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Training: Learning from Afar -- at Your Own Pace

A new Microsoft program takes the long road to distance learning by stretching class schedules from five days to five weeks.

In November, Microsoft launched its Microsoft Official Distance Learning initiative (MODL), a blended learning program that uses Microsoft Office Live Meeting to conduct Microsoft Certified Trainer-led classes, which students reinforce with self-paced homework assignments and scenario exercises.

MODL Innovations Product Manager Wendy Johnson calls the program a more productive and convenient alternative to intensive classroom programs that pull students out of work for five days. In contrast, MODL classes are spread over a five-week period, with ample time between sessions to review and practice the concepts covered.

A typical MODL session is divided into four parts: a two-hour virtual classroom session via Live Meeting, one hour of homework, one hour of scenario exercises and a 10-minute feedback assignment. While much of MODL's emphasis is on the convenience of self-paced learning, the program places equal importance on increasing student interaction, a benefit that's sometimes a casualty of distance-learning environments.

MODL offers "a lot of interactions and a lot of activities that students have to reply to, write on, etc.," Johnson says. "There's a lot of great interaction [with] students working together to solve the problems. And there's also a nice anonymity, where the students can feel free to answer the question -- even if they aren't sure of the answer -- because they're sitting there at their desktop and not being watched by their peers."

MODL is available exclusively through Microsoft partner companies holding learning-solutions certifications. The program currently offers three courses on Microsoft Server 2003, with more courses scheduled to debut later this year. Visit the program's Web site.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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