeal of blogging with the speed and convenience of texting, creating a networking platform that everyone wants to be part of. According to the Twitter Fact Sheet, Twitter is currently home to more than 106 million user accounts, which generate approximately 55 million tweets per day. The site’s growth is expanding by the minute, as it gains an additional 300,000 users per day.
  • Facebook: Social Media Tool or LMS??: With reported daily participation from over 175 million users, who can compete with the global pervasiveness of Facebook? The easy-to-use interface, coupled with instant access to literally millions of individuals has created a catalyst for information-sharing in the 21st century; and it’s only going to grow.

  • Groundswell: Winning in a World transformed by Social Technologies, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (2008). This book is based on practical data-driven strategies for organizations who want to leverage the power of social technologies. The book includes case studies, a complete roadmap for a social strategy, and data across the globe.
  • Grown up Digital, by Don Tapscott (2009). This book provides an inside look at the Net Generation. The author surveyed more than 11,000 members of the Net Generation. His discovery was the Net Generation developed revolutionary new ways of thinking, interacting, working, and socializing.

Helpful Tips

Hesitant to embrace these Web 2.0 technologies? Keep in mind, these tools can provide a wide range of benefits for your agency, such as: Clarity when building business cases, leadership support, and assistance to develop new training opportunities to support the needs of a changing generation.

You can also reference the following studies for more information:

  • The Rise of Social Media: Enhancing Collaboration and Productivity Across Generations (ASTD Research Study, 2010): This report makes a compelling business case for using social media technologies from a learner’s point of view. This exclusive perspective provides business leaders with insight for a new strategic priority: to leverage the power of social media tools in order to maximize learning and increase the performance of the entire workforce.
  • Blending Web 2.0 Technologies with Traditional Formal Learning: A Guide for CLOs and Training Managers: This white paper assists Chief Learning Officers and Training Managers to maximize the value of incorporating Web 2.0 technologies in formal learning programs.
  • Leveraging Social Networks & Web 2.0 Collaboration Tools in Enterprises.
    (Cornerstone OnDemand and Human Capital Institute, 2009): This study reveals emerging practices as well as early indications of the value and challenges of using Web 2.0 tools for learning and talent management.
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